It’s not like we really needed any more reasons to eat potato chips, but matcha and chocolate together make a pretty convincing argument. An extremely pleasant surprise, mind you, but a surprise nonetheless.
Exciting culinary crossovers like this don’t come along every day. Soon enough I had a bag of snack food maker Calbee’s newest flavor of chips in my hand.
There are many ways a bag of potato chips is different from a bottle of fine wine, and one is that you don’t usually sniff the former immediately after opening it. Calbee’s Zeitaku Matcha (“Luxurious Matcha”) chips are worth making an exception for, though, as the inside of the bag has the distinct aroma of green tea. And not just any green tea, but Uji matcha, the variety grown in Kyoto and highly prized by green tea lovers around the world.
Uji matcha is only half of what makes these chips special, though. Rather than just dusting some green tea powder on the chips like rival snack maker Koikeya did last fall, Calbee instead chose to infuse the matcha into chocolate, then drizzle the mixture over the chips.
In order to support this mouthwatering addition, the chips are cut more thickly than the thin varieties that are more commonly sold in Japan. They’re also ridged, with a pleasing crispness not unlike American brand Ruffles.
To prevent the sweet flavors from overpowering everything else, the matcha chocolate is only added to one side of the chips.
With the chocolate kept to moderate quantities, the first taste sensation is a salty one, like a normal potato chip. After that, though, there’s a mellowing sweetness, pleasant but in no way cloying. The layer of chocolate is just think enough to slightly soften the crispness but also provide some moisture.
The matcha makes its presence known in a delayed reaction, and just when you’re thinking it isn’t going to show up, it manifests as a refined, aromatic aftertaste, which you can enhance by taking a deep breath as you savor it. It’s nowhere near as powerful as the frothy green tea used in tea ceremonies, but the delicate bitterness functions as an excellent palate cleanser that will have you reaching for another chip in no time.
As with many of Japan’s novelty flavors, Calbee’s Zeitaku Matcha chips are only going to be available for a limited time. Thankfully, at just 145 yen, they’re an affordable and accessible way to add a little bit of traditional class to your next snack session.
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