For a Caffeine Perk-up Without the Jitters, Meet Your Matcha
Why the green tea drink is winning over wellness—and coffee—enthusiasts.
Not long ago, Claudia Stevenson was a self-described “mad coffee drinker,” willing to go out of her way for the perfect flat white. “My day wouldn’t start until I’d had that coffee,” recalls the London, U.K.-based digital marketing pro. “It dictated my moods: there were highs and lows, hyperness and then crashes.”
Keen for a different sort of caffeine fix, Stevenson started getting into matcha, made from the finely ground powder of whole green tea leaves, during travels to L.A. and New York. The feeling it gave—alertness, without the anxiety-inducing buzz—motivated her to dive into deeper research. Inspired by the benefits, and noticing the lack of decent matcha on the London scene, she co-founded JENKI, a startup matcha bar now in pop-up mode (permanent locations are being scouted). We spoke with Stevenson on the many merits of matcha, and why it’s more than a fleeting trend.
Matcha Is Steeped in History
Although it’s true that matcha is having a moment, with Instagrammable spots like the bicoastal Cha Cha Matcha popping up stateside, the powdered green tea goes way back. “It’s been around since the 1100s. It’s what monks in Japan used to drink to sustain their meditative state for hours,” explains Stevenson.
The finest matcha still hails from Japan, and it’s cultivated almost the same way other tea is grown—except the bushes of matcha are shaded for three weeks prior to harvest. “Shading it increases the potency of its chlorophyll, L-theanine and antioxidants, ensuring they’re at the highest level,” says Stevenson, noting that JENKI sources a sweet, mellow ceremonial-grade matcha, grown by a family-run farm in Japan’s Uji region. (If you’ve ever tried matcha that tasted a little “off,” you may have sipped the lower culinary-grade stuff.)
Matcha Will Wake You Up—But Still Let You Sleep
Trading your usual dark roast for matcha doesn’t require going into withdrawal—you can still get the same hit of caffeine. “The key difference is that matcha has a compound called L-theanine, an amino acid that has been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety,” says Stevenson. “And when combined with caffeine, it has a reaction that releases a calm, focused, longer-lasting, slow-release energy.” Coffee might pep you up for one to two hours, but matcha will do the job for about four to six hours. Plus, in Stevenson’s experience, the latter doesn’t tempt a bout of insomnia: She can drink an afternoon matcha and still “sleep like a baby.”
Matcha Is Poised for Wide Appeal
While doing pop-ups for JENKI, Stevenson realized how many people were seeking out something just like matcha right now. “They’re giving up coffee, but trying to find an alternative that will give the same energy as coffee. There’s not much else out there that can offer all the benefits that matcha does.” It also suits our growing curiosity about calming and mood-boosting ingredients, and our overall interest in both physical and mental well-being, she adds.
If you know, you know: “What I’ve found fascinating is that matcha has such a cultish following. It’s kind of like vegetarians—they’ll tell you they’re vegetarian. If you’re a matcha drinker, you’re probably going to shout about it. If someone hasn’t had it, I’m like, I can’t wait to tell you how great it is.”
How to Make JENKI’s Spiced Matcha Latte At Home
- Tsp of ground ginger*
- Tsp of ground turmeric*
- Tbsp of honey or agave
- Shot of JENKI matcha (tsp of matcha plus water, whisked)
- 1 cup of your choice of milk (JENKI uses Oatly Oat Drink Barista Edition)
- Ice (if serving cold) or frothed milk (if hot)
*Or use fresh ginger and turmeric, as JENKI does
TO MAKE YOUR MATCHA SHOT:
- Sieve a tsp of matcha into a bowl.
- Add a few splashes of room-temperature water (not boiling).
- Whisk matcha until all lumps are gone.
- Pour into a mug or glass with ice.
TO MAKE YOUR LATTE:
- In a cup, sieve the ginger and turmeric.
- Add honey.
- Pour in milk and whisk, whisk, whisk! This will be your base.
- Heat the milky turmeric base in a pan or use a milk frother.
- Add the matcha shot to a mug. Top with the frothy, hot turmeric milk, and enjoy.
- Fill a separate glass with ice, and pour the turmeric base in.
- Top with the matcha shot, stir and enjoy.
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