Tucked away in a quiet street behind the hustle and bustle of the busy Place de la République, Umami Matcha is the first café in Paris to be entirely devoted to matcha, the bitter, grassy-hued powdered tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Yet there’s nothing ceremonial about this bright, zen-like modern space that doubles as an upmarket épicerie selling artisanal ingredients from Japan.
Co-founder Laure Béguin, a Japanese food importer whose grandmother introduced ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arrangement — to France, wanted a place that could make the tea culture from the land of the rising sun more accessible to a younger French public.
Organic matcha from Uji, near Kyoto, is the house specialty, taking the spotlight with quirky chartreuse-colored versions of coffeehouse favorites like cortado, cappuccino and latte, as well as in modern concoctions like matcha milkshakes and matcha hot chocolate that wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy Tokyo café.
The tea leaves used to produce matcha come from bushes that are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This in turn encourages the production of chlorophyll and amino acids like theanine, which help confer the characteristic creamy, bittersweet flavor once the leaves are milled into a feather-light powder. Because of this meticulous production process, matcha tea commands a premium price, with some artisan ceremonial-grade types fetching as much as €150 for just one ounce.
Umami also offers a more traditional selection of Japanese leaf teas including sencha, genmaicha (green tea combined with roasted brown rice) and nutty hojicha, which gets its distinctive flavor from roasting the leaves over charcoal.
Despite a drinks selection skewed toward tea, caffeine addicts are catered with beans roasted by Coutume Café, a firm favorite in the Parisian café scene.
Those with a sweet tooth will find breakfast-time happiness in moreish cookies with matcha and white chocolate and superb matcha croissants. But more adventurous types can opt for matcha porridge made with quinoa flakes, or tuck into Umami’s homemade granola, scented with aromatic yuzu peels, the yellow citrus fruit popular in Japan, Korea and China.
Lunchtime options include traditional Japanese fare like somen and donburi, in addition to on-trend dishes such as poke bowl, the marinated raw fish salad from Hawaii, which closely resemble Japan’s chirashi sushi. There is also the option to attend workshops to recreate Umami’s poke bowls at home using the ingredients on sale in the grocery corner.
Unlike many competitors on the Parisian coffee scene. Umami accepts telephone reservations for lunch and brunch at weekends – a nice zen touch.
Umami Matcha Café- 22 rue Béranger 75003. Métro: République (ligne 3,5,8,9,11). +33 (0) 1 48 04 06 02. Open Tuesday-Friday, 9h-19h, Saturday-Sunday, 10h-19h.
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