Looking for delicious matcha sweets and desserts in Kyoto for your next vacation? This beautiful city is the uncontested matcha capital of Japan, with everything from matcha drinks to desserts to enjoy.
You’ll find an incredible variety of Kyoto cafes offering irresistible treats, but how do you know which ones to visit first? Don’t worry — the staff at MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS have picked our top five cafes for matcha lovers in Kyoto to help you get started!
Matcha is a powdered form of green tea, consumed in Japan for over 1,200 years. Unlike other teas, matcha uses the entire leaf of the tea plant, resulting in more caffeine and a higher concentration of antioxidants, amino acids, and other nutrients. Due to these traits, matcha was originally used by Buddhist monks to keep awake during meditations!
The ceremonial process of preparing and drinking powdered tea spread throughout Japan later in the 1500’s, largely credited to Zen Master Sen-no-Rikyu. The Japanese tea ceremony, with its rituals and traditions, gained popularity especially with the wealthy samurai clans.
But how is matcha green tea different from regular green tea?
Although both what we refer to as matcha and green tea stem from the same plant, matcha specifically refers to the powdered form, while green tea in general is used to refer to loose or bagged tea leaves.
But it’s not just the form they come in. The main contrast is in the cultivation: matcha is grown in the shade, instead of being exposed to sunlight, in the last few weeks of the harvest. This boosts the leaves’ chlorophyll levels and gives them a richer color, as well as a more bitter taste.
There’s also the preparation: you whisk the matcha green tea powder into hot water to create a frothy fluid. That’s why matcha green tea served in a cup looks so different to tea prepared traditionally with leaves or a teabag.
Thanks to a town called Uji in southern Kyoto, Kyoto is the uncontested matcha capital of Japan, producing some of the highest quality matcha in the country.
There are two main reasons that Uji makes such great quality matcha. The first reason is environmental. Tea plants flourish in the Uji area. Tea grown in Uji is said to have a strong flavor and rich color due to the climate and nutrients in the soil.
History is also another factor. Kyoto used to be the ancient imperial capital of Japan. As a place of many traditional Japanese tea ceremonies for the aristocratic and wealthy, the matcha used in Kyoto had to be of the best quality. Matcha makers in Uji catered to their customers in Kyoto by having the strictest standards when cultivating the tea plants and preparing the matcha. This practice still continues to this day, as Uji is a region focused on matcha production, with visitors flocking from not only Japan, but all over the world.
Uji matcha is said to be sweeter and stronger in flavor, and is the preferred matcha by matcha lovers around the world both for preparing a cup of matcha as well as flavoring matcha desserts.
Now that you know what matcha green tea is and why Kyoto is the place to be for matcha fans, let’s look at the top five cafes to visit if you’re looking for matcha desserts and sweets in Kyoto City.
Eirakuya Honten is based in central Kyoto, at Shijo-Kawaramachi. That means it’s easy to visit while you’re seeing Gion’s sights or sightseeing in central Kyoto!
You’ll find a great selection of Japanese sweets here, from parfaits to warabi-mochi. Warabi-mochi is similar to mochi, which is made with rice, but is instead made with warabiko (bracken starch), which gives it a unique and chewy texture.
But the true star at this cafe is the Raku・Matcha Parfait. This parfait was made specifically to enjoy the flavor of matcha from start to finish. It contains green tea ice cream, matcha jelly, shiratama(small mochi balls), chopped chestnuts, sweet azuki bean paste, and more!
Depending on the season, this cafe also serves fun, seasonal Japanese sweets as well. Visit during the cherry blossom season in spring for parfaits and desserts containing cherry blossom ice cream, cherry blossom jelly, and other special sakura themed treats.
Isehan is based in Demachiyanagi, near to the Kamogawa River and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The retro and homey cafe is the perfect place to take a break while visiting Kyoto and seeing the sights. They serve carefully crafted, handmade Japanese sweets, which is very popular with the locals. They use matcha from Ryuoen Tea Shop, which sources its tea from Uji, for the highest-quality tea-based treats.
Isehan is famous for anmitsu: a traditional cold sweet made with agar jelly cubes. There are several options to choose from, but if you’re not sure what to get, take it from us and order the Tokusei Anmitsu (Special Anmitsu). It comes with warabi-mochi, matcha jelly, koku-tou (brown sugar) jelly, azuki bean paste, shiratama dango, and ice cream. It’s the perfect dessert to cool you down if you’re in Kyoto during the summer months!
They also offer a tasty parfait, using matcha ice cream, as well as kakigori (shaved ice) desserts, which our local experts swear by!
LAMARCK is located a quick walk from Imadegawa Station in Kyoto City. This cute patisserie has been featured in the media ever since it opened in 2019. They specialize in making desserts with unique combinations. The refreshing and interesting menu here has local Japanese fans mesmerized!
What do our local matcha fans recommend? The Matcha Opera Cake. It’s as grand and impressive as it sounds, and is a delicious meeting of Western-style cakes with Japanese matcha. Stop by for a treat after taking a tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace nearby!
|Address||333 Benzaitencho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-0939|
|Holidays|| Closed every Tuesday, Wednesday
Occasionally closed on Mondays
(See official Instagram page for details)
Motoan is a Uji tea shop that dates back 300 years (yes, really!), located near Nijo Castle. It’s based in a huge, renovated machiya house in a quiet neighborhood, so it’s ideal if you want to get away from the crowds for a while.
The tea room offers a great menu for matcha fans, including Uji Matcha Ice Cream, Matcha Roll Cake Set, and more. They also have a wide array of drinks featuring tea. The matcha drink is a classic, but for a twist, try the matcha cream tea, which can be ordered hot or cold.
After enjoying your matcha treat, be sure to stop by the attached tea shop for souvenirs! They sell matcha as well as other times of tea. You can even pick up some treats that are made with matcha to take back to your accommodation and enjoy later!
|Nishinotoin Tea Shop & MOTOAN Tea House|
|Address||561 West Side, Sanbonishitoincho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto 604-8277|
|Holidays||Closed every Wednesday (except public holidays)
Closed January 1~3
Last but definitely not least, let’s talk about Micasadeco & Cafe KYOTO. This gorgeous Kyoto cafe is inside a renovated machiya house that’s 100 years old, and it blends that traditional aesthetic with a modern look. It’s also located near Kawaramachi and Nishiki Market, making it the perfect stop before or after a little shopping!
If you’re in the mood for a sweet dessert in Kyoto, this is definitely the place to visit. This cafe specializes in fluffy, Japanese-style pancakes that will have your mouth watering even while reading the menu!
Want to start with a savory dish first? No problem — Micasadeco & Cafe KYOTO offers vegan and vegetarian meals, too!
Our local sweet-fan recommends the Matcha Fluffy Pancake, which is made with Uji tea. They also have a special Matcha Plate Dessert, with a limited availability every day. Its the perfect choice if you want to try several different matcha desserts!
Micasadeco & cafe KYOTO
|Address||480 Umeyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8057|
Saturday, Sunday, & Holidays: 18:00～17:00
Closed December 31~January 3
When you visit Kyoto, matcha green tea is easy to find, and it’s of the highest quality thanks to nearby Uji. Whether you want to sample a frothy drink prepared in a traditional way, treat your taste buds with a dessert, or both, you’re spoilt for choice!
We hope our pick of five great Kyoto matcha cafes has inspired you to explore the Japanese sweets on offer in this wonderful city.