Instagram made us become more visual consumers of food content. Color particularly seduces us to try foods or beverages we haven’t experienced before. Matcha is a perfect example. It’s the green tea powder made for highly-ritualized Japanese tea ceremonies that go back 1000 years. But now, images of the vivid green color encourages us to try matcha as snacks, lattes, boba drinks, and in baked goods like French macarons, cookies, or sifted over cakes.
Matcha is not like other green teas. It’s shade-grown and ground into powder, which makes it high in chlorophyll and results in that signature shade of green. It has an umami flavor profile with pronounced vegetal and bitter notes. Different blends can be more or less bitter.
It’s consumed differently from other teas. The leaves aren’t infused then discarded. The powdered tea is whisked into liquid, which allows us to drink the whole leaves, one reason why matcha is such an antioxidant powerhouse. It is matcha’s powdered form that allows it to be used so expansively.
Quality matters, and there are different grades depending on if you are using it ceremonially or for culinary purposes. Matcha for tea ceremonies is milder because it’s made from the youngest leaves, which means more labor and a higher price. Both Ippudo and Jade Leaf are good brands. Jade Leaf is certified organic and farm-direct. Ippudo is currently offering spring harvested blends. Breakaway Matcha is also an interesting website that offers lots of explainers about the beverage.
In Los Angeles, you can get everything matcha: beverages, pastries, ice cream, and boozy drinks. For great matcha lattes, look for places that do everything to a high standard, including coffees. Republique and Verve come to mind. Lady M continues to make its green tea mille, a cake made of layers of crepes and frosting, which is a celebration of green tea and matcha. Westside bakery Artelice makes matcha cookies. If you’re hankering for pancakes, Bea Bea’s in Burbank has the Green Tea Monster: matcha-infused pancakes with matcha mascarpone. For a real treat, go to Gelateria Uli for green tea matcha gelato with chocolate waffle bits. If you want to make your own matcha cookies, here's a recipe I like.
The matcha specialists:
-Tea Master Matcha in Little Tokyo serves iced and hot tea, lattes, and soft serve with a side of matcha education.
-Midori Matcha Cafe in Little Tokyo offers organic matcha drinks, pastries, and soft serve.