What Is Matcha Tea?
I’m betting you’ve heard of it. You may have even seen it on the menu at your favorite coffee house, or quickly passed by its flavor at the yogurt shop. Or maybe you are already a connoisseur, schooling all of your friends at brunch on its health benefits and wondering where to find the next tempting dish claiming it as the main ingredient. Either way, Just Vibe is here to help.
So, what exactly is matcha anyway? Simply stated, matcha is a specially grown green tea that is ground into a fine powder and then either brewed into an anti-oxidant rich drink or mixed into foods like gourmet popsicles and smoothies.
While it has been a long-standing tradition in Japanese culture for centuries, the drink has been gaining popularity in the US over the past few years. Originally making a splash on the scene at New York’s fashion week in 2014, it has been showing up in coffee shops, tea houses, and specialty dessert dishes more and more.
A lot of care and attention goes into growing the matcha tea plant. Before harvesting, the plants are covered with shade cloths for the purpose of increasing the chlorophyll content and enhancing the rich flavor. After being hand-selected, the leaves are briefly steamed, popped into cold storage for a while, then finally stone-ground into a fine powder. The tea is made by mixing the powder with hot water and whisking it with a bamboo brush until frothy.
While the amount of caffeine in a cup of matcha is comparable to that of a cup of brewed coffee, matcha drinkers say that instead of the buzz they normally get from coffee, they experience something of an “alert calm.” The reason for this is that the caffeine in matcha is balanced out by something called l-theanine, which is an amino acid known to promote calmness without drowsiness.
In addition to calm energy, other long-term health benefits attributed to regular consumption of matcha tea powder include weight loss, heart health, and even increased focus and concentration. Besides all of that, though, it’s just really delicious.
So, we’ve found some of the best places in the city for you to try matcha tea, and even found some really fun ways to consume it.
Where To Get Matcha Tea In Houston
For a pure brewed matcha experience, we recommend The Path of Tea in Upper Kirby. Not only do they offer customers the opportunity to taste seasonal, organic, fair trade teas from around the world, but Thia McKann, who owns TPoT along with her husband Chris, was the first certified tea master in the state of Texas. In addition to monthly events such as tea tastings and origami classes, you can purchase a variety of loose leaf teas such as apple spice, hibiscus ginger, rose buds and petals, oolong, Pu-erh and even yummy bear tea for the kids. Their organic matcha is sold in 2 oz. bags for only $10, and can be taken home and enjoyed anytime.
If you haven’t been to Nu Ice & Drinks on Westheimer or Nu Ice Café on Bellaire Boulevard yet, then this is your chance. Not only is the Taiwanese style shaved ice like nothing you have ever tasted before, but it is also like nothing you have ever seen before. These sculpted desserts look (almost) too beautiful to eat, but with flavors like Taro, Lychee, Vanilla Milk, and Matcha Green Tea, you won’t be able to stop yourself from diving in.
For a matcha latte or a slice of matcha crepe cake served alongside beautiful artwork, wall murals, and Japanese table décor displayed in mason jars (a la Texas) try Honey Art Café. This relatively new spot is tucked away in a shopping center off Shepherd and Richmond Avenue but is worth finding. Not only is the café an art classroom, but they often host cool quaint art shows in their adorable venue.
For the “real deal” and a taste of Chinatown, while you’re at it, Sharetea on Bellaire Boulevard has it all—including matcha red bean milk tea, matcha green tea creama, and strawberry matcha. Open 11a-11p daily, with happy hours throughout the week. This place does get very busy, but their convenient online ordering service can help shorten the wait time.
At Revolution Coffee & Juice in The Heights not only can you get an iced matcha latte, matcha lemonade, and matcha by the straight shot, but you can also get a matcha energy acai and pitaya bowl (I had to look that up too.) Born in San Antonio, this vegetarian cold-pressed juice and coffee shop opened their location on 11th and Shepherd last year and can also be found all around town at events like the Urban Harvest City Hall Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Wherever and however you are trying this tasty new treat, please let us know!
But we do leave you with this one little caution: All green teas contain trace amounts of lead. Since the whole leaf is ground and consumed with matcha, rather than being strained out like with traditional tea, you are getting slightly more than you would otherwise. Even though we are talking about very small amounts, don’t go crazy with it, especially if you are pregnant.