When green-tea specialist bar Matcha-Ya moved into Steam Mill Lane in 2018, it brought traditional teas, lattes, myriad desserts and a handful of matcha-infused curries to Haymarket.
The Japanese tea is made from fine, powdered green tea leaves and has 10 times more caffeine than a normal cup of green tea. The effect gives drinkers a powerful alertness – matcha in large quantities can undo even a seasoned drinker.
Matcha-Ya, which means “Matcha House” in Japanese, sources its powder from the Shizuoka mountains, an area very famous for its green tea.
There’s traditional tea on the menu, but the latte is a gateway drink. Made by dissolving the powder in steamed milk, the matcha latte is mellow, scented and comes in a verdant shade of green. It’s served in a pleasantly imperfect, handle-less mug that’s so big it needs two hands to hold it. A tiny bamboo spoon is the only accompaniment – used to stir dollops of cream into the gently sweetened, warm, vibrant liquid.
There are three versions of rich Japanese curry on offer – each laced with matcha and spinach that turns the normally russet curry green. There’s plain curry on rice, fried-chicken curry or battered-fish curry, too.
There are also plenty of sweeter things on the menu. The sundae is made with creamy matcha-infused soft serve, cubes of castella (a Japanese sponge cake), a mound of azuki (red bean paste) and slick, chewy shiratama (satisfying little rice flour dumplings). The parfait, with its exhaustive list of components, is the next step up from the sundae. Try it with houjicha, which is the roasted version of matcha. Its colour is sandy and not as pretty as matcha’s intense green shade, but the toasted flavour is delicious. The parfait comes with houjicha jelly, soft serve, honeycomb sugar, chia seeds and freeze-dried fruits, and is finished with a fish-shaped pancake.
Matcha-Ya is set up like a drinks and dessert venue. Under the zigzagging light fixture, which runs from the front of the long, narrow space to the back, are wooden tables without eating implements. The atmosphere is serene. Matcha service comes from behind a long white counter where staff pour and steam the milk from streamlined, built-in spouts and steamers.
A small kitchen handles the dessert production as well as the small curry menu.