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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Taka Tea Garden, Sydney

roasted peas with gyokuro tea
Roasted peas and gyokuro tea

EDIT: Taka Tea Garden has closed

How much do you love your green tea?

If you're not sure of your response, the test is easy. Try the green tea healthy lunch set at Taka Tea Garden.

taka tea garden

I'd always been intrigued by the lunch counter at Taka Tea Garden at World Square (for some reason marked as Rosa Tea House above the door despite all the Taka Tea Garden brochures inside). Sure the tins of loose tea leaves behind the counter sounded enticing, the vacuum-packed bags of superior green teas looked impressive, and the Japanese tea pots and drinking sets were unsurprisingly elegant and demurely stylish.

But it was the other side of the shop that always caught my attention. There a man stood whisking green tea for patrons, as they supped on a lunch of all things green tea. I had to try it, and I convinced Rebecca to join me.

roasted peas
Roasted peas

Menu pagination isn't one of their strong points here. A jumble of words, photos and menu options was far too confusing to even attempt to comprehend, so I went for the easiest option and chose the most expensive: the green tea healthy lunch set for $15.00. It could only offer more food I figured, and besides, I was sure that I spotted the words "green tea cake" amongst the clutter.

A glazed ceramic dish with roasted peas was quickly presented to each of us. Unfortunately not flavoured with wasabi, but they made an addictive crunchy and salty snack whilst we waited.

Whilst our ochasuke was being prepared by a nodding quiet woman, our tea was being brewed with care. Boiling water was poured from a kettle into a glass bottle, almost as though it were being decanted, then poured over a strainer of gyokuro tea leaves into individual glass tea pots.

Gyokuro tea is apparently one of the top grades of Japanese green tea available. According to the Taka Garden website:

"The youngest leaf of the old tea plant is grown in the shade under a special cover for approximately 20 days before harvesting is commenced. Removing direct sunlight in this way has the effect of reducing soft leaf photosynthesis, which increases the proportions of sugars amino acids, flavanols and other substances responsible for fresh tea aroma and robust taste."

The tea was indeed delicious and complex in flavour. There was no bitterness at all, in fact it almost tasted sweet. The second brewing with fresh water was even better (the first brewing will always be more bitter than the second).

ochasuke with salmon
Ochasuke with salmon

Ochasuke is simply rice in green tea, and is commonly served at the end of a banquet. It is also popular as a late night snack, fed to the sick, or used as a hangover cure.

I choose the salmon version, Rebecca hasd the chicken.

ochasuke with chicken
Ochasuke with chicken

A light green tea broth is poured over a bowl of plain white rice. Roasted rice puffs added waves of sweet nuttiness. It's a simple dish that is both comforting and nourishing, the chopped green shallots providing health-giving clarity.

Close-up of salmon

The bowls are huge and swollen grains of rice are deceptively filling. Halfway through our bowls though, we do start to notice that our cups of tea no longer taste so strong, as our palates are awash with the flavour of green tea.

green tea jelly
Green tea jelly

Dessert is a two stage affair. First up is a dish of green tea jelly (you can also choose red bean or taro). The firm squares of jelly--set with agar--don't taste much of green tea though, but it does look pretty with its pattern of swirls.

green tea cake
Matcha green tea cake

For stage two, I choose the green tea cake, a wedge of sponge that is as light and fluffy as a chiffon cake. There's not much matcha flavour to it though and it starts to feel a little dry partway through. I soon find myself secretly wishing for an accompanying scoop of ice cream (flavoured with green tea of course).

green tea jelly with green tea on tofu
Green tea jelly with green tea on tofu

For her stage two dessert, Rebecca chooses the green tea tofu which turns out to be silken tofu topped with a scattering of matcha powder and a light sprinkling of rice puffs.

green tea on tofu
Silken tofu topped with matcha powder

Rebecca doesn't seem to be taken with this but I quite like it. It's like a Japanese version of do fu fah, the silken tofu in a sweet ginger syrup served at yum cha. It's also a dish that could quite easily be recreated at home, I ponder.

As we dissect our dining experience, I'm about to say "I wish there had been more green tea" when Rebecca says "Whoah, I think I'm a little green tea'd out".

It definitely wins points on novelty value and really, when you think about it, it's probably about as close to being a judge on Iron Chef (secret ingredient: green tea) as you'll ever get for a $15 outlay.

taka tea garden teas

Taka Tea Garden at Rosa Tea House (CLOSED)
World Square Shopping Centre
Shop 10.54, 644 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9268 0008

Open 7 days 10am-7pm (Thursdays until 9pm)
8 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 9/27/2006 11:57:00 pm


  • At 9/28/2006 5:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, Sounds intriguing - I love green tea, whether as a tea or as food flavouring. Do you know if the same deal is offered at the D Bay outlet?

  • At 9/28/2006 12:52 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    I love green tea too (sipping on one now). I even popped into World Square this week (and tried Puffy, they were fresh and warm and yum!) so I'll have to go down again and try their teas.

  • At 9/28/2006 6:01 pm, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    i've passed by here a couple of times too, and had some sample sips of green tea. i never did get round to eating in although i've always been intrigued by the menu. and now you've done it for me! :)

    i heart ochazuke! the little red noodle place "don don" on oxford street does (did? haven't been there in years) a particularly hearty, nourishing one.

  • At 9/28/2006 10:15 pm, Blogger DnT Blog Guest said…

    Just wanted to say that I think your blog is fantastic.

  • At 9/29/2006 12:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ooohh been to world square many times but have not noticed this place :S must scout around for it! and green tea is so soothing and relaxing. Perfect secret ingredient for Iron Chef. I might even try it myself at home since we've already made a very nice green tea ice cream before ^^ i agree the tofu is very tasty from how it looks *nods* =D

  • At 9/29/2006 10:42 am, Blogger Tubby said…

    Wow, this place sounds really different -I definately want to give it a try (why did I never see this before?); thanks for posting this! It doesn't look all that much like a place which will serve food (quite unexpected really) but wow, that looks good (and healthy)! All things green tea; that's a really smart concept. Do they have any other lunch sets or is that the only one? What other foods do they serve? Great pictures as always =)

  • At 9/29/2006 10:44 am, Blogger Tubby said…

    In my blog, we recently attempted to make green tea creme brulee. The flavour was really good (very much like the one at Musashi) although the texture was all wrong simply because we didn't follow the recipe properly (my sister misunderstood it) but if you follow the recipe my sister provided, you can recreate an excellent green tea creme brulee!

  • At 10/01/2006 8:51 am, Blogger Reb said…

    Spot on description, Helen. I think I've recovered from my green tea OD :) and for those of you who THINK you love green tea, go and check it out. I always thought I loved green tea because I drink it all the time but this raises the bar for sure! Matcha is a different kettle of fish. But the soup was fantastic - highlight of the meal for me!


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