8 Unique Matcha Foods in Kyoto

By Misty Fujii
Updated: February 20, 2024

Matcha is synonymous with serenity, tradition, and, if we're being honest, countless Instagrammable moments. This vibrant green powder, lovingly ground from shade-grown tea leaves in Japan, is a powerhouse of antioxidants and flavor. 

Traditionally, it's whisked into frothy perfection for tea ceremonies, a practice that honors mindfulness. Tea ceremonies are still popular today, but matcha has leveled up to expand its umami flavor into unlimited offerings. 

Take a trip to Japan and you’ll find matcha flavors everywhere, from matcha lattes to matcha desserts and even matcha beer. And when you really want to explore the traditional or wild side of matcha, there’s no better place than Kyoto. With Uji in the south — arguably the birthplace of the world's best matcha — Kyoto is home to some of the most unique matcha foods, drinks, and creations. 

New to matcha? Start here!

If you've just started to learning about matcha, brush up on the basics with our previous matcha guides:

Okay, ready to go beyond the matcha lattes and Insta-famous matcha parfaits? 

Kyoto matcha goes wilder than you can imagine — we're talking vibrant green matcha ramen, matcha gyoza bursting with tea, and matcha beer in stunning shades of jade. 

Keep reading to discover 8 unique matcha foods in Kyoto!

1. Matcha noodles

A bowl of noodles, containing dark green matcha-infused broth, topped with tofu, spring onions, and fish cakes.

Imagine green ramen swimming in a fragrant broth. Sound tempting? Kyoto redefines Japan's favorite comfort food with matcha-infused ramen in restaurants or, occasionally, convenience stores. The astringency of matcha matches perfectly with the savory broth, adding an earthy depth that'll leave you craving more.

But that's not all! Matcha's magic extends to soba noodles, too, with chasoba. Try this to indulge in emerald green noodles, packed with earthy, umami-rich goodness and often served without broth. Matcha soba is tasty when hot, but is usually served as a cold, refreshing summertime dish. 

2. Matcha zenzai

A top-down shot of a matcha zenzai in a red bowl. Six chewy mochi float in the sweet matcha dessert.

Kyoto's green take on red bean soup! The classic Japanese dessert gets upgraded with a sprinkle of matcha, creating a comforting broth swimming with sweet red beans, chewy mochi bites, and plump chestnuts. Every spoonful is the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and earthy goodness that's oh-so-satisfying. The Kyoto twist is also versatile; enjoy it hot or cold, grab it to go, or savor it in a cafe.

3. Matcha takoyaki 

Four takoyaki in a bamboo tray, topped with a dark green matcha sauce.

Takoyaki is easily one of the most popular Japanese street foods. While Osaka holds the crown for this savory octopus-filled snack, Kyoto offers an intriguing variant. Instead of the traditionally brown takoyaki sauce on top, a creamy matcha sauce coats your golden takoyaki. A dusting of matcha powder adds another layer, and the first bite might surprise you. There's a subtle bitterness from the matcha with the briny octopus and savory batter, creating a complex and unusual taste that might make this your new favorite street food. 

4. Matcha gyoza

Six matcha gyoza and six matcha takoyaki, each lined up in thin bamboo trays.

Have you tried gyoza, Japan's take on Chinese potstickers? Leave it to Kyoto to take this street food staple to a whole new level with a vibrant green glow-up. The delicate dough, infused with matcha, holds a savory filling that gets a surprising boost of complexity and intrigue from the delicate bitterness of matcha. Ditch the soy sauce because these green dumplings are best enjoyed with a sprinkling of matcha salt, further amplifying the tea's unique flavor.

5. Matcha pizza

Matcha pizza is so unusual that you may need to dig to uncover it, but it exists! Occasionally offered on a limited basis at pizza shops or as a dessert at cafes in Kyoto, you have two different ways to indulge. You can go the dessert route, with sweet pizzas covered in toppings like red bean paste, matcha cream, chocolate, ice cream, and anything delicious you could dream of. Or, you can search for a savory pizza with matcha infused in other ways, like within the dough or sauce. But one thing is for sure… if you see it, you have to try it!

Pro tip: If you’re struggling to find a matcha pizza on your visit to Kyoto, don’t worry! Buy some top-grade Uji matcha and make your own with this matcha pizza recipe.

6. Matcha curry 

Forget Thai curry; this Japanese version uses matcha to get its green hue. For example, Itohkyuemon — a chain of popular souvenir shops in Kyoto — sells an instant curry, Kyoto Uji Matcha Curry, which uses Uji's finest green tea and transforms dinner into a deep green (and slightly bitter) surprise. It's a must-try for curry fans and is full of chicken, veggies, and bold matcha. Itohkyuemon has stores in Kyoto and even has a tea house near JR Uji Station where you can try unique matcha desserts and dishes.

7. Matcha ice cream (gelato)

A person holding a matcha ice cream in a wafer cone up in front of them, with the background out of focus.

While ice cream may seem ubiquitous, Nanaya Kyoto elevates the experience to an art form with a series of matcha flavors. Their renowned matcha gelato boasts seven distinct intensities, easily identified by the varying shades of green. Level 7, their flagship creation, boasts a legendary 70% matcha concentration, rumored to be the highest offered globally. Sample a few scoops and discover your matcha sweet spot.

8. Matcha beer

A frothy matcha beer on a dark wood table. Around it, a bottle opening, bottle cap, and matcha powder.

Ready to wash all those matcha snacks down? Grab a pint of Kyoto matcha beer! Matcha beer is brewing up a storm in the world of hops and there are plenty of kinds to try, from crisp pale ales to rich stouts, amped up with matcha's subtle earthiness and umami complexity. Does it sound daringly delicious or deliciously weird? 

Surprisingly, it's a match made in heaven, enhancing the beer with matcha's grassy notes. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but any beer lover should try it at least once.

Ditch the ordinary and embrace the vibrant world of matcha in Kyoto! Each bite (or sip!) is a bold and tasty adventure, from savory surprises to sweet sensations. And keep your camera ready because you never know what matcha masterpiece you’ll discover next!

Ready to travel from the mountains of matcha to the world of wasabi? Read our guide to wasabi, taking you on a journey through nine sweet and savory wasabi foods from around Japan.

Kyoto Matcha FAQs

What is matcha?

Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea leaves, grown and processed in a very specific way. It originated in China before gaining popularity in Japan, where it is now produced in great quantities.

Compared to lower quality green tea, “sencha,” matcha is made using “tencha,” which refers to “tea leaves grown under shade, steamed, and dried without kneading.” During this process, the stems and veins of the leaves are also removed, which is why matcha is often less bitter than sencha.

Where is the best matcha in Japan?

Kyoto is seen as the matcha capital of Japan, mostly as a result of a town called Uji, located in southern Kyoto. This is where the majority of Kyoto’s high-quality matcha is produced, as green tea plants are said to flourish in Uji.

Do Japanese people drink matcha every day?

It depends on the person, but some Japanese people do drink matcha every day, likely for its refined flavor and as a source of caffeine. With its high levels of antioxidants, some older Japanese people also claim that daily matcha has kept them healthy into their later years.

Is Japanese matcha healthy?

Matcha has a high amount of antioxidants, including ‘catechins’, which have been suggested to prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of certain diseases. Other studies have also shown that these catechins may have a “mild benefit in weight loss and management” (Molecules, December 27, 2020).

Where can I find Kyoto matcha tiramisu?

You can find Kyoto’s famous matcha tiramisu at places like Maccha House, using the finest Uji matcha and elegant presentation to serve up a trendy dessert that will look great on any Feed, and taste even better.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Misty Fujii
Misty Fujii is a Canadian DJ and writer who came to Japan seeking adventure and stuck around for love. Living life as a bucket list in progress, she’s as passionate about sharing her stories as she is experiencing them.
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