It’s matcha madness at Matcha Mate, a pop-up that opened in July celebrating the Japanese ingredient. The titular element – green tea powder with a savoury umami taste that’s often used in tea ceremonies – is, of course, front and centre.
You’ll find three different types of ceremonial-grade matcha (meant for usucha, rather than for culinary use) sourced from Uji, Kyoto, and served whisked with hot water, as is tradition in Japan. Koicha (thick matcha) is enjoyed as part of a milky latte, or mixed into iced drinks such as cold-brews or milkshakes. But more elaborate plated desserts and other treats (which also use koicha) are where Matcha Mate stands out.
There’s babka served drizzled with leafy green-coloured custard, vividly tinted cookies, and bingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert, topped with cubes of cheesecake, matcha cream, Lotus Biscoff biscuit crumbs, red bean, condensed milk and matcha ice-cream. “We’re trying to make a parody of the classic desserts,” says co-owner and operator Chian Ting. The idea, she says, is to “add a splash of green” and make “classic desserts – but matcha”.
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Ting moved to Australia 15 years ago and has been working in hospitality for 10 years. She grew up in Malaysia with her cousin Raymond Tan, a self-taught baker with 236,000 followers on Instagram, who also runs Raya, a homey Malaysian bakery in the CBD.
The pair launched Raya together in June 2020 and now, in addition to Matcha Mate, Ting runs Nimbo, a small and usually crowded cobalt-blue-laden space that specialises in decked-out bingsu and French toast. Nimbo, also in the CBD, doesn’t open until 3pm, so until a permanent Matcha Mate location is found, Ting and her wife Belle Vy are using the same Nimbo space for the pop-up, which operates from 10am to 3pm.
Although Tan runs Raya and Ting focuses on Nimbo and Matcha Mate, the cousins lean on each other when they need a hand. Matcha Mate cookies are made at Tan’s bakery. “But we add on all the crazy stuff,” says Ting, such as toppings like Cornflakes and dollops of black sesame ganache. Everything else is made in-house, with the exception of the ice-cream which is sourced from Hawthorn ice-creamery Kori and the babka which comes from Spitz’s Bakehouse.
After working as a barista, Ting also considers herself a drinks person. Her signature drink, the matcha coconut water, comes served in a clear glass so guests can admire the two even layers comprising coconut water at the bottom and matcha coconut cream, whipped using a coffee press, suspended on the surface.
Although Matcha Mate is a pop-up for now, Ting and her team are looking for a permanent space in the city, where any decor that can be green will be green. And Ting’s already planning on launching a third monochrome dessert shop. Stay tuned.