While we love all ice creams here at The Ice Cream Informant, we love sampling, photographing and reviewing new ice cream brands to the blog even more than the usual suspects. That's why we had been patiently awaiting the package of pints seen above ever since making contact with Mr. Green Tea ice cream a few months back.
Their website says, "A family business for generations, Mr. Green Tea was founded by Santo Emanuele in Brooklyn, NY in 1968. With experience in the grocery and dairy industry, Santo sought out to develop new flavors of ice cream to appeal to the burgeoning NYC Japanese restaurant trade. Green Tea, Red Bean & Ginger were developed. Now in its third generation, Mr. Green Tea still handcrafts its exotic desserts using the highest quality, all natural ingredients and has grown to be an industry leader. Today, you can find Mr. Green Tea being served in thousands of the finest restaurants & on the shelves of your favorite grocery stores across the country."
Now their flavors include the three originals as well as creative additions such as Chai Latte, Black Sesame, and Fortune Cookie, which we were particularly excited about.
As we took the lids off each of the flavors to begin our review and take some pictures, we instantly noticed how potent the smell of Black Sesame was over the others. Not only had we never seen sesame featured in ice cream, but the scent was something I'd never experienced. Perhaps it was the unfamiliar smell -- after all, sesame isn't something we see everyday in typical US cuisine, but something used often in certain Asian foods. We sampled our first spoon full of Mr. Green Tea ice cream, but before the consistency could be examined, the flavoring inside took full hold of my senses.
"Black sesame seeds have been a prominent ingredient in Asian recipes for thousands of years. We use only the finest ingredients such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar, and black sesame paste. The result is a fine balance between a distinctly toasted, nutty flavor and a refreshing finish."
We wouldn't feel comfortable giving this one a grade, only because it's such a powerful, specialized flavor that is directed towards a certain kind of ice cream eater. Because I'm unfamiliar, Black Sesame didn't sit well with me, but this let us know from the start that Mr. Green Tea wasn't afraid to be bold with their ingredients -- something we always appreciate and one of the great things about these type of regional, small-scale brands that don't have to worry about molding their products to the masses. Next up was one of Mr. Green Tea's core flavors, Red Bean.
"Red beans or Azuki beans have been used in Japanese confections for thousands of years. We use only the finest ingredients in our Red Bean such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar, and imported Azuki beans. The result is a unique ice cream flavor with subtle hints of honey and vanilla."
While we weren't quite sure what to expect out of Red Bean, we quickly realized why this was one of their staples. The subtle flavoring of this pint allowed the impressive ice cream base to take center stage and the consistency of the high-quality ingredients did not disappoint. These pints all averaged over 200+ calories per serving, which meant a heavy-feel and an ice cream that melted slower than most.
Next up was Chai Latte -- a beverage I've had a few times in the past, and one that sounds like an excellent inspiration for ice cream. "The current craze of spiced tea beverages was the inspiration for our newest flavor, Chai Latte. We use only the finest ingredients available such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar, and a unique blend of traditional chai spices. An ice cream with a flavor that is warm & deeply complex is the result." Just as expected, Mr. Green Tea's terrific ice cream base pairs perfectly with the chai-spices. This, cold frozen version may even be better than the original.
The pint seen above, Ginger, was the one I was most looking forward to. As a fan of raw ginger, the thought of an ice cream with an above average base and teeming with candied ginger had me anxious to dig in. "Our award winning Ginger ice cream has been a staple of NYC restaurants for nearly 50 years for good reason. We use only the finest ingredients available such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar, and the freshest baby ginger. A surprisingly clean, fragrant and slightly spicy ice cream is the result." Mr. Green Tea had no issues pulling off this difficult concept. If you aren't a fan of ginger in foods, this one is good enough to sway your opinion.
The company's namesake flavor, Green Tea, was one I came into with mixed emotions. We've reviewed other green tea ice creams before, and none of have had enough character to win us over. This version has been in rotation for some time now, "Our green tea ice cream has been a favorite at NYC restaurants for decades. We use only the finest ingredients available such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar and handpicked tea leaves. Its incredibly rich, creamy and only slightly sweet flavor is unmistakable." Following our first bite, we agree -- the flavor is unmistakable. I could have never expected the full-bodied flavor contained in the olive colored ice cream. Even if you've had green tea ice creams in the past, I'd be willing to bet this one is better.
The first layer seen above belongs to a pint of ice cream that I had been looking forward to trying since I originally made contact with the owners of Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream. Ice cream and cookies have always been a proven and popular combination of sweets, but Mr. Green Tea puts a Japanese cuisine twist on the concept with their Fortune Cookie flavor, "We found a way to put all the fun of a fortune cookie into a pint of our ice cream. We did this using only the finest ingredients available such as rBGH free milk & cream, pure cane sugar, madagascar vanilla and real fortune cookie pieces. The result is a sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream bursting with crunchy fortune cookie pieces."
Mr. Green Tea had no problem nailing their vanilla base. The super-premium, perfectly sweetened foundation featured more than its fair share of broken fortune cookie pieces. My only quarrel with this brilliantly creative concept was that the cookies had lost some of their crunch thanks to sitting in ice cream. If this could be corrected, Fortune Cookie could have graced the top tier of our rankings. Even with the slightly soggy cookies, an A was inevitable.
We urge you to head over to the Mr. Green Tea website if you're interested in purchasing any of the flavors above. If you do, send us some Reader Reviews!