(Real) green tea at Cocoro Japanese Pottery Cafe

This is Cocoro Japanese Pottery Cafe in Smith St, which has been open for a year. One of our friends married a wonderful Japanese woman. Months ago, we cooked a dried apricot tart for them (with a bit of help in the form of pastry purchased from the Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder) and they brought around all the requisites for green tea. As far as I knew, the watery stuff my sushi bar lunch haunt provides me with was green tea, and the green tea ceremony was something in which everyone moved agonisingly slowly. Only when I saw the splendid paraphenalia — in particular the chasen, the bamboo whisk — and the luminously green frothy tea, did I begin to understand how a ceremony might be crafted around this drink. I had never seen anything like it, and never tasted anything like it. Here is a photo:

(I also learnt that people don’t move agonisingly slowly in the green tea ceremony.)

On Saturday night, we had a meal on Victoria St, but it was too noisy for conversation, so we headed to Cocoro for dessert. It is a very lovely place. We sat in a little lounge area newly installed in the front window where you can also nurse a tea or coffee and read the paper. I had my second black sesame icecream for the weekend there — the first was a gustational revelation at Charmaine’s on Brunswick St which I can’t recommend too highly. This one was formed into two balls — “buns” in the language of the menu writer — stuffed with red bean “jam”. It was good, and most of the desserts, many of which featured green tea (“macha”), were equally good. There are safer options for those less culinary adventurous. It seems to be another Austrapanese couple-run place. It’s a tiny place. There are only a few tables. It is a great place to go for conversation.

Like Wabi Sabi Salon across the road, the traditional Japstralian menu is eschewed in favour of less familiar and frankly more interesting home-style Japanese cooking. But this is a serious place. Their website indicates that they are seeking to set up a farm so as to source their own organic vegetables. And they do real frothy bitter luminously green tea, served with the traditional flourish of ritually turning the cup until its “front” is facing the guest. Though I didn’t verify this fact, our friends suggested that based on their previous experiences of this place, they expected that the tea would have been fresh, as in recently flown in from Japan. It turns out that Cocoro are actually starting up an organic green tea wholesaling business. Our tea was from Kyoto, source of the very best green tea according to Wikipedia.

I can feel myself heading towards grumpy old mandom when I think about the price of coffee in Melbourne. $3 is usually too much for a cup of the stuff, but here, a big dose of good coffee, served in their beautiful pottery handle-less cups, is bearable. The Age‘s Epicure’s take on the place is here. Thanks for the first photo go to an Irishman, Jeremy Keith.

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