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Hydrangea parfaits: Kyoto's prettiest dessert is back in this rainy season

Hydrangea parfaits: Kyoto's prettiest dessert is back in this rainy season

This year the rainy season is coming to Kyoto almost a month earlier than expected. While this brings about rainfall, it’s also when the city’s ajisai (紫陽 hydrangea) are in full bloom. These voluminous colourful balls of petals thrive in the moist environment provided by Kyoto City’s (京都市 Kyōto-shi)  natural mountain basin. There are some temples dedicated to these seasonal treasures but also some tea houses that provide the edible variety.

 

Receive a free original hydrangea coaster with every order of the Hydrangea tea party / tea set (紫陽花茶会・お茶セット Ajisai chakai ocha setto). (Image credit: Ilse Montald)


Kyoto’s famous teahouse Itohkyuemon (伊藤久右衛門) has been providing high-quality tea to temples and shrines since the Edo period. Over the years they have evolved with the times and now serve modern takes on classic sweets and timeless confectioneries. One of their most popular items, the ajisai hana pafe (紫陽花パフェ hydrangea flower parfait), returns every rainy season to delight customers who are seeking shelter from the rain. This carefully assembled parfait can only be ordered at three locations; the Uji Main Store (宇治本店 Uji honten), the Uji Station Store (宇治駅前店 Uji ekimae-ten) and the Gion Tea house (祇園四条店 Gionshijō-ten). Since the Gion location usually carries some Kyoto City-exclusive souvenirs and has a pleasant view of Shijo Street (四条通 Shijō-dōri), it seemed the best place to enjoy this season’s first hydrangea.

 

(Image credit: Ilse Montald)


At first sight, this parfait is a marvel to behold. The image of a hydrangea has been perfectly preserved in the form of a kinton (金団), traditional sweet served with matcha and colourful decorations. Itohkyuemon is famous for its ice cream-like matcha daifuku (大福) and this kinton has the exact same creamy filling. Matcha leaf-shaped cookies, blueberries, and whipped cream rest on top of brightly-coloured citrus jelly. The citrus flavour was a really nice touch, as Japanese parfaits usually fill up empty spaces with flavourless jelly made from agar-agar.

 

(Image credit: Ilse Montald)

 

Once you get past the blooming flower on top, the delectable dessert makes a great finish with some of Itohkyuemon’s traditional parfait staples; matcha jelly, matcha ice cream, vanilla ice and matcha latte. This final addition to the cup makes it so that you can drink the rest of your parfait when your spoon can’t reach anymore. Once you have finished, you can head downstairs to see some of the matcha souvenirs and interesting ice cream bars for sale.

 

(Image credit: Ilse Montald)

 

According to the menu description, this particular parfait was inspired by Mimurotoji Temple (三室戸寺 Mimuroto-ji) near Uji. Having visited this temple last year, I can confidently say that this parfait evokes the image of the colourful garden filled with hydrangeas and that its sweet taste has bolstered me for the many rainy days to come.

 

Itohkyuemon  Gion Shijo Store Teahouse (伊藤久右衛門 祇園四条店・茶房)
Address: Yamatooji Tonnankaku Gionmachi Minamigawa 586, Shijo-Dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 605-0074
Opening hours: 11am–5pm (last order 4:30pm) (Closed only on New Year's Day) (Hours may differ due to COVID-19)
Tel: +81-75-741-8096

 

Hydrangea Flower Parfait (Available from mid-May until mid-June)
Single item: ¥1,390 (including tax)
Matcha set: ¥1,690 (including tax)
Matcha and sweets set: ¥1,990 (including tax)
*Customers who order the matcha set get a free hydrangea coaster given randomly from 5 colors.

 

Header image credit: Ilse Montald and photoAC

 

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