Before embarking on Yannick Pucci's Matcha Green Tea walking tour last weekend, I'd already considered myself to be somewhat of a London matcha connoisseur. Chances are, if it's in London and it serves matcha anything, I've probably already tried it. Why? I'm slightly obsessed with matcha. I'm in love with the slightly earthy yet refined taste, which is subtle yet strong enough to be a little bitter. Plus, it's amazing when partnered with white chocolate or any other kind of dessert for that matter (matcha cheesecake or Swiss roll, anyone?).
Despite growing up in the US, our local Asian grocery stores always carried a wide variety of matcha treats. My brother and I grew up eating matcha ice cream mochi for dessert and dumped boxes of matcha Pocky sticks into my mom's shopping cart (if you don't know what Pocky sticks are, you're missing out). Although matcha-flavored goodies have been around for as long as I can remember, the craze has only recently hit London in the last year or so, with Shackfuyu's famous soft-serve matcha ice cream leading the way, followed by matcha lattes from popular, Instagrammable cafes such as Curator's Coffee Gallery and Timberyard (they're not on the tour, btw - too obvious!). The frothy, green hot drink makes an ideal alternative to coffee for those who still want a caffeine kick but with added health benefits. To others, it tastes like "pond scum" (not looking at you or anything, Runawaykiwi).
Yannick's tour caters to the matcha-lover and London-wanderer alike, taking us to some of London's most familiar corners before expertly dispelling that familiarity by offering historical details and facts that I'd never known or had so obviously missed. It was eye-opening and refreshing all at once. During this walking tour, which lasted approximately three hours (but felt more like 1.5!), Yannick seamlessly segued from the history of London to the history of matcha, all before making carefully researched pit stops for matcha-related treats. From the well-known matcha latte to more innovative matcha inventions, this tour is for any matcha fan who's always wanted to get to know London a little better on foot. I was put to shame by Yannick's incredible knowledge of cafes, restaurants, and shops that served matcha desserts! I'd only been to two out of the six stops we'd made during the tour and of those two, I didn't even know that matcha options were available.
Clearly, Yannick's selection of matcha pit stops were already impressive, but it was his intelligently planned route that really deserved praise. Tours can often be lazy, uninspiring. Plonk me in the middle of a museum or city tour and I'm stifling yawns, looking down at my shoes, or letting my mind wander (I once quietly slipped away from a city tour in Bath by stepping into the doorway of a pub - and not coming out until it was over). If anything, I walked away from Yannick's tour with a renewed sense of inspiration after seeing the backstreets of my city a little differently and getting excited about my new matcha discoveries.
So, I'm not merely heaping this praise onto Yannick because he's my friend (or because he was armed with a Mary Poppins-like bag during the tour, armed with photos to illustrate his points and the occasional treat or two) - it's because I left the tour on Saturday feeling like I'd just seen a London that came alive, unlike the flat, one-dimensional version I see day-in, day-out during my commute to and from work. That and the fact that I was now carrying some matcha treats in my bag.