Manji Café :GION COOKIES, MANJI SELECTION, a cookie tin full of “Kyoto” brought to perfection
Hello everyone, my name is Kaori Ota, and I’m a writer.
I love to tour around Kyoto, tasting its delicious bites. Nowadays however, I’ve been having more opportunities to have teatime at home, enjoying “cafés at home” by taking home sweets from the much-talked-about cafés or by making sweets on my own.
The one thing that I’m sure will be a cheerful addition to your private café is the cookie tin!
Just one cookie tin, and my euphoria is sustained over days because the cookies last well in the tin and I get to “meditate” over which cookie to eat each day, not to mention the compellingly photogenic sight of cookies packed together in a tin-box. Oh, the happiness when I open it!
Yes, the cookie tin is packed full of happiness.
In these articles, I will introduce cookie tins from Kyoto, along with ways to enjoy them at home.
Manji Café, a café that cherishes the cultural legacy of Gion
Hanamikoji-dori Street, Gion is an area with a quaint atmosphere of the old city.
In one of the alleys stands Manji Café, in an iconic, old machiya townhouse that had been a coal dealer’s house since 1861 and called “Manji-san” by generations of Gion locals.
The café was opened in 2017 by the owner who wished to keep and pass down the house where his ancestors were born. And, since then, has been popular as a place to enjoy homemade sweets in the calming atmosphere that comes from the house’s history.
The café maintains a traditional Japanese style in which you take off your shoes in the entrance room, adding a cosy feeling as if being invited into a family home. In the café are some antique lights and a stone lantern in a small garden. The owner wanted to “keep things that were here originally and continue using them.” All those little touches make this Café feel like the perfect place to indulge in a relaxing teatime.
The teacups used in the café also originally belonged to this house. They were made using the style of Kyo-yaki ceramics designed by Ogata Kenzan, who lived about three hundred years ago. The cups depict flowers that bloom at different times of the year, a perfect match with the café’s mood.
To the side of the entrance of the café (where you don’t have to take off your shoes yet), there are some items for sale on display that include baked sweets that are perfect as souvenirs from Kyoto and as gifts.
“KYOTO GION COOKIES, MANJI SELECTION,” a tin full of homemade goodness and the charm of the ancient capital
The “KYOTO GION COOKIES, MANJI selection” (¥2,808 - tax included) is among these treats!
And it is a tin full of carefully crafted, homemade cookies.
The package is adorned with the same illustrations as the ones on the teacups I mentioned earlier, bringing the shop’s tasteful atmosphere wherever it goes. The box is the size of a postcard, perfect for a souvenir or a gift.
Now comes the long awaited moment: Let’s open the tin!
Look at these cookies densely but rhythmically packed in this little box! Wow, this is an utterly “Kyoto” look. This sweet tremble in my heart as I open the box—it is unmistakably one of the thrills of cookie tins!
What’s more is that the partition-free arrangement of cookies of all different shapes itself is a wonder. They didn’t place the cookies sideways to fill the space. Instead, the cookies are all facing upward. It’s like they’re saying “hello.” This adds to the dearness.
The color scheme is also elegant, mostly in soft colors.
This cookie tin has been sold at Manji Café since the time it first opened. It was born from the owner’s strong dedication to “make it the real deal of gifts from Kyoto—something that we could do because we were born and raised in Gion.”
It is a cookie tin full of “local essence” and “homemade goodness”!
The cookie can has six types of cookies:
Daitokuji-Natto & Orange Biscotti
White Sesame & Coconut Sablés
Matcha Green Tea Polvorons
Sansho Pepper & Chocolate Cookies
The two types of cookies that have icing in the upper part of the photograph are respectively designed after the “Tsunagi dango (literally, ‘the dumpling chain’)” emblem on the lanterns of Gion Kobu, the chidori bird emblem of Ponto-cho (Both are names of the “geisha quarters”). They are so “Kyoto,” so cute!
The cookies are not just cute, though. They say it took approximately a year to develop these cookies, making many prototypes while holding onto their passion for very “Kyoto” ingredients.
“Cookies should be delicious, but we’re trying to take it further,” says the owner. She has been especially passionate about the “Daitokuji-Natto & Orange Biscotti” and the “Sansho Pepper & Chocolate Cookies.”
The “Daitokuji-Natto & Orange Biscotti” are made with Daitokuji-natto, a non-perishable food that has been made in Daitokuji area of Kyoto for centuries. The development of this cookie was an endeavor to incorporate Daitokuji-natto into a Western sweet. This involved a lot of trial and error to decide how the salty and rich flavor of Daitokuji-natto should be introduced into biscotti. The result was biscotti with an accent combining the flavor of Daitokuji-natto with those of orange and nuts.
There is an anecdote about these “Sansho Pepper & Chocolate Cookies,” that they almost never made it to the shelves. The reason was because the fragrance of the sansho pepper was lost when the cookies were baked. They found a solution, though. This was to use “soy sauce-marinated sansho peppercorns”!
Each time they make these cookies, they leave the soy sauce-marinated peppercorns in water to remove the soy sauce. It seems like so much work. And yet, the products are these chocolate cookies of irresistibly complex flavour with more on the spice than the sweetness!
Ways to enjoy your “café at home” with Manji Café’s cookies:：All types in one day, or one type for a whole day!
There are six different types of cookies, and I want to enjoy the flavor and texture of each of them in the best way possible.
So I came up with two ways to enjoy the “KYOTO GION COOKIES, MANJI selection.”
The first way is to indulge in all of them, trying each and every type.
First take out a large plate, place the cookies on it, and just take in the sight. Once on a plate, the cookies put on a different face from when they were in the tin box.
I chose straight black tea to drink with the cookies. The Darjeeling tea is an all-around tea because its light flavour goes well with both Japanese and Western sweets. I chose a teacup with a flower pattern, remembering the charming teacups at Manji Café. What a wonderful tea time!
Next, I enjoyed the “Daitokuji-natto & orange biscotti” by dipping it into milk tea!
This is the way to enjoy the “Daitokuji-natto & orange biscotti” that the owner of Manji Café told me about. “My customer suggested it,” she said.
Being such a firm and crunchy type of cookie, Italians are said to often eat biscotti by dipping them into coffee or wine. By dipping them into milk tea, I was able to enjoy the mildness and the transition of texture with the richness of Daitokuji-natto and the fragrance of orange still intact!
Someday, I will also try the combination of the Yuzu Sablé and Japanese tea.
So far, I have introduced a cookie tin that I thought was great for experiencing Kyoto while at home.
I hope you can also enjoy this “real-deal Kyoto” in your private tea lounge!
The cookie tin is sold at the café in Gion, and could also be ordered through the official website (As of Jan 25, 2021, only in Japanese), phone, or email.