A pastime that has been around for millennia, Japanese teatime pairs warm cups of tea with various snacks and sweets. Ranging from sweet to savory, here are some of our favorite pairings for Japanese green tea!
Daifuku is a sweet mochi treat with a bean paste filling. The most common variation of daifuku is filled with adzuki bean paste, although yomogi (mugwort) paste is also a popular variety. Daifuku can be formed around fresh fruits like strawberries, muscat grapes, and even whole tangerines, or stuffed with confections like custards and puddings!
Manju is another bean paste-filled sweet, but has a cake-like exterior made from rice and buckwheat flour instead of mochi. Manju is typically dome-shaped, but several regions offer their own special variations. The most recognizable is Hiroshima “momiji manju”, which is named for and shaped like a Japanese maple leaf.
Dorayaki is made by sandwiching bean paste between two thin, castella-like pancakes. Made with honey and mirin, the pancakes are fluffy, moist, and sweet. The most traditional flavor combination is adzuki beans between two regular pancakes, but variations on both the filling and pancake flavor are common.
Dango is a portable snack that consists of chewy mochi balls served on a stick. The most iconic version of dango has three mochi balls in three different colors: signature light pink, green, and white -- this classic variation even has its own emoji. However, there are endless ways to enjoy dango. Try it coated in kinako (soy bean powder), coated in sesame seed paste, or brushed with mitarashi, a sweet caramelized soy sauce.
Available in both sweet and savory varieties, senbei refers to any large rice cracker. For a great introduction to the world of senbei, try this sampler of honenyaki senbei, which comes in four different flavors: seaweed, soy sauce, ume no hana (plum flower), and negi (green onion) miso. Crunchy and umami-rich, senbei is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of genmaicha.
Another rice-based cracker, arare is made from glutinous rice flour and typically shaped into flattened, bite-sized cylinders. A refined take on the classic snack, this matcha arare is made with matcha sourced from Uji, the second oldest green tea-producing region in Japan. The rice grains are polished and pounded by hand, ensuring the crackers are perfectly fluffy, airy, and crisp.
Popular in wintertime, zenzai is a warm dessert soup made with mochi rice and red beans simmered in a sweet broth. Comforting and wholesome, our favorite version incorporates 16 mixed grains for hearty blend of textures and tastes. Simply heat it in the microwave and serve alongside a steaming cup of sencha or hojicha.
A traditional wagashi, or Japanese confection, yokan is a mixture of bean paste, agar, and sugar shaped into a block. Yokan comes in two main varieties, “mizu” meaning water and “neri” meaning paste. The former uses a higher concentration of water and is more jelly-like, while the latter uses more agar for a thicker and heavier consistency. Popular among the older crowd, yokan isn’t the most photogenic dessert, but its subtle sweetness and unique texture make it a timeless treat.
About the author:
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.