America’s premium ice cream maker takes on one of Japan’s most traditional tastes.
With its exotic but actually nonsensical name, you could accuse Häagen-Dazs of putting on airs. You could level similar charges of manufactured sophistication against the ice cream maker for its latest offering in Japan, which boasts the inclusion of not just Japanese green tea but the rarefied variety called matcha.
But on the other hand, there’s also the fact that matcha has a proven track record as a flavoring in delicious desserts. And so it fell to me to take on the solemn task of taste testing Häagen-Dazs Japan’s new Matcha Crumble, in order to judge whether it could deliver on those sophisticated culinary promises and traditions in a manner even a boorish philistine could enjoy.
Also referred to as the Green Tea Crumble, Häagen-Dazs’ new frozen treat is part of its Crunchy Crunch line of ice cream bars, which make up for their redundant naming by providing the convenience of spoon-free snacking. As with most special Japanse dessert flavors, they’re only available for a limited time, but thankfully you can find them at supermarkets and convenience stores all over Japan.
It sort of goes without saying, but this flavor is specifically designed for people who really like matcha. Not only is there matcha ice cream inside, there’s a coating with crumbled up pieces of matcha cookies that have an Oreo-like texture.
The rest of the coating is made from white chocolate, which is thick enough that you’ll have to use your teeth and bite into it to eat the Matcha Crumble. That might put a shiver down your spine, but your taste buds will thank you, as the white chocolate is rich and flavorful.
By the way, if you’re a bit of a messy eater, you might want to have a plate handy. The coating has enough integrity that it won’t dissolve while you’re holding the unwrapped bar, but the white chocolate tends to break off in plates after being bitten into, and unless you’re eating at a quick place, some of the ice cream inside may drip out,
Speaking of the ice cream, you may be initially disappointed when you see it’s not the same deep shade of green shown on the package. As a matter of fact, it’s pale enough that, just looking at it, you might mistake it for an ordinary, matcha-less green tea variety.
The flavor tells a very different story, though. This is the real deal, with all of the deep, bitter yet crisp notes matcha is supposed to deliver.
But like some sort of ice cream Jesus, the Matcha Crumble saves the best for last. Even though the matcha cookie pieces are part of the coating, their flavor is, at first, hard to notice as the white chocolate and matcha ice cream strut their stuff. At the very end, though, after the ice cream slides down your throat, you’re left with the cookie pieces to chew on, and their perfectly balanced mix of sweet and bitter sensations steals the show in an extremely agreeable manner.
Really, the Matcha Crumble’s only major drawback is that the way its coating splinters makes it a difficult treat to share with someone else. Luckily, at just 214 yen (US$1.80), buying two is an option that’s easy on the wallet.
Follow Casey on Twitter for more borderline-religious experiences with food in Japan.