Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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The Temple for Tea Lovers

posted by in Asian, Cafés, Restaurants

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It’s a place that appeals to my inner aesthete, a place that upon entry so blows me away – visually – that I stop and do a 360° just to absorb my surroundings. The theme is Japanese and its design here is an intelligent conception of Japanese design. Muted shades of lime green flow with immaculate white creating a refreshingly clean contrast from everything to the menu boards to the chairs. A floor-to-ceiling mural depicting fields of bamboo open up the space, connecting the second floor to the first. A staircase leading to the second floor is an oasis of bamboo plants and hanging overhead, twinkling lights in round raffia covers.

Kozui mural

at Kozui

Kozui Green Tea 2nd floor

Kozui merchandise

The place is called Kozui Green Tea, or Kozui for short, a café devoted to green tea and health. Far from ordering a drink to go a la Starbucks, this is a place that tantalizes one to stay and linger a while. Go through the shelf displaying a fascinating collection of tea and tea paraphernalia from the ordinary – cups, pots – to the more ingenious – a plastic air-tight teacup cover, “high five” hand stirrers, and tumblers with the laugh-out-loud slogan, “Give up bad tea for good.”

Owner Anthony So explains that he came back from a two-year stint in China to open up Kozui. “Green tea drinks are very popular now and I wanted to capitalize on health.” Despite the highly impressive interiors, Kozui is a local concept, not a franchise from another country. “I just wanted a Japanese appeal and I named the place Kozui for the ‘Z’ in Zen,” he expounds. While Kozui is not a word in Japanese, it is a family name.

Green tea has the highest number of antioxidants and at Kozui, there are eight types of loose leaf varieties that make up the drinks and food: sencha, genmaicha, kukicha, matcha, piluochun, oolong, dragon well, and jasmine with flavor profiles ranging from vegetal to astringent. Most helpful are the illustrated tea and menu guides to help familiarize customers.

black sesame korichio

Refresh with some Lemon Green Teaz (P60/P80), iced teas made with the brewed varieties mentioned above capped with a touch of lemon. Prefer something fruity? There are the Fruit Teaz (P80/P90) in flavors such as Zen Tea (lemongrass, mint, and tea), Moji Mint Tea (mint, lime, and tea), as well as Pineapple Green Tea (pineapple and tea). Any café worth its cups nowadays serve their own versions of a frap, and Kozui is no exception. Over here, they’re called Matcha Cream Korichio (koh-REECH-chee-yo; P98/P120), cold milk blended with the café’s traditional matcha recipe, a choice of flavorings, and that requisite squirt of whipped cream. Go classic with the Matcha Korichio (P98/P110) or liven it up a bit with a choice of melon, butterscotch, strawberry, chocolat (spelling theirs), and Oreo. I personally like the House Blend Korichio in Taro or Black Sesame, with the former tasting a lot like red bean ice cream. If you like red bean, you’ll like this one.

takoyaki

takoyaki balls

The food at Kozui is worth exploring. Anthony suggests we try the Special Takoyaki (P98), locally known as “samurai balls.” Commonly a fast food/street food in Japan, Kozui ratchets this up with a stuffing made with ika, ebi, and negi (cuttlefish, shrimp, and Asian leek, respectively). Made in a special cast iron pan with hemispherical molds, these tasty domes are supremely fine bordering on trembling delicateness. They are further made irresistible with Japanese mayonnaise, strips of nori wrapper, house sauce, and paper-thin bonito flakes that sway in the draft of the air-conditioner.

green tea soba

More traditional Japanese eats here include tempura (P180/5 pieces prawn + 2 pieces vegetable) and asparabacon maki (P140), asparagus spears wrapped in bacon and drizzled with ponzu sauce, a condiment made from lemon juice, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and bonito flakes. I opt to take the green tea concept as far as I can so I have the Chilled Green Tea Zaru Soba (P120). The green buckwheat noodles are exquisitely “draped” (so it seems) on a tatami mat and kept cool with a few ice cubes. Each mouthful is dipped in the soba sauce kicked up with a Japanese condiment called momiji oroshi and finely chopped green onions. The noodles pick up the earthiness of the wood, the saltiness of the soba sauce offsets it, and the spiciness of the condiments shine through, cold and pure. Salty, cool, and chewy all at once, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a hot day.

tempura rice bowl

My little girl, Boo, is with me and if there’s one thing that I don’t doubt, it’s that 4 year olds know what they want. She points definitively at the picture of the Tendon (P180) declaring, “I want that!” A trio of prawn tempura sits on a mound of steamed Japanese rice laced with that addicting house sauce, bonito flakes, and shredded nori wrappers through which a fried egg cooked just ‘til its white is firm peeks from. I’m fond of Japanese rice meals and the few bites that Boo affords me make me croon with praise. Other rice bowls from chicken to vegetable (P145-P180) are available, as are other food items like pita wraps (P118-P128) salads, and sandwiches with ingredients that are in line with the Japanese theme of course.

green tea tiramisu

Kozui’s desserts are tea-inspired as well although when I’m there, I lament that the pastry case is empty — I have come too late. Gone is the Mount Fuji, a green tea mousse atop a brownie cake; chocolate mochi balls; molten chocolate dome cake, and the green tea cheesecake. I do, however, get to try the TEAramisu, the green tea counterpart of that Italian favorite. Slivers of sponge cake are ensconced in a vanilla mousse that is this side of firm. Pleasant in flavor and texture, it’s just barely sweetened with a hauntingly smoky taste from the eye-catching green tea garnish.

anmitsu

Anthony heartily recommends that we try the Anmitsu (P128), a sort-of Japanese halo-halo. It descends on the table and for several heartbeats, we all ooh and ahh over the glittering edible jewels peering up at us: cubes of green tea jelly; pink and white dango balls (similar to galapong balls in the native ginataan); purple taro jam, and a swirl of green tea ice cream sit regally on a throne of shaved ice. Eat all the separate elements together in each spoonful or mix them all up. This is a dessert that excites with its counterpoints of smooth and slippery, sweet and silky with an occasional crunch from the ice.

roasted green tea latte

I’m not leaving this green tea café until I’ve had my green tea latte (P80-P90). Either a matcha, black tea, or roasted green latte, I choose the last flavor. Sparks of sweetness pulse among the milk and froth while the green tea has nuances of grass and smoke and butter. The soft richness fills my mouth then tiptoes quietly down my throat, a salve to soothe all my ills, imagined and otherwise. Green tea, I love thee.

Kozui
Green Tea Café
258 B Tomas Morato corner Scout Fernandez,
Quezon City
632.413-2705

Hours:
11 am – 12:30 am (Tuesday to Saturday)
4 pm – 12:30 am (Sunday and Monday)

www.kozui.com (website under construction)

Related Post:
Moseying Down Morato

36 Responses to “The Temple for Tea Lovers”

  • I’ve heard about Kozui … from your blog post it looks like it’s worth checking out! I used to get my green tea fix in Kohikan in Greenhills Promenade but they closed a while back.

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  • Hard to believe it’s a local concept — that mural is SO Japanese! As I was reading your post, I was getting hungrier and hungrier…and wishing, over and over again, that Kozui is nearby. Imagine how my heart sank when I got to the bottom and saw that it’s in QC! :-(

    Good thing I might be going to that area soon, so I’ll make sure to head over. Thanks, Lori! This is one of those places that I doubt I would’ve heard of, much less checked out, without your review.

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  • oooohhh! that Anmitsu looks so good.
    i’ve tried those galapong-esque balls in japan, pero by the looks of it, i’m going to enjoy this one so much more! :)

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  • I see this place all the time! It’s right beside Baang coffee, but I just never seem to have enough interest to go in! After reading your post Ms. Lori, now I am driven to give it ago! ;P

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  • Drool… Those Takuyakis are so inviting me to take them into my languorous gob! Thanks Lori; I’ll be anticipating my visit at this cafe one of these days.

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  • What a great concept… green interiors, green drinks & green food! Would really like to try this place out when we go to QC. And I agree w/ your little girl Lori… that Tendon rice bowl does look appetizing! ;)

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  • Wow! I’ve seen this featured on QTV. But I haven’t got time to go there.. Now, after I saw this wonderful post, hmm… I think I’ll be convincing my parents to go there maybe this weekend! ^^

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  • hi lori! i visit your website almost everyday but this is my first time to post a comment. just want to say that the pictures are a-w-e-s-o-m-e!! i just ate but i feel hungry again after looking at the pictures. hahaha! wish i can afford to buy the same camera.

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  • i’ve never seen so much green looking so fashionable. i have to internationalize myself…

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  • wow, i had totally the opposite reaction from katrina’s. i was ecstatic to find out that this cool little place is just around the corner from where i work! yay! happiness!

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  • My gosh…we would never discover these cool places without you! Do they sell matcha powder?

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  • the pix are wonderfully exciting! i am so trying this place soon! the tearamisu looks not so evil. thanks lori!

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  • Hmm.. So, this is what it is.. I’ll try and convince my friends to try this out! I miss Green Tea biscuits though… :)

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  • Kozui seems to be the perfect place to take my tween daughter for some bonding time. Thanks for discovering it for me. It’s a bit of a distance from our place but I think it’s worth the trip. i am a sucker for everything green tea and zen.

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  • I’ve tried this place just last night, and it’s all worth it. The drinks aren’t that expensive, and something new. This is a hang-out in lieu of Starbucks. :) Nice interiors, ambience, great food, affordable at that too. :) Cozy interiors and a real nice place to hang-out. They should expand their area though, it’s quite small.

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  • I passed this place numerous times and I never really bothered to look up close (you know, laking Starbucks and Coffee Bean), but I love those pictures, and know what, I think I’m gonna check it out soon. The place is just a ride away from my home. Lovely, lovely. Thanks, Lori. Too bad I missed seeing you at the launch last time. My friend Elisha (she contributed a no-bake strawberry cake recipe to PinoyCentric before) and I are big fans of your site, btw.

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  • Hi Lori. Just got back from Kozui. Lahat ng inorder mo, we ordered it also. No regrets. Astig, sarap lahat ng pagkain. Ok na ok lahat. I will make it a point to try lahat ng resto na recommended mo. Btw, if I am not mistaken, I must have seen Marketman sa Kozui on the other table. Maybe he is checking it out also, because of your blog. Just like what I did. One downside about Kozui, is that they dont accept credit cards. Mabuhay ka Lori!!!!!!

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  • oh my gosh! they have takoyaki! i think i must head out to qc to try this out!

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  • i’m a self-confessed japanophile (studied in japan and majoring in japanese studies) and have a love affair with green tea. little cafes like kozui abound in tokyo and i’ve been hoping that something similar would take root in manila. thank goodness it’s finally happened! :)

    am bringing all my fellow japanophile friends over for a lot of reminiscing of our good times in japan. thanks lori!

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  • hi lori,

    Nice to hear from you, I’m a regular here at kozui..great food!!!

    Best Regards,
    willy saw

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  • i see this place all the time. i’ve been wanting to check it out for quite some time but always seem to change my mind because i was scared that it wasn’t good. I’m tired of trying out these new places that pop up and have nothing to offer. This review takes away all my apprehensions. im so glad you posted this review. now i can try it out without hestitation. thanks lori! hmm.. chocolate mochi balls… i wonder…

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  • A friend texted if I wanted to lunch at Kuretake tomorrow. I said I’ve been wanting to try this Japanese cafe…(I had to search for this thread).

    Yehey! She agreed. So it’s lunch for me at Kozui tomorrow :)

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  • Got there at 11am, the place was closed but a sign said they opened at 11am. Decided to walk into the Bang Cafe two doors away as it seems I ended up parking on their slot and felt obliged to order. I ordered Green Tea Latte as I decided to have it the whole day.

    Kozui opened at 12. So we ordered the Takoyaki “samurai balls” (I wont miss it but it was good). The Chilled Green Tea Soba was sarap in all its simplicity, a real play on your senses without being there. Got a Matcha Korichio in Butterscotch and it was ok. The Green Tea Ice Cream in the Anmitsu was very good. I would order the ice cream as is next time. I forgot what is was called, but we got a very good tasting crunchy chicken in wrapped in pita. Really good. The taste of that w/ the cold soba lingers in me now.

    The cake display was low so even before our lunch was brought out, I ordered for take home my Green Tea Cheesecake, Mount Fuji and Molten Chocolate.

    Am still relaxing before I take my first bites of those desserts from Kozui :) But they look fabulous.

    My friend had been asking me who directed me to the cafe as we were waiting for it to open as how can it be closed at 11:30am when the sign says it opens at 11am. I said someone mentioned it…she kept bugging me like WHO! I said Lori Baltazar’s blog (it ended the impatient questioning). She kept quiet and just started an animated conversation till someone was opening the door locks :)

    Thanks Lori, we had a good time.

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  • heavenly! i went to kozui this evening with my cousin. we were absolutely thrilled by the flavor of all the dishes we ate. we ordered the green tea cheesecake, takoyaki, cold soba, the chicken pita sandwich and one of the chicken rice dishes. we expected the usual japanese food from the mall. neither of us expected the food to be that good! my cousin has been working around the timog area for 4 years already. we thank you for recommending this quiant restaurant to us. the taste of the food still lingers in mouths after an hour of eating! we have a new place to hang out in whenever i pick my cousin up from work. i can’t to go back and that’s a definite!

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  • I LOVE KOZUI!!!!!

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  • Are they using the real green tea. I have seen a store in Pearl Drive using real green tea leave. ( Matcha Green Tea)

    Better check both out.

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  • after hearing recommendations from friends, finally visited the restaurant last night. i loved the ambience! the menu items are reasonably priced.

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  • i have found my haven!
    This is definitely and will always be my first stop every time I’m in the city.

    green tea is my aphrodisiac ♥

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  • I’ve been traveling along Tomas Morato, and Kozui green tea caught in my eye every time I travel. I always telling myself, “One day let’s give it a try”. Since I love japanese food so went there and ordered Toridon. I like the taste…and especially Green tea cheesecake (move over blue berry cheesecake… :P) LOVE IT!!!

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  • WOW!

    I didn’t even have a clue, that you can make so many different things out of green tea! :D

    Is it also possible to lose weight with all that stuff?

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  • thank you for such amazing information….if you love tea just like me….please check out

    the blog mentioned below its really

    cool….!!!i’m sure you’ll love it!!!

    http://staysharpwithtea.blogspot.com

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  • That takoyaki looks delicious. I love Japanese food. My favorite in particular is tuna sashimi salad.

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  • Thanks again for the informative post.

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  • These are yummy yummy food, but I love the dessert most of all, Anmitsu in particular. :)

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  • Hi! Thanks for this post. I’ve noticed that you helped a lot of green team and serene cafe enthusiasts:) I am just wondering if any of you (readers of this site) noticed whether a green tea powder is being offered by Kozui too?

    Thanks in advance:)

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