Matcha, the green foamy drink that has been steadily making its way to the drink menus at coffee shops is now commonly seen alongside familiar caffeine drinks. And it’s not just served hot- it is popping up in many forms in cookies, ice cream, smoothies, etc. So, what’s the hype? What is this green powder that’s converting even loyal coffee lovers to tea? Matcha, which literally means “powered tea,” is made from ground up, high grade green tea leaves. The preparation is part of its mystique and involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This is done to encourage the growth of leaves that have a better flavor and texture. The leaves are hand-selected and then steamed briefly to stop fermentation. Following this, they are dried and aged in cold storage to enhance the flavor, and then are stone-ground into a fine powder.
It should also be noted that, traditionally, the preparation of matcha involves a meditation practice and is commonly used in tea ceremonies. Sipping it in such settings is said to help center the mind and enhance awareness. In doing so, matcha is made differently than most beverages and is whisked with a special bamboo brush that is used to mix the powder and froth the drink.
Although its exotic color is alone a reason to try it, matcha also contains an array of health benefits. Because matcha derives its nutrients from the entire leaf, is extremely high in antioxidants and is said to improve brain function and heart health. But don’t think all these health benefits mean matcha is a sissy when it comes to caffeine. No, this kale colored elixir has a serious kick–containing up to three times the amount of caffeine found in traditional green tea.
If just straight-up matcha is too much to handle (it is for me!) you can get it in more palatable forms. Lattes have been popping up in local cafes over the past few years and can make the perfect morning drink or an afternoon pick-me-up. Cowboy Coffee, and the new kid on the block, Cultivate Cafe, both serve their own take on the bold green beverage. The folks over at Persephone and Picnic also concoct delicious matcha lattes and I dare you to pair it with a vegan matcha cookie (recipe below!)–talk about a combo.
In addition to its matcha latte, Cultivate Cafe also features matcha in surprising places on its breakfast menu. This new organic cafe serves up a gluten-free waffle topped with coconut matcha cream, giving it not only a stylistic touch, but an added health benefit.
Healthy Being Café & Juicery incorporates matcha powder into its Zenergy smoothie. Here, they mix it with housemade almond milk, almond butter, banana, dates and spinach—a smoothie that is the ultimate green dream. Healthy Being also uses matcha in its homemade, raw vegan matcha cheesecake, aka the perfect excuse to have cake for breakfast.
For those of us who have a fondness for both caffeine and sugar, we have more than one option to satisfy our cravings. Suda not only offers green tea matcha ice cream, but also a matcha chocolate cake that is otherworldly. When you find yourself hooked on matcha, make sure you make your way to The Phoenix and the Dragon to try their creamy vanilla soft serve with matcha green tea powder. Not only is this a delicious treat, but, it is also vegan for all the fellow lactose-free people out there.
Whether you are a new or seasoned matcha lover, there are plenty of options around town to get your fix. So what are you waiting for? Get your green on now to help you remain healthy, and wide awake.