My name is Avery, the founder of the green tea shop.
During this pandemic, one thing that has hugely contributed to my mental health (aside from my cat, Winston, who is soon to be Instagram famous) has been tea and desserts.
Japanese green tea has always helped me feel calm and grounded, but adding a delicious dessert to that lifts my mood to a whole new level. You might think that desserts would go well with any tea, but much like wine, you can completely overpower or muddle the flavours if you choose poorly. But when your tea perfectly complements the dessert...
For me, pairing tea and dessert is the ultimate mood booster. I've had a chance to try so many combinations and it was amazing! This had such an impact on me that I wanted to share my discoveries with everyone else.
This series, Tea Pairing in Toronto, is all about showcasing delicious desserts from some of my favourite bakeries and cafes in the city, and pairing them with a selection of our green teas.
I promise that after trying these pairings, you'll see tea in a whole new light.
Castle & Coal
The first in our series of tea pairing recommendations takes us to Castle & Coal located at 108 Dovercourt Road, in West Queen West.
Established in November 2020 by Junelle Casalan and her husband Aaron Colbert, they have created a space that serves great pastries, both sweet and savoury, from cookies, cakes, and biscuits. They use high-quality, seasonal and local ingredients that perfectly pair with your drink of choice. For me, that is almost always Japanese green tea!
One reason why I really love Castle & Coal is the balance and delicacy. When you look for desserts, you'll often run across a cupcake that was way too sweet, or a cookie that has you running for a glass of water to clear your mouth. This isn't the case here. Every dessert on their menu focuses on having the perfect balance of flavours without being too sweet.
The pairings I've chosen today for my three favourite desserts aim to respect that delicate balance.
If you are not familiar with Kouign Amann (pronounced queen ah-mann), it is a French pastry that's a little bit like a croissant but with a layer of caramelized sugar on the surface.
Kouign Amann is actually a staple at many Japanese bakeries, and having tried so many while I was growing up, I can be quite picky about Kouign Amann. However, I can say with confidence that Castle & Coal's version is superb.
When I eat desserts, the texture is my favourite part. Their Kouign Amann is just so delectably flaky and chewy. Combined with the crunchy sweet exterior (just listen to this beautiful sound!!), you get an amazing combination of textures. I couldn't get enough.
On top of the textural complexity, there's a depth of flavour. The pastry itself has a rich buttery flavour and a hint of saltiness. This combination complements the sweet exterior without overpowering it. Everything is so perfectly balanced, and each bite is worth savouring.
For this dessert, I enjoyed pairing our Kamairicha; a pan-fired tea from Ureshino, Saga.
Kamairicha is an aromatic tea with notes of freshly toasted bread and nuts, with just a hint of smokiness. It's also a light and smooth tea that is easy to drink. We recommend taking a sip between each bite as the toasted notes work very well with the buttery and sugary flavours of the Kouign Amann, and it enhances its already delicate balance.
Just one piece of advice: make sure to purchase at least two per person. You will gobble it up before you notice! (Available on weekends only.)
Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes! Surprisingly, Junelle confesses that she originally was not a huge fan of this dessert. She found that the ones she's tried in the past were too spice-heavy or that the icing was pure sugar.
Even if you're on the fence about carrot cakes, give this one a try. I was blown away at how good it was.
First of all, their carrot cake doesn't contain raisins, nuts, or strong spices. This means that you can enjoy what this cake is really about--carrots!! The cake has a natural sweetness and is so moist. Their cream cheese icing is a key part of the experience of eating this cake. Junelle says that she could eat the icing with a spoon, and I couldn't agree more!
For this dessert, I enjoyed pairing it with our organic Kabusecha Gokou from Yame, Fukuoka.
As a shade-grown tea, Kabusecha is rich in amino acids, meaning that it is sweeter and richer in umami. It is the perfect tea if you're looking for something with minimal bitterness.
Gokou is an unregistered cultivar often used for matcha, and is not commonly available in loose-leaf form. It has a vibrant and fruity note that is reminiscent of muscat grapes. The strong umami, the refreshing muscatel sweetness, and the creaminess of the carrot cake all pair well together!
Pecan Financier is a staple at Castle & Coal and a favourite of many patrons.
The outside has a nice crispiness to it, but the inside is both light and moist at the same time. Because of its light texture and subtle sweetness, this financier is perfect for breakfast (or afternoon snack, or dessert, or any time of the day....)!
I enjoyed pairing this with our Kabusecha Tsuyuhikari.
This is another type of shade-grown tea from Yame, Fukuoka, but is made from the Tsuyuhikari cultivar. Tsuyuhikari is known for its strong umami and sweetness, and beautiful floral aroma that is reminiscent of cherry blossoms.
This delicate tea compliments the nutty flavour of the financier very well. The mild floral aroma of the tea is not only relaxing but also enables you to appreciate the comforting flavours of this dessert over and over again!
Castle & Coal offers many more seasonal desserts, such as strawberry trifle (absolutely delicious) and sticky toffee pudding, which I have yet to try but will do as soon as it's back on the menu.
If you're looking for a comforting dessert that's not overly sweet and brings out the best of the ingredients, make sure to check out Castle & Coal!