Saturday, November 13, 2010

Experiencing Japanese Zen at Kozui Green Tea

(Sorry for the late update! School was a little hectic, but I'm here now! :D)

I've always loved tea ever since I was a child. I grew up drinking tea everyday, with all my meals, which probably explains why I never grew taller after 6th grade... Of course, that's just an urban legend, because I'm pretty sure lots of Asians who drink tea regularly are tall, so it's probably just my genes. Anyway.

I've always wondered why tea wasn't more popular in the Philippines as it is in China, Japan, Korea, etc., but I guess that's just part of our culture, seeing as we were a Spanish colony for a long time so we never received a lot of British or Portuguese influences. Recently though, tea has become more of a novelty product, with lots of bubble tea and milk tea stores sprouting up all over the place.

When I first heard about Kozui Green Tea, I thought it was another one of those faux-Japanese restaurants, where they serve you Westernized versions of Japanese food that is not even the least bit authentic. However, I was quite surprised because despite the initial impression I had of the store, Kozui Green Tea is the real thing.

Outside Kozui Green Tea

Just stepping into Kozui Green Tea, you can instantly feel the charm of the little cafe, the interior of which is decorated in a light green and white motif. Cakes like Green Tea Tiramisu and Green Tea Cheesecake are on display in the glass cabinet beside the counter where you also place your order before taking a seat.

Inside Kozui Green Tea
Kozui's adorable menu
First, let's look at the food. Kozui offers a wide range of Japanese dishes from rice meals such as Toridon, Karaagedon (crunchy fried chicken), to noodles like Green Tea Chilled Soba, to sandwiches such as Fuji Apple Chicken Sandwich (not pictured here). I was only able to try the Toridon, and while it was good, it wasn't anything special. Don't be fooled by the photo here though. Althouth the bowl looks a little small, the Toridon was really filling.

The green tea chilled soba is pretty interesting. I wasn't able to taste it, but my friend seemed to enjoy it a lot. It has chilled green-tea flavored noodles which you dunk into a sauce before eating it. What's strange about it is that it has ICE CUBES underneath the noodles that keep the noodles cold. You can't see them in the picture but they're there, buried under the soba.
Green Tea Chilled Soba
We also had takoyaki, which was really good. It's filled with yummy octopus (if that's your thing) and topped with Japanese mayonnaise and special takoyaki sauce. It's their specialty, I think, and it didn't disappoint.
Another thing I found interesting with the food is that they're topped with bonito flakes, which are the shavings of dried and fermented fish. I once watched a Japanese drama called Osen which talked about traditional methods of preparing Japanese food, and I especially loved the episode talking about bonito flakes, which are made with love and care by specialty makers who have been making them for decades.

But anyway, I'm digressing, so let's move on to the main highlight: Kozui Green Tea's drinks!

I tried their Green Tea Latte which is just that, steaming green tea with milk and a bit of foam. It was fantastic! It came in a huge mug, which had to contain at least 16 ounces of green tea deliciousness. Unlike most other green tea lattes, this one was just very mildly sweet, perfect for enjoying the harmonious blend of the green tea and milk. If you enjoy the taste of authentic green tea, I highly recommend this! :)

Green Tea Latte
The Genmaicha Green Tea was the bestseller of the store, and although I didn't try it, my friend attested to its goodness. According to Wikipedia, Genmaicha is "the Japanese name for green tea combined with roasted brown rice," so the rice adds a nice roasted aroma to the green tea.

Genmaicha Green Tea
They also had many other variants of their famous green tea, such as blended ice drinks called Korichio.

And, we come to the last part of our amazing meal at Kozui, the desserts. As I mentioned earlier, they have several green tea-flavored cakes such as Tiramisu and cheesecake, but we were so full we had space for only one more dessert.

So of course, we tried their specialty, anmitsu, which is similar to Filipino halo-halo. It is crushed ice topped with red beans, red bean paste, green tea jelly  and dango balls (similar to bilu-bilo in ginataang halo-halo). You can also choose between mango, strawberry, or melon fruit toppings, and also between green tea ice cream (soft serve) or frozen yogurt. We decided to go with the ice cream, seeing as we consumed so much green tea, a little unhealthy treat wouldn't do us any harm. ;) Needless to say, the anmitsu was the perfect sweet ending to our trip to Kozui Green Tea.

Mango anmitsu with green tea ice cream
There were so many choices in Kozui's menu that I regret not having ordered everything while I was already there. I can't wait to go back soon and try everything else that I missed the first time!

If you're a fan of Japanese green tea, then definitely, definitely try out Kozui! It's the closest to Japan you're gonna get! :)

Kozui Green Tea
258 B Tomas Morato Ave.,
Quezon City
(near Kimono Ken)

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