Under ordinary circumstances, I don’t head over to Starbucks for the desserts. For one thing, some of the things they sell are either too bloody sweet or too freaking bland – and, either way, a tad too pricey and just not worth it. For another, whenever Starbucks does have amazing desserts on its menu, they’re usually seasonal – and, once the season’s over, they disappear. Most of the time, as in the case of the amazing lemon polenta, they disappear forever.
And then, as it happened, they brought back one of my serious favorites back: the green tea and berry cheesecake.
Oh. Dear. Gods…
When this dessert first appeared in September 2007, it was part of a seasonal offering and was paired with an equally decadent green tea and blackberry Frappucino. It was a deliciously Baroque confection where a matcha-infused cream cheese filling was poured over blackberry compote in a thin pastry crust, then topped with a white chocolate-and-cream cheese fondant icing before being sprinkled with matcha powder.
The new incarnation of the dessert does away with the pastry crust and, instead, uses a more conventional one made with Graham cracker crumbs. The crust is, mercifully, spared from being mediocre by the addition of coarsely chopped toasted walnuts that add plenty of welcome crunch.
I am please to say that, taste and texture-wise, Starbucks has kept it the same way it was back in ’07:
It was good: the thick layer of cream cheese was sweetened most subtly and the bitter-almond flavor of the matcha was balanced by the creamy richness. There was enough of the syrupy [black]berry filling to provide a tart counterpoint flavor to the whole thing.
This time around, the blackberry-green tea frap isn’t available but there are two new seasonal and Japanese-inspired treats: the matcha and adzuki bean Frappucino and the hojicha Frappucino with Earl Gray jelly.
Of the two, the hojicha frap gets my vote of confidence because it’s so deliciously smoky, not too creamy or icy, more bitter than sweet. The hint of bergamot in the Earl Gray jelly adds a citrusy freshness to it and, since the jelly is unsweetened, it is just plain mind-blowing. You get the nuances of two kinds of tea, two different intensities – one sharp and citrusy, the other smokily floral – that make for an unlikely but tasty combination. This is, so to speak, not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: most Filipino palates will dismiss this as too bitter to be any good. But, for me, the hojicha frap is perfect – and, with its flavors, it’s also the best thing to pair with the cheesecake.
Now, if only Starbucks could make both of these a regular feature on the menu…