A Matcha Made in Heaven*: Chocolate and Green Tea Truffles for Everyone (and More!)

* Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Please feel free to groan.


[A cuppa matcha, pure and straightforward. . . a warm, comforting, health-boosting sip to enjoy daily!]

You know, sometimes I actually forget it’s the 21st Century. After all, I’ve spent more of my life before 2000 than since. Yet there’s no doubt that we’ve already lost many 20th Century conventions–handkerchiefs, girdles, bank withdrawal forms. Still, the real changes have all emerged in the realm of communications.  When’s the last time you heard of someone receiving a telegram?  Or how about rotary telephones–remember how reviled those people were whose numbers contained too many zeroes?  And who still writes letters–old-fashioned, pen-and-paper-walk-to-the-mailbox-to-mail-’em letters? They’re more or less obsolete, too.
I do miss letter writing, though. Over the years, I’ve exchanged letters with two devoted correspondents: one was my revered mentor, John Ditsky, whose missives seemed to arrive at my home practically before I’d returned from the mailbox to deposit my own letters to him. The other is my Japanese penpal, Masayo, whom I’ve known since we were both twelve years old.
Back in sixth grade, my school received letters from six Japanese girls seeking Canadian penpals. Ever the nerd (and always interested in writing), I responded to all six.  Over the next year, all but one dropped away, and we continued to correspond, at the rate of 2-3 letters per month, for the next 30 years or so. 
When we were about 18, Masayo wrote to tell me she had planned a summer vacation in Canada.  Of course, I immediately invited her to stay for as long as she liked with me and my family in Montreal (fortunately, this was okay with my parents, too).  She was landing in Vancouver on July 12, she wrote back, and would I be so kind as to pick her up at the airport? (for the non-Canadians among you, that’s tantamount to asking someone in New York City to pop over and pick you up at the airport in Los Angeles).
I explained that distances in North America were, perhaps, a tad greater than those on the islands of Japan. Astonished at the possibility, Mako nevertheless arranged for a second flight to Montreal.

[Matcha-Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles: a perfect healthy indulgence!]

On the eve of her arrival, I waited anxiously at the airport with my dad for the plane to disembark.  Over the years, of course, I’d seen innumerable photos of Masayo and felt fairly confident I could recognize her in a crowd.  My eyes trained on the exit stairs attached to the airplane, I’d stare with steely eyed intensity each time a petite, dark-haired woman emerged from the doors, only to be disappointed as she passed by.

Finally, I heard what seemed like a tiny, disembodied voice calling from somewhere above my field of vision.  From within the throng of passengers there stood before me a petite young girl with a mop of wavy black hair, perfectly coiffed in the ultra-hip shag haircut of the day.  She wore black Calvin Klein jeans and a screamingly vibrant Hawaiian shirt.  As she glided toward us, her dainty feet seemingly floating along the stairs, she called out in her delicate, excited falsetto: “Ricki!  It’s Masayo! Ricki!”

We hugged and immediately began to chatter as if we’d known each other our whole lives:  How was Vancouver? How was the trip? Do you live far from here?  How do you like Canada? Is everything here so big? Is all of Canada this beautiful? I love your shirt! I love yours, too! We continued the gabfest until well past 2:00 AM the next morning, giggling and squealing as we confirmed, in person, a friendship we’d established on paper over the previous six years.

The next day, I knocked on Mako’s door. What followed was a classic “Who’s on First” exchange.

Me: [knocking on door]: Mako?

Mako: Hi.

Me:  Hi, good morning! Is it okay to come in?

Mako: Hi.

Me: Er, hi.  Did I wake you?

Mako: Yeah.

Me: Sorry. Is it okay if I open the door?

Mako: Hi.

Me: Hi.  Should I wait for you to get dressed?

Mako:  Yeah.

Me: Okay.  So should I meet you upstairs?

Mako: Hi.

Me: [at a loss] Hi. . .

What I hadn’t realized, you see, was that Mako might still be suffering from jet lag, and too sleepy to remember to translate Japanese into English.  And I didn’t know at the time that “Hai” (sounding like “hi”) in Japanese means “yes” while “Eee-ya” (resembling “yeah”) means “No.”

The trip was, truly, a once in a lifetime experience, and we forged a bond that has lasted until this day. I was thrilled to discover that Mako was witty, upbeat, silly, smart, hip, and fun to be with–all the qualities I loved in my closest friends. She was also incredibly generous, toting a huge sack of gifts for everyone in the family.


[Frozen Matcha Latte–so simple, and so refreshing.]

I was given a purple and indigo kimono (which she helped me to tie in the traditional manner–so much excess cloth!) and a beautiful, delicate and hand-painted porcelain tea set along with a cannister of Japanese tea.  I’d never seen tea like that before, light and loose and intensely green. Mako explained that this tea had amazing medicinal properties and that she was wont to drink an entire teapot of the stuff herself in an evening.  The first time I brewed the tea for myself, I was surprised anew at how green it was, like a freshly mown lawn in summer.  Eventually, I grew to appreciate the slightly bitter, astringent flavor of the matcha, and, before I knew it, the cannister was empty.  And while I continued to use the tea service for years afterward (I searched, in vain, to find it for this post; sadly, it is buried under some of the other 57 boxes still unpacked in our basement), I never did buy more Japanese green tea.

This past week, I returned on a wave of sensory memory to that long-ago summer of Masayo’s visit. After receiving a sample pack of matcha tea, I’ve been once again imbibing the green stuff, as well as cooking with it. I love it as much as I did back then–and this time, I vowed, I won’t let three decades elapse before I buy more!

Pleased with the opportunity to play with some matcha recipes, I decided to use the tea for more than a simple brew (though I do adore the tea on its own).  Here’s what I came up with.





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  1. Oh, these look delicious! I LOVE pairing matcha + chocolate. Interesting that it’s made with coconut milk. Bookmarked!

    I also never knew that matcha green tea was so green. o_o

  2. oh Ricki, oh my goodness, these are getting made for a Christmas treat for SURE! Unfortunately, I have to drive to Ontario to get your Cacao Camino chocolate – I’ll just have to use our standard grocery store brands 🙂 I adore chocolate and matcha together, so good. I make a darn good smoothie with frozen pears, romaine, celery, and matcha powder – really refreshing, and super amazing. Thank you for sharing yet ANOTHER amazing recipe. If only I could eat more, I have so many recipes to try!!!! 🙂

  3. Oh, and I forgot to say, what a wonderful story! I love penpals. This makes me wish I had kept in touch with my Japanese penpal and my French penpal from my childhood years!

  4. I love anything with regular green tea or matcha. Thanks so much for posting the recipes. I can’t wait to try them!

    Great story about your pen pan. I feel as though I was there with you.


  5. Those pictures are beautiful, Ricki! I can see every grain of matcha and I just want to snatch them all up. I love your story, too… and that you nerded out enough back in sixth grade to have SIX penpals. It gets better every time you post! (And that’s a good thing)

  6. Those truffles are gorgeous! I’ve never tried the matcha + chocolate combination, but it sounds very interesting. What a great story about your Japanese penpal! Are you still in touch?

  7. Speaking of yesteryear…I was telling girls at work today about how my grandmother used to make me wear white gloves when I was a little girl! They thought I’d flown in from 1953!

    I love your penpal story! Have never tried Matcha. Will enter the giveaway but not sure you ship to the States.

  8. Ricki, such a beautiful, touching story! I’m so moved by your beautiful retelling and the strength of your friendship across the miles! So inspiring…

    Your truffles, too, are inspiring in their beauty! I love matcha – I’m SO excited about the idea of them in a truffle! Matcha AND chocolate sounds like heaven to me! 🙂

  9. Hahaha! This was an awesome post, and you are a great writer – loved it! But I really REALLY want some of those truffles. Absolutely incredible, they look stunning and I’m sure they taste delicious.

  10. Never tried macha but now I must buy some! These recipes are phenomenal!

  11. incredible pictures..and real nice post..im so glad i found this blog…

  12. What a neat story about you and your pen-pal. I always wanted to have a pen-pal like that, but never did. It’s really cool that you two have stayed in touch all these years!

  13. Gorgeous pics, great story, yummy truffles! 🙂

  14. i have been meaning to play with matcha!! such a long list…

  15. Omg I just made the latte–sooo easy and tasty!

  16. Matcha is so amazing–I really need to find a source around here (or break down and buy some online). The truffles look to die for!

  17. I never got to meet my pen pals but I think it’s great you got to meet and become lifelong friends with yours. What a wonderful story. And the truffles – yikes! These are very alluring and make me think I should track down some matcha ASAP.

  18. Candice,
    The coconut milk offers a great substitute for dairy cream. The texture is divine!

    Any good quality unsweetened baking chocolate will do for the ACD-friendly truffles; I used the Cocoa Camino because I only just discovered it and I’m in love (a bit too much, sadly; I think I ate most of those 10 truffles the first day!) And how cool that you had a Japanese penpal, too! 🙂

    I love any kind of green tea, too–though matcha really is something special 🙂

    Aw, thanks! The photo is a fluke–every time I take a pic, I cross my fingers and hope. But nerdiness is for life! 😉

    Yes, we are still in touch, but not as often (about once a year on birthdays, now). She did visit again, though, about 10 years later, and we met here in Toronto. She was just as cool at that time, too! 🙂

    First, YES, THIS IS OPEN TO ANYONE IN THE WORLD!! SO GO AHEAD AND ENTER!!!! Love the gloves story–I actually have some gloves I bought at a vintage store–still waiting to wear them as a “fashion statement.” 😉

    Astra Libris,
    Thanks so much! I feel lucky to have met her, and stayed in touch. And matcha+chocolate=a bit of heaven, indeed! 🙂

    Voracious Vegan,
    Thanks so much. And they’re not only pretty–they are DELICIOUS, too! 🙂

    Yes, do try it! Go and enter the giveaway asap! 😉

    Thanks so much, and thanks for your comment! 🙂

    Thanks so much! I’m not sure I’d be as consistent a letter-writer today, but at this point, we’re pretty much established 😉

    Thanks so much! 🙂

    There are lots of things you can do with it! I love it just on its own, but those truffles took it over the top. 🙂

    Yay! Glad you liked it! 😀

    I will also need to get some more once I’m done with my sample, for sure!

    I do feel lucky to have met someone across the world with whom I can relate so well. 🙂 And the truffles are worth it (well, they’d be delish even w/o the tea, but WITH the tea–oh, my.)

  19. These truffles are gorgeous! I need to go find some matcha powder, asap!

  20. The truffles are beautiful but I’m really craving that latte!! Thanks for sharing the story of your pen pal too!

  21. Lovely story! I’ve had a penpal for years – well, I’ve had quite a few when I was young, but she’s the only one who’s been patient enough to wait for my very infrequent missives without deciding to dump me because I was too unreliable a penpal…
    Those truffles are gorgeous! I’m entering the giveaway for sure, but I may go out and buy some matcha even before the winner is chosen, because I’m not sure I can wait all that long before indulging in those yummy-looking truffles!

  22. Wow, Ricki! These are so beautiful!

  23. The truffles look amazing!

  24. gosh those look lovely. there’s something about that green…

  25. first of all, that is an adorable story!! i had penpals for a little while, but that fell off.
    and those truffles look amazing!!! I’m planning out my christmas treats and these are definitely on the list!! mmm I can’t wait!!

    and I got your cookbook today!!!!!!!!!! ahhhhhhh!!! I’m so excited!!!!! i just did a brief glance-through and everything looks so good!!!! thank you thank you thank you!

  26. Wow, if matcha tastes half as good as you make it look then sign me up! What a cute story 🙂

  27. Gorgeous bon-bons, very professional and stylish. A box of them would make a wonderful holiday gift. I’m bookmarking the recipe. Thanks, Ricki!

  28. I sure enjoy reading about your wonderful memories. Your truffles look beautiful. You’ve convinced to me to get back to my Asian market and get some matcha tea.

  29. would you believe that my dad still uses handkerchiefs?! it’s crazy & i love it! tee hee! i had a russian pen-pal in grade school – we exchanged letters once and i never heard back from her after i sent her a second letter. that’s too awesome that you and Mako are still in touch & bonded so well. she sounds like an amazing person – and you had me giggling with her sleepy jet-lag language. tee hee! i saw matcha just the other day and wondered what it was all about. it was a bit expensive, but i think i might have to pick some up and give it a whirl. both the latte AND the truffles sound heavenly!

  30. what a great story about your penpal – I feel sad sometimes at the lost art of letter writing – when younger there was something very special about an aerogram for overseas mail but I never see these now (although I am old fashioned enough still to use handerchiefs) – and I sent some postcards on my last trip (coming to your mailbox soon I hope) but it is not the same when emails and phone calls and blog posts are giving information about the trip before the mail arrives!

    And I have never had this matcha tea but often wanted to try it – now I want to get some more than ever to try the truffles

  31. Oh I loved rotary phones!! I had one when I was younger that I decorated with fabric paint haha. What a wonderful story about your penpal. =) And of course these truffles sounds amazing combining chocolate, coconut milk, and matcha!

  32. I made the ACD-friendly truffles last night -SO DELICIOUS! Wow! Ricki, these are incredible! One thing though – when I melted my chocolate, instead of getting really smooth, it got kind of chunky. I think I should have used a double boiler, to me it seemed like it had gotten too hot (even over very low heat) and the cocoa butter separated from teh cocoa mass. Instead of being velvety, the mixture was kind of chunky and weird; it took a lot of stirring and rolling after it had cooled to get a smooth texture, I even stirred in a little carob powder to help it all stick together a little bit. Did you experience this at all? REgardless, they smoothed out once rolled in to balls, and they taste in-freakin’-credible. You, Ricki Heller, are a goddess.

  33. I made these! They were awesome. Thanks for the recipe!

  34. The comment box won’t show up for me at the give away entry, try as I might. I would love to have a chance to win it though. I drink regular green tea daily, but this looks absolutely scrumptious and it being a powder it opens up for so many other options!

    (I tweeted it too)

    • It’s probably because the post is from 2009. . . sorry, but that giveaway is long over. I hope to offer something just as good this week! 🙂

  35. What an awesome story of you and your pen pal. So great you got to meet! These truffles look amazing and I can’t wait to try them!

  36. As of 6 months ago, I am a big green tea fan! I never thought I would get used to it until tasting the matcha powder, which is beyond compare as opposed to the tea bags!


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