Japanese cuisine has been at the heart of many global culinary trends in recent years with everything from sushi to ramen becoming popular worldwide. A centuries-old beverage is now the latest culinary export from Japan creating an international buzz.
Matcha, a powdered green tea traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony, is taking America by storm. This vibrant green powder is the newest health craze, touted by everyone from the foodies of Instagram to Hollywood, including celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried, and Cameron Diaz.
A matcha-dedicated café opened last fall and is already a big hit among New Yorkers. The drinks offer a new, American take on the traditional beverage. People have been mixing matcha with flavors as varied as acai, peach, and apple ginger.
“It’s really natural, it’s really nice, just makes me feel good, I like the taste,” one customer said.
“Maybe a little sweeter for American tastes,” said another. “But it still kind of keeps the taste of the matcha, which I really like.”
Brothers Graham and Max Fortgang discovered matcha while looking for a caffeine alternative to coffee and energy drinks. They co-founded MatchaBar.
“I drank it and I was totally amazed,” said Graham Fortgang. “My energy level, my focus, my general mood went way up.”
Sales have doubled in the eight months since the café opened and the brothers plan to open a second location this summer.
Other New Yorkers are looking to experience matcha in a more traditional setting. Some matcha fans are becoming experts. They are learning to appreciate real matcha.
Mark Tenore began taking classes at a tea house one year ago. He now regularly prepares matcha at home.
“After I drink it, when I take a few moments out for myself, it makes me feel light and unencumbered, physically, emotionally,” Tenore said. “For me, that’s why I like to do it.”
Japanese companies are also jumping on the trend, including beverage maker Ito-En. The company showcased some of its new matcha products, like ready-to-drink matcha cans, at the World Tea Expo in California last month.
“I hope to make use of skills developed in Japan,” said Masahiro Noda, who works for Ito-En in North America. “I want to keep serving high-quality matcha products to people in the US.”
Only time will tell if matcha can become a part of the mainstream beverage scene or is just a passing fad like some other products.
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