Kyo Tea House had somehow not made it onto our list of places to visit in Melbourne previously, but Melbourne has such a range of good eateries that our list always extends much further than our actual available time there can accommodate anyway. We had visited the more recently opened Calia on a previous trip, but had not known that Kyo Tea House existed in such close proximity, just a few floors away in the Emporium.
Located on the lower ground floor of Emporium, it sits amongst a few other eateries. Its look is more causal dining than fancy tea house setup. A menu with pictures of the items on offer stands at the entrance to tempt passing patrons, and gives you a chance to consider your options before you join the line.
You place your order and pay at the counter, after which you can find yourself a seat, and wait for your order number to be called out for pickup. While in line, you will also go past the glass cabinet displaying other matcha items not listed on the menu, like matcha financiers and matcha tiramisu, that you can also order.
The interior has minimalist styling with a Japanese feel, with grey stone-look walls lined by wooden strips to give them the appearance of shoji screens, and clean-lined wood-topped tables and seats. Instrumental piano music played in the background, calming pieces that one might hear at a relaxing spa.
From the many options on the menu, we picked the sundae and their stated signature item, the gelato croissant. There was a picture of a tempting platter of matcha goodies on the wall, but it didn’t appear to be an available item on the menu, unfortunately.
The menu didn’t list what components went into the sundae, but did give you the choice of matcha, hojicha, or a swirl (mix of both). Wanting to try as much as possible, we opted for the swirl. The sundae pretty much mirrored the picture in the menu. The soft serve swirl was half matcha and half hojicha. It had good consistency, rather than being melty, as we had unfortunately been served elsewhere. The soft serve was smooth, and had good strength of flavour, without being too sweet. We in particular enjoyed the fragrant notes of the hojicha. The shiratama dango had a good chew to them. In keeping with typical Japanese dessert flavours, the sundae also had a scoop of sweetened adzuki beans. These added more sweetness than the other components. Hidden below those immediately visible components were layers of matcha sponge cubes, cream, cornflakes, and matcha jelly. These provided the variety of texture that makes a parfait interesting to eat. The only flaw we found in them was that the cornflakes didn’t stay as crisp as expected, and became soggy quite quickly for what the expected eating time should be. They did also have parfaits on the menu as a separate item, but we didn’t manage to work out the differences between the sundae and a parfait before placing our order.
The gelato croissant was listed on a separate sheet, rather than with the other items on their regular menu, so perhaps it was a new signature item. Still, it looked good enough to tempt us into ordering it. One could have a scoop of any of their gelati as part of the dish. In the freezer were a range of gelati, with flavours like hojicha, genmaicha, yuzu sorbet, and matcha in a few strengths. This was a concept similar to what we had encountered at Suzukien in Tokyo. Their most intense matcha gelato had to be had, of course. Labelled as Extra Strong, with an intensity level of 8 (presumably the scale goes from 1 to 8, although their least strong matcha gelato is the Regular, with an intensity level of 3). Because this was listed as a premium flavour, it was an extra 50c. This was served in a takeaway ice cream cup, with half a croissant propped up against a spherical scoop of the matcha gelato, and ruffle piped whipped cream. We had not thought to ask for it without the whipped cream, but in truth, the presentation would likely have been underwhelming without it. The matcha gelato was smooth, and was matcha-y. It was faintly bitter, which very strong matcha can be. Perhaps the Strong matcha gelato (intensity level 5) would be better for those who like their matcha but prefer it a little tempered. We had been a little unsure about how the croissant would turn out, having already made a couple of trips to Lune Croissanterie on this visit, and having had our croissant standards recalibrated. While not a Lune, they had toasted the croissant, which made it flaky and crisp, rather than the sad, doughy affair many cafes present. It was nicely buttery, and was a lightly salty contrast to the gelato. There were more croissant pieces in the bottom of the container, under the gelato scoop, so if you were really skilled, you could make yourself a gelato sandwich.
We liked the matcha from Kyo Tea House so much that we returned there for more of the soft serve between other meal appointments. They had consistent form. You have the option of a plain waffle cone, a matcha (green) cone, or a black cone with your soft serve. We couldn’t actually taste a flavour difference between the cones (we tried the matcha and black cones) but it may have been that the flavour of the soft serves themselves masked it.
We would recommend Kyo Tea House to those looking for matcha desserts. It is a pleasant setting, and while not fancy, is a relaxing escape from the bustle of the city (or hectic shopping in Emporium). There is good matcha content and flavour in the desserts they serve, and those who are partial to matcha will find it a good place to get their fix.
Price point: Matcha drinks from $4.80. Sundaes $9.30. Gelato croissant $8.50. Gelato from $5 per scoop. Soft serves $4.30.
Value: Alright. Prices for some of the items are higher than you would expect, even if they are matcha. For the cost of the gelato croissant, you could just about buy a scoop of their gelato and combine it with a Lune croissant for a higher level croissant experience, if you could be bothered to walk a little distance to the Lune Croissanterie CBD outpost.
Address: Emporium Melbourne, Lower Ground, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 03 9639 7078
Website: Kyo Tea House