Matcha: America's Latest Caffeine Fix?

Will matcha be America’s new caffeine fix?
Quality matcha, which has a neon-green color, provides more antioxidants than regular tea, because you consume the leaves rather than steep them Photograph by Brian Vu for Bloomberg Businessweek

Three years ago, Graham Fortgang was working 60-hour weeks in real estate and needed all the caffeine he could consume. So he tried matcha—a powdered green tea made from crushed leaves—at a traditional Japanese cafe in Manhattan. “It gives you this calm, alert energy,” he says. “But [it was difficult] to find it without a 30-minute tea ceremony.” In September, Fortgang and his brother Max opened the first spot entirely dedicated to the ingredient. At MatchaBar in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, the Hulk-green drinks have 70 milligrams of caffeine, almost as much as a cup of coffee. Devotees say the beverage doesn’t leave them jittery because it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that relaxes the mind. “Recent studies say [L-theanine] might work with caffeine to produce positive effects on mood,” says Stephanie Clarke, a registered dietitian with C&J Nutrition. “People report the energy they get is more relaxed.” Matcha is also less irritating to the stomach than coffee, says Dr. Frank Lipman at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York. At MatchaBar, which plans to expand nationally next year, the most popular order is a milk-based matcha latte. It tastes like tea, but you can mask the vegetal flavor with cinnamon or mint. The powder is imported from farms in Nishio, Japan, where it’s been made since the 12th century. “An amazing product wasn’t being consumed in [cities] where people work around-the-clock,” Fortgang says. “That was so strange to me.”

Or … you can make it yourself.
Buy the powder online from matchabarnyc.com ($22 for a 30-gram tin, pictured, which makes 20 cups) and put 1 teaspoon in a mug. Add ½ cup barely boiling water, then whisk until it’s fully dissolved and a thin layer of foam forms on top. Pour in another ½ cup of hot water and stir quickly. Milk also works in place of water. Add sweetener if desired.

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