Terminal Treats – Green Tea Soft-Serve @ Narita Airport

To celebrate the New Year, I joined K and his family on a trip to Japan! More specifically, to the island of Hokkaido, a quick flight north from Tokyo. K, his parents, and brother are all avid (and talented) skiers, and they’ve talked for years about skiing in Japan together. Hokkaido has several world-renowned ski areas and is loved for its “powder.” While my future sister-in-law and I don’t really ski, we’re big fans of snow and sushi so couldn’t miss out. Our group of six spent a couple days in both  Kiroro and Rusutsu, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in both places. Both ski areas were covered in several feet of snow, although locals told us that there is usually even more snow.

While I visited Tokyo several years ago, I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Hokkaido. I soon fell in love with the less populated countryside, with its rolling hills and Japanese pine trees. The hospitality we encountered at the Sheraton Kiroro and Sheraton Rusutsu was great, and I’d highly recommend either resort. It’s hard to pick my favorite memories of the trip, as there were so many special highlights: “skiing” two mornings with my mother-in-law (who is an amazing teacher, and calmed this little scaredy cat down on the slopes), sharing an epic sushi lunch with the family, going snow-shoeing with the girls, and even trying my hand at dog sledding! I went to bed every night feeling so darn lucky to be in Japan.

We finished our vacation with a quick 24-hours in Tokyo. We stayed at the new Andaz hotel, which was easily one of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. (Thanks, K, for cashing in so many of your hotel points!) We also squeezed in a couple great meals and plenty of walking. But, sadly, we eventually had to get back to the “real world.” We packed up our bags, hopped on a bus, and headed to the airport.

Narita International Airport, Tokyo’s major airport, is large, clean, and busy. Terminal 1, which United Airlines uses, is modern and easy to navigate. We were at our gate with plenty of time to spare. I whined about being hungry, and K suggested that I find some ice cream! I didn’t expect to find anything exciting, but a quick search on Narita’s website pointed me to a café promising desserts and ice cream: FaSoLa Café. There was a location in Terminal 1, and another in Terminal 2. We left our bags with my parents-in-law and headed off in search of the café.

After a 10-minute walk, we finally found FaSoLa Café in the south wing of the terminal. It was a cute little walk-up counter with plenty of coffee, tea, juice, and snack options. I quickly spotted the ice cream offerings: cones of Vanilla soft serve or Green Tea soft serve.

The decision was easy: Green Tea! This generously-sized cone only set me back ¥400, or about $3.50.

The verdict? During a long day of travel, this was such a refreshing treat! The Green Tea flavor was strong but not at all bitter or too strong — perfect for a tea novice like me. The soft serve was thick and creamy, but it could have been served a bit colder since it melted really quickly. The waffle cone  was light, crunchy, and sweet. It all came together for a wonderful airport ice-cream experience.  If you find yourself (and your sweet tooth) at Narita Airport, I’d definitely recommend trying this local treat.

The Stats:
FaSoLa Café @ Narita International Airport (NRT)
2 locations  – Terminals 1 & 2
1-1 Furugome, Narita, Chiba Prefecture 282-0004, Japan
http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/shops/detail/t1sw03_t00019

 

Tea Time for Ice-Cream Lovers (Beijing, Part I)

It’s been way too long, my friends. I apologize for the long absence; work and wedding planning have gotten the best of me. But while blog writing took a back seat, ice-cream eating did not. And I have several new reviews to share with y’all!

Over Labor Day weekend, K and I flew to China for a mini-vacation. A major reason for our trip was that K needed to practice his Mandarin, which he feared was getting rusty. In his previous job, K would travel to China multiple times a year, making it easy to keep up on his language skills. But his new job doesn’t require much travel to Asia, so he now has to create reasons to go to China.

We started our trip in Shanghai, a beautiful city in eastern China. Shanghai is one of the busiest port cities in the world, so it has a very global feel. The city is very cosmopolitan yet seems cleaner than Beijing. The big drawback of Shanghai? It’s very difficult to find ice-cream shoppes in the city! Sure, McDonald’s and other fast-food chains serve ice cream. But I had my eyes peeled for some mom-and-pop places but didn’t find any. On our last evening in Shanghai, K searched for ice cream on his phone. We hopped into a cab and gave the driver the address of a gelato store, but we arrived just minutes after they closed for the night. I was disappointed, but I knew that we’d have better luck in Beijing.

The last time K and I were in Beijing, we hung out with my childhood friend who was living and working in the city. While my friend has since moved back to the States, she did have some ice-cream recommendations for me. The one that sounded most intriguing was the Wu Yu Tai Tea Shop, which she said was a popular “local” teashop that happened to serve tea-flavored ice cream.

With the teashop’s address in-hand, K and I took the subway to the Beixinqiao stop in northeastern Beijing. The traffic is so bad in this city that taking the subway usually saves you a lot of time! It was oppressively hot outside, but I soldiered on. There was good ice cream to be had!

The first Wu Yu Tai teashop was established in Beijing in 1887, connecting city dwellers with a

variety of teas from the countryside. And 120 years later, Wu Yu Tai now has many different locations in and around Beijing. We had a pretty easy time finding our location. After all, it’s not every day that you see a giant green ice cream cone on the sidewalk!

The Wu Yu Tai teashop was a quiet oasis in a bustling part of Beijing, filled with beautiful displays of tea leaves, teapots, and teacups. One of the two female employees rushed to our side as soon as we walked through the door. K explained in Mandarin that we were here for ice cream. She said they had two different flavors: Green Tea (or “Macha”) and Jasmine. Without even consulting me, K ordered one cone of each flavor. The woman disappeared into a small alcove and resurfaced moments later, carrying two cones. The serving size was incredibly small… probably less ice cream than in an American kiddie cone. But our small cones came with an equally-small price: the bill for two cones was ¥8, which is equivalent to less than $2.

Left: Green Tea / Right: Jasmine
(Not my best photography; it was hot and I was rushing to eat!)

The verdict? I have no idea how Wu Yu Tai does it, but their ice cream tastes exactly like a strong cup of tea with milk. These ice-cream favors weren’t sweet, but they had deep floral notes and that distinct nearly-bitter tea aftertaste. While the Green Tea ice cream had the best visual appeal, it was the beige-colored Jasmine that had K and me asking for more… literally! Neither of us were fully satisfied with the small servings, so K doled out a few more RMBs for another Jasmine cone to share. After all, ice cream offers the sweetest relief in Beijing’s oppressive summer heat. I definitely recommend that any visitor in Beijing try to find a Wu Yu Tai location for this one-of-a-kind ice-cream experience.

The Stats:
Wu Yu Tai Tea Shop
43 Yonghegong Dajie (Multiple other locations)
Beijing, China
http://en.wuyutai.com/default.php