The World Digested
Tawanico - "mariage" of cake and coffee
Bakeshop is coming to Japan. Gone is the first wave of cheap imitation cakes - i.e. dry sponge decorated with fake buttercream roses; not quite gone, but going a little, is the second wave of decadent French pastries: mille-feuilles and opéras are lovely occasionally, but too fancy for your everyday sweet cravings.
Now, the third wave has arrived, and it is all about the simple goodies. Brownies, scones, apple pies and carrot cakes - Welcome to Japan! Bakeshop differs from patisseries in offering simpler and sturdier items, which can sit comfortably on the counters, instead of being tucked away in the protected environ of a refrigerator. While the artfully and artificially decorated gateaux are multicolored, these baked pies and cakes are mostly brown. Neither topped with delicate macrons or piped with lacy creams, yet these baked goodies exude a warm welcome to all that pass by - especially to the coffee drinkers.
Naturally, a good, solid cake needs a good, solid coffee. Nowadays, the restaurant reviews au Japon are filled with the word, "mariage" - yes, in French, s'il vous plaît - between wine and food, between wine and cakes and, between wine and "bread." May the French never Google-translate reviews on Tabelog - Japan's largest restaurant review site. Ridicule only those that deserve it: les fromages are simply too expensive in Japan for people to engage in casual matchmaking.
However, "mariages" between coffee and baked goods, now, that is accessible and available: arriving with the third wave, coffee roasters and coffee connoisseurs have popped up faster than Starbuck's. Yearning to create the casual and convivial atmosphere found in New York or Melbourne coffee shops, they began looking for coffee cakes to serve with, and vice versa. Therefore, an up-and-coming bakeshop is usually coupled with an up-and-coming coffee roaster, in a happy and yuppy cohabitation to their mutual benefit.
Tawanico is just such an up-and-coming bakeshop. A real-life "mariage" of husband and wife run the cafe: the husband is in the back in charge of baking, while the wife minds the shop and makes the coffee.The pastry case features squares of fresh fruit tarts, inspired by the Nordic smorgasbord, and one or two seasonal cakes, along with staple maple scones, pound cakes or two. All of these are to be coupled with specialty coffee, provided by the up-and-coming Taoca Coffee in the neighboring Hyogo prefecture.
The bright early summer calls for a bright lemon cake. Tawanico's lemon cake is different from the more commonly found gateaux-weekend, which is a lemon pound cake with a lemon icing. Although structurally resembling a cup cake, Tawanico's lemon cake is made of sturdier stuff: its crumb has more substance in line with a pound cake, and moistened with a light lemony syrup. The swirl of pale yellow cream is also bright and light - a mixture of lemon curd and sour cream to impart a refreshing sourness to the cake without weighting it down with sugar and fat. This simple summary creation was satisfactory by itself, if a little unmemorable; however, the few roasted almonds added body and character to the nice and easy cake - like those freckles on sun-kissed skin that stay in the memory, even after the face has faded away.
The cake is so light that a cup of darjeeling would have been the perfect complement, but Tawanico, is after all, also a coffeeshop. In fact, while the shop attracted a swarm of young Instagram-loving crowd, a surprising number of "business-casual" salarymen also dropped in for a cup of coffee and walked away with a cake or scone.
The namesake, "Tawanico blend" was created specially for the bakeshop by Taoca, by mixing Guatemala, Colombia and Mandheling. "It is a perfect accompaniment to our baked goods because it has body, acidity and bitterness," the owner nodded assuredly. Nonetheless, only the last part proved to be true, leaving a bitter residue on the lemon-kissed tongue, which seemed to have stayed too long in the sun, daydreaming.
A more floral and fruiter coffee would have been a better match for the gentle cake; and yet, the crowd was already clipping photos and chirping compliments on the perfect "mariage." After all, coffee and cake are also human creations; and thus subject to and succumbing to the same law of human fallibility. Just as it is difficult to find a perfect partner in life; it must also be difficult to find the right mate in coffee and food.
Address: 2-2-9 Otedori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture