There’s no escaping it, matcha, a powder made from finely milled Japanese green tea leaves is in everything and anything! It has taken over the culinary world like a hazy green dust storm, and has made it’s way into cakes, ice creams, iced teas, lattes, doughnuts, burgers, croissants, cocktails, beers; you name it, matcha has been added to it. Surely we’re only moments away from snorting the stuff!
Matcha and matcha cafe’s are no new thing of course, they have had their place in Asian cuisine and culture since forever, but this matcha-movement doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact it’s only growing! As much as I personally love everything matcha, I’m not 100% sure why? What is it about this chlorophyll elixir that we are so drawn to? Is it it's gorgeous vivid colour, or it's multitude of health benefits that I won’t bore you with now, but surely most of these health benefits are rendered completely useless once added to all of the sugars, fats etc in the baked goods and desserts that we are enjoying so much. If you haven’t tried matcha as yet, the flavour is bitter-sweet, herbal, grassy with a umami rich taste, which surprises me as a flavour that has taken off so hugely and widely.
Matcha has become so on-trend and in-demand that more and more cafes are opening in homage to the supreme green, including Sarah Holloway and Nic Davidson, of Matcha Maiden, Matcha tea importers and owners of plant-based cafe Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda, Melbourne. Matcha obviously features heavily on their menu with items such as grass-green matcha burger buns, matcha pancakes with dark chocolate sauce, macadamia, strawberry baobab coconut ice cream (argh too much yum for my mind to handle), and a lengthy list of matcha lattes and smoothies with my favourite (purely based on name) the Wiz Kale-Leafa with kale, matcha, mango, strawberry, almond mylk served in glass skulls, double yes!
By all means, they are not the only cafe dedicated to matcha there is also MatchaBar in NYC set up by brothers Max & Graham Fortgang who are committed to re-inventing the ancient matcha tradition by giving it a New York twist! The brothers opened New York’s first specialty matcha cafe, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2014 and then in 2015, MatchaBar Manhattan opened its doors. Max and Graham have also launched a bottled matcha product and have collaborated with Little Boo Boo Bakery to create matcha infused marshmallows that I have to get my sticky hands on!
Back on shores closer to home, we have Tombo Cafe in London, a Japanese cafe that specialise in Matcha ice creams and desserts including Matcha flavoured tiramisu, macarons, souffle cheesecake and matcha brittle chocolate! Tombo recently teamed up with the style institution that is Liberty London for a 6 week matcha pop up cafe. After inspiring trips to NYC and Tokyo have also just launched London’s very first matcha dedicated bar, Tombo Poke, a Poke (customisable sushi bowls) and matcha dessert desitination in D’arblay Street, Soho.
To find out a little more about this green-haze-craze I spoke to the ever-knowledgable tea experts Rob and Michelle Comins of Comins Tea House in Bath, a gorgeous specialised tea house full to the rafters with very carefully selected teas, including of course, matcha! I was really interested to hear their thoughts on this obsession.
FB: When did you notice Matcha gaining mainstream popularity?
R+M: We started selling Matcha around 3 years ago. We noticed an increase around 2 years ago, when matcha lattes, matcha smoothies and cooking with matcha became more prevalent. However, the biggest rise was the start of January this year when in particular our online orders increased dramatically. We discovered that this was due to it being named in a so-called 'super foods' diet.
FB: Why do you think people love matcha so much?
R+M: Primarily people (particularly non tea drinkers) are attracted to Matcha due to the very well publicised health benefits. It is classified as a super food and people see it as giving that healthy boost that they need. Sadly most people have not had the chance to taste matcha prepared properly as there are very few places doing this. For us the act of preparing Matcha is as important as the drink itself and as with many great teas this ritual provides a moment to connect the mind and the body. In Japan this ritual and the way it is performed has deep meaning and significance for both the guest and the host. For tea drinkers the love is down to its exquisite grassy umami taste, the fresh, healthy feeling it provides and the noticeable boost in energy it gives. Also for established drinkers it's place in the history of the evolution of tea is also a reason.
FB: What is the weirdest use of Matcha that you have seen/tasted?
R+M: I think matcha face masks and matcha toothpaste are fairly strange uses!
FB: What's the best way to have Matcha at home?
R+M: We believe that matcha should be drunk in its simplest form. Sift the powder, add 70 degree C water and then whisk to a froth (ideally with a matcha whisk). Drink.
FB: Is there a better matcha for use in cooking versus drinking?
R+M: There is culinary grade matcha for cooking which is generally lower grade and consequently stronger and more bitter, and will therefore stand out as a distinct flavour more. There are many grades of Matcha for drinking, depending on how the leaves are picked, whether the plants are shaded before the leaves are picked and the level of expertise used in sorting and grinding. We advise using the best grade in your price bracket.
FB: Can you foresee any upcoming tea trends beyond matcha?
R+M: As knowledge and interest in loose leaf tea progresses we think appreciation of types of tea such as Oolongs and Puerhs will increase. We also see a movement towards people taking more time to reflect and appreciate life. The ceremony of making tea lends itself to this, Therefore a move away from 'grabbing a quick cuppa' will happen.
I think we can be sure that Matcha is here to stay, and I am excited to see what innovative uses are being developed as we speak. The one thing I’d hope that we try to take a little more from matcha is the ritualistic history of the tea, taking a moment to connect mind and body.
Visit Matcha magic makers at :
Comins Tea House, 34 Monmouth Street, Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom.
Matcha Mylkbar, 72A Acland Street, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.
MatchaBar NYC, 256 W 15th Street, New York, New York.
Tombo Poke, 28 D'Arblay St, London.
Little Boo Boo Bakery, New York.
Rabbit Soft Serve, Penang, Malaysia.
Dessert Parlour, Melbourne, Australia.
David H Chow, Toronto, Canada.