Matcha Madness: An A-Z of Shanghai's Most Creative Uses

By Sophie Steiner, June 9, 2023

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Green tea has been around since the Chinese discovered its 'awakening' effects helped them meditate back in the Tang Dynasty (609-705AD), but it was the Zen Buddhist sect of 12th century Japan who refined it into the bright green powder you see today.

They did this by growing it in the shade to produce a theanine-rich, powdered and caffeinated tea, one we’ve come to know and love today as matcha. 

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With conventional tea consumption, the leaves get infused into water and then discarded. But with matcha, you drink the finely milled powder made from the entire green tea leaves themselves.

Matcha tea leaves get their sturdier texture and robust flavor from the shading process they go through before being harvested. This also makes them richer in antioxidants compared to other green tea, and a better match for cooking and baking. 

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While matcha pastries have been common in Japan for centuries, their growing popularity throughout the rest of Asia and the West only took off in the last few decades.

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Shanghai hasn’t delayed in jumping on the bandwagon – you can now find matcha cakes, tarts, rolls, breads, ice cream, truffles, mochi and lattes at every corner bakery and café in the city. 

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We’ve put in the legwork to find Shanghai’s most delicious, most creative and most matcha-forward treats, so get ready to get (caffeine) buzzed. 


Azabuya – Matcha Ice Cream (RMB35/2 scoops cone, RMB40/2 scoops cup)

Dense like a Dairy Queen blizzard, the ultra-rich consistency of Azabuya is hard to beat.

This ice cream shop sensation began with just one location in Taikoo Hui, but with sprawling lines at all hours of the day, it has expanded to Wulumuqi Lu and Yongkang Lu. 

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Most famous for their Matcha Ice Cream (RMB35/2 scoops in a cone, RMB40/2 scoops in a cup) – of which there are three grades to choose from – they also showcase a variety of other Asian-inspired flavors, like Grapefruit Lychee, Hojicha and Black Sesame.

The matcha ranges in color from a freshly-mowed-lawn-on-a-sunny-day green to a dusky pine-tree-in-winter green, each of the three grades increasing in complexity and richness the darker it gets, like comparing bars of chocolate.

The deeper the color, the stronger the hint of bitterness, umami nuttiness and vegetal grassiness. 


Bonica – Matcha Sea Salt Latte (RMB45)

Available at both Bonica and connected café Loggia, a roster of innovative coffee beverages awaits, from a Chocolate Osmanthus Latte (RMB45) to a Black Latte (RMB42) with activated charcoal for clearing your gut of toxins.

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The Matcha Sea Salt Latte (RMB45) is what piqued our interest most. Below a creamy milk cap (that leaves a bubbly white foam mustache across your upper lip with every sip) sits a blend of high-grade Japanese matcha, espresso, and salted cream – a borderline savory sipper, noteworthy in its velvety mouthfeel.  


Chikalicious – Matcha Mille Crêpe CakeCake (RMB78)

Dianping sensation Chikalicious Dessert Bar – a New York export – was all the rage for selfie loving Douyin-aholics when it opened in Taikoo Hui.

And it still amazes us how many Gen Z-ers get dolled up and book it over to take posed, over-filtered photos while slicing into their mid-day cake and staring off into the distance with a forlorn longing for a bygone era they are too young to have lived through. 

Or maybe they are just remembering when they ordered something that actually tasted like matcha – something that is not this cake, which barely tastes of anything.

It’s pretty much like biting into fluffy, subtly sweet air.

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So what is a Matcha Mille Crêpe (RMB78)? It's literally 20 thin pancakes stacked on top of each other, sandwiched with airy cream that maybe came into contact with matcha for all of two seconds before being cut into a slice. 

There’s a reason matcha is prized for its boldly earthy flavor, and this cake just disrespects that. 


Dosage – Matcha Madeleines (RMB12 each, 36/four pieces) 

Patisserie Dosage is a café by day, wine bar by night that proffers up some delectable treats at all hours. 

The cakey but light Madeleines (RMB12 each, 36/four pieces) are available in four flavors – rosewater pistachio, honey lemon, black sesame and matcha – each of which is strong in taste than the last, and we mean that in a good way. 

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If something is advertised as matcha flavor, we want to taste that roasted, herbaceous tea flavor (take note, Chikalicious!) and the madeleines more than deliver, in all of their cake-y plush goodness. 


Drunk Baker – Matcha Scone (RMB12)

With more than 10 locations around the city, Drunk Baker pumps out pastries from tiny storefront windows like it's going out of fashion. And consistently rated in the top items on Dianping is the Matcha Scone (RMB12).

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Less of a scone and more of a cream-cheese stuffed cookie, as diehard matcha fiends, we have mixed feelings about said pastry. 

The cookie is dense and chewy, rather than crumbly like a scone, with a robust matcha flavor and minimal sweetness.

No problem on that front, as sugar is an unnecessary component of every confectionary, and if this was the entire dessert, we would leave satisfied.

But the matcha-laced "cheesecake center" is where you lose us, as it's distinct tang overpowers the subtly floral, clean aroma of the matcha, and this cookie-scone hybrid just becomes all about the zippy cream cheese. 


Gelato Dal Cuore – Matcha Ice Cream (RMB38/2 scoops in a cup, RMB45/2 scoops in a cone)

Gelato Dal Cuore's gelato flavors are a labor of love, with Italy-trained Gelato Chef Gerard Low focusing on sourcing the highest quality ingredients that result in the most ideal balance of flavor and texture.

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While most others have rotated out over time, the Matcha Ice Cream (RMB38/2 scoops in a cup, RMB45/2 scoops in a cone) has been on the menu since they opened their doors in 2018 – a testament to its die-hard fan base.

To some, it can taste almost vegetal, with a strong aroma, but the creaminess from the gelato makes it hard to put the spoon down after each addicting bite. 


Ginger – Matcha Cake (RMB58) and Matcha Latte (RMB55)

Ginger Modern Asian Bistro is one of the longest standing Southeast Asian restaurants in Shanghai. 

How has it survived the ups and downs of Shanghai’s food scene? High quality ingredients, consistency and a killer patio. 

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After trying the deconstructed, sumptuous Matcha Cake (RMB58) drizzled with yogurt mousse and sprinkling of fresh raspberries, we followed it up with a Matcha Latte (RMB55), available both iced and hot with the milk of your choosing, for a truly “OD on matcha” experience.

Our only gripe – it’s one of the priciest basic matcha lattes in the city without any discernible difference. 


Hakkasan – Matcha and Yuzu (RMB108)

In a country known for its abundance of tea production and consumption, there is still nothing that can come close to the rich and grassy flavor of matcha, one that unfolds in earthy layers when contrasted against tart yuzu as the Matcha and Yuzu (RMB108) – a cold dessert at Hakkasan

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Composed of crunchy matcha shells surrounding matcha ice cream scoops, interspersed between quenelles of yuzu gelato and piped yuzu cream, the plate also sees tufts of green tea sponge cake, yuzu meringue, and green tea gel.

It's a mouthwatering mishmash of matcha in all shapes, forms and textures, making it one of Hakkasan's signatures.


High Yaki The Sea – Matcha Toast (RMB88)

Chef Carlos Sotomayer (previously of elEfante and UP Shanghai) is the man behind the menu at owner Justin Xu’s High Yaki The Sea, a blend of Western cooking techniques with splashes of Japanese, Thai and Southeast Asian flavors.

Available on the newly launched Nihon Brunch menu, the Matcha Toast (RMB88) is just that, a French toast-meets-Japanese matcha bomb. 

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A thick slice of brioche toast is dusted with Uji matcha powder and toasted macadamia notes, while a giant sphere of matcha ice creams slowly melts in the center.

A waterfall of viscous matcha milk cream cascades across the plate, soaking into the brioche like a creamy French toast batter, rich matcha flavor permeating every flaky nook and cranny of the toast.

And if at this point your matcha tolerance still hasn't been surpassed, there's a Matcha Latte (RMB45) – espresso, whisked matcha powder and frothed milk – to pair with it. 


HIYA – Matcha Lava Cake (RMB100)

HIYA is Jason Atherton’s Japanese-inspired restaurant – with a modern fusion thread running through the entire menu – in the chic Shanghai EDITION Hotel. 

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For the menu’s top-selling dessert – a Japanese take on the French chocolate fondant – the Matcha Chocolate Lava Cake (RMB100), when pierced, reveals a torrent of liquid matcha magma that trickles from the molten center, juxtaposed against sour cherry sorbet.

Gooey and warm, the customarily bitter notes of dark chocolate are replaced by matcha. 


Huang Xu's Milk Dessert Expert – Hand-pulled Matcha Noodles (RMB24)

Not spinach noodles, nor pistachio noodles, nor even mugwort noodles, these slippery Hand-pulled Matcha Noodles (RMB24) from Huang Xu's Milk Dessert Expert (黄氏许牛奶甜品专家) – a Cantonese dessert shop in Global Harbor Mall – are quite possibly the most unexpected matcha treat we've come across.

Combining pudding powder, gelatin, and matcha powder, the Jello-like noodles bounce around the bowl, jiggling their way down your throat with a pleasant slurp.

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The matcha's grassy notes shine through on the front end, the bitterness balanced by a sugary coconut milk soup (we wouldn't be surprised if there's a splash of condensed milk in there), sweet red bean, and red bean jellies that pleasantly pop open to reveal a duo of textures, plus taro and pumpkin mochi. 


Innocent Dessert 無邪甜品 – Qiǎo Xī Fú Xī 巧兮福兮 Happy Happy (RMB32)

Innocent Dessert 無邪甜品 is the answer to matcha lovers’ wildest dreams; it’s matcha overload on steroids with dozens of matcha treats to select from.

From the customary – matcha ice cream (of which there are three grades to choose), matcha cheesecake, and matcha bevvies of all manners – to the crazy – matcha stuffed inside a Japanese hamigua melon, herbal matcha pudding, and matcha sundaes adorned with soft mochi balls, dorayaki pancakes and matcha-dusted toffee. 

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Of course, we partook in the latter, going for the 'modest' Qiao Xi Fu Xi 巧兮福兮 (RMB32) – translating roughly to Happy Happy – an apt name for this medium-sized matcha mashup.

Herbaceous matcha jelly forms the base, followed by sweet red bean. Next, a plush vanilla whipped cream cushions a generous swirl of 50% matcha soft serve, crowned with a fudgy matcha powdered square resembling Nama chocolate, plus a matcha-infused white chocolate shell encasing a freeze-dried strawberry.  

But this is just entry level at Innocent Dessert. Be prepared for unfettered matcha abundance to a degree of excess that hugs the line of comical.

Think 30-centimeter tall matcha soft serve ice cream (yes, this really is a menu option, and will only set you back a very reasonable RMB39), molten matcha cakes that ooze matcha cream, dribbling down diners' chins with every bite, and frozen matcha shakes topped with an uncountable number of edible matcha decorations. 

Come hungry; bring friends; you've been warned.  


La Matcha – Matcha Tiramisu (RMB30)

A Japanese take on the Italian dessert favorite, La Matcha offers the Matcha Tiramisu (RMB30), stacked with a crumbly buttery matcha cake bottom, matcha whipped cream, another layer of cake, and then foamy, light whipped cream on top dusted with sweet cocoa powder. 

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Albeit untraditional, the slight bitterness that would customarily come from coffee is present here in the form of Kyoto matcha powder, with just the right touch of sweetness. 

Bonus: If the name didn’t give it away, at La Matcha you can double down on your matcha intake with any number of beverages – they’ve got tea-based, coffee-based, coconut water-based, juice-based and even alcohol-based matcha bevvies of all flavors.

And the Xiangyang Lu location now has super-sized swirls of matcha soft serve for only RMB38 a pop. 


Maolago – Wawa (RMB82)

A contemporary Guizhou sour fish soup venue, Maolago is a sanctuary to all things Guizhou comfort food, with an emphasis on Miao cooking heritage.

In true Oha Group form, cocktails are anything but the standard. Pre-batched libations, known here as Drip Wine, are available by the glass and the bottle.

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The Drip Wines are made from cold-pressed, filtered and slightly fermented organic fruit, vegetable and herb-based juices, that are then infused with a base liquor. After a clarification process, the resulting beverages are funky – like natural wine – yet delicate, with an equally subtle presentation.

Maolago’s most popular drink, the Wawa (RMB82), sees salted plum juxtaposed against a matcha base, served up in a frothy tumbler. 


OSP – Alpha (RMB98)

Exactly as we'd expect from Hope & Sesame, the consistently Asia’s 50 Best-ranked team that put Guangzhou’s cocktail scene on the map (and who designed OSP’s menu), drink descriptions here look more like grocery lists than what you'd expect to find shaken into a cocktail. 

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Case in point – matcha-dusted white chocolate cream floats on SG Shochu Kome blended with yuzu juice as the Alpha (RMB98), a tempering of sweetness by the matcha’s bitter notes. 


Ounce – First of May (RMB110)

Co-founder Marley Teng has poured more than glass after glass of whiskey over the years; he’s poured everything’s he’s got – heart, soul, creativity, energy, and sweet, sweet cash – into developing Ounce’s tome of a menu.

In short, the drinks on offer are anything but your average mixers. 

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Like a taste of spring that you wish to hold onto year-round, the First of May (RMB110) is equal parts bright and refreshing.

Dassai sake and Uji plum wine are blended with an unctuous homemade lemongrass-infused gin, balanced by a grassy lick of a matcha powder stripe on the outside of the glass that brings together the flavor spectrum presented in this easy sipper. 


Strictly Cookies – Matcha Marzipan Cookie (RMB18)

Hailed as the most inventive cookie shop in China, Strictly Cookies serves up nostalgic flavor combinations that bring back memories of favorite childhood desserts, as well as creative pairings. 

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The Matcha Marzipan Cookie (RMB18) showcases a soft sugar cookie base, with matcha folded into the dough.

Luscious pockets of homemade almondy marzipan and white chocolate flecks are sprinkled throughout for a pop of extra sweetness. 


Todos Los Dias – Matcha Scone (RMB15) 

Denser than most of the other Todos Los Dias scones available – of which there are more than a dozen varieties on any given day – the Matcha Scone (RMB15) is more savory than sweet, with a dense dollop of whipped cream cheese right in the center. 

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Studded with individual kernels of sweet red bean, this scone is just a sprinkling of black sesame powder away from housing the Asian dessert trifecta – matcha, red bean and black sesame.


WidCoffee – Matcha Bingsoo (RMB72/small, RMB82/medium, RMB92/large)

Located on the second floor of Seoul Plaza in Koreatown, take a break from shopping with an equally cold and sugary treat at WidCoffee.

Similar to Taiwanese shaved ice, the popular Korean dessert Bingsoo (RMB72-95) is made from shaved frozen milk at this shop, resulting in a powdery, snow-like mound of sweetness. 

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The most common flavors span injeolmi – roasted soy bean powder rice cakes – matcha, mango and strawberry. But for the non-traditionalists, there’s also Oreo, blueberry and walnut. 

The Matcha Bingsoo’s (RMB72/small) powdery slopes comes dusted in matcha powder and served with a saccharine matcha syrup on the side, plus a dollop of sweet red bean and more of those pleasantly plump and gummy roasted soy bean powder rice cakes.


Zup – Matchamisu (RMB48)

While pizza is the name of the game at Shanghai’s favorite tavern-style pizza joint, Zup Pizza Bar, dessert is no afterthought; sweet and savory classics and new inventions abound. 

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Case in point – a high-grade Japanese matcha powder is blended into mascarpone, the creamy whip that holds together lady fingers soaked in rum and Kahlua, as the Italy-meets-Japan hybrid sweet treat, Matchamisu (RMB48).

The usually saccharine mouthful is tamed by a dusting of acerbic matcha. 


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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