1. Chavaty, tea ice cream
    Photo: Chavaty
  2. Chavatay
    Photo: Chavaty

5 Japanese ice cream flavours that are perfect for summer

Swap your vanilla ice cream with these unique Japanese flavours: matcha, sesame, sake and more

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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Tokyo has its fair share of quality gelato shops, with flavours ranging from classic chocolate to salted caramel, but let’s face it – you can find those flavours in any other city. Trade your run-of-the-mill ice cream and soft-serve for something more exotic and Japan-specific, like sakura, roasted green tea or ume plum. You might even discover a new favourite flavour.

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  • Restaurants
  • Harajuku

Chavaty operates as a tea shop serving classic treats like scones, but the store also serves delectable tea-flavoured ice cream (¥480) that are worth stopping by for when exploring the backstreets of Omotesando. Hojicha, or roasted green tea, has an earthy, toasty richness that makes it perfect for desserts, especially in the summer. To ensure that its soft-serve has the same depth of flavour year-round, Chavaty sources its tea leaves from different prefectures across Japan according to season.  

  • Shopping
  • Chocolate and sweets
  • Shibuya

At Nanaya, you can choose from seven different green tea ice creams, each with a different concentration of potent matcha. The most popular order is number seven, the scoop with the highest grade and intensity of matcha. If you’re a sweet tooth, choose a lighter colour; the deeper the shade of green, the more bitter the matcha flavour. Otherwise, get a combination of two to compare.

Apart from matcha, Nanaya also serves other tea-flavoured ice creams such as hojicha and sencha (infused green tea); there’s also chestnut in autumn. Prices range from ¥380 to ¥730, depending on the matcha’s level of intensity.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Asakusa

Sorry kids, these boozy scoops are only for the over-20s. Sakeice in Asakusa specialises in ice cream flavoured with the quintessential Japanese tipple. There are two types of sake ice cream here, one of which changes seasonally, but they are all made with rice alcohol from the acclaimed Otokoyama brewery in Hokkaido, which relies on natural spring water for its sake.

The level of alcohol in each scoop (¥500) probably isn’t enough to get you tipsy, but the subtle sweetness of the rice brew compliments the creamy texture of the ice cream, making for a perfect frozen treat. For youngsters, however, the shop offers classic strawberry and vanilla, which are non-alcoholic.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Shibuya

Shiroichi’s cones are something to marvel at. These soft serves are unusually long and thin, so you’ll want to devour yours quickly before it melts or topples over. That’s not hard to do, though – the fresh milk frozen treat is utterly irresistible.

Shiroichi’s ice cream stands out from the rest as the store doesn’t boil the milk to make the sweet treat. Instead, fresh milk from Hokkaido is used to make ‘raw’ ice cream so that the rich dairy flavours are enhanced. Cones are ¥440 and for an extra ¥50, you can get a topping of organic black honey.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Nakameguro

Vegans usually get stuck with sorbet when it comes to finding dairy-free ice cream. That isn’t the case at Premarché Gelateria, where, on top of fruity sorbets, the store also serves vegan gelato that’s so creamy you’d never believe it’s completely milk-free.

Japanese varieties here range from shiso sorbet to roasted sweet potato gelato, but the tartness of the refreshing kishu nanko ume (Japanese plum) makes it especially popular in the summertime. Pick one flavour for ¥600 or two for ¥700.

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