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So Many Reasons to Fall In Love With Matcha Tea (Part 1)

matcha latte

If you’re the kind of person who wants to drink less coffee or struggles with the dreaded effect of caffeine spikes, you’ll want to keep reading. This month we had an opportunity to catch up Graham Fortgang, Co-Founder of Brooklyn’s Matcha Bar NYC. Graham shares the basics of matcha, his experience and tips on delicious preparations and health benefits.

Let’s start with the basics. What is Matcha?

Matcha is made from the finest green tea leaves found at the top of the plant, they are called Tencha, T-E-N-C-H-A. These leaves and steamed, air dried, and chopped into small pieces called Tencha. The tencha leaves are then stone ground in a traditional grinding mill into a fine powder. We take this powder and whisk one teaspoon into hot or cold water to create a uniform tea.

How is this different from regular green tea?

So rather than every other tea in the market where you’re steeping tea leaves, you’re actually ingesting the whole leaf. What this means is that you are getting around 10 times more antioxidants than one cup of green tea!

How did you learn about matcha?

For me, my introduction to matcha came from two very real-world experiences. I have terrible acid reflux. Coffee is acidic and is an issue for me. Number two, I have minor, heart palpitations. When I drink coffee my heart races. So I started looking into alternatives. I was juggling two jobs, going to school and looking for a way to not only be productive but to stay healthy.

I fell in love with matcha because it nurtured my mental abilities, giving me the fuel to succeed while also helping me maintain a healthful lifestyle. Consumption of matcha on a regular basis boosts your antioxidant intake. Gram for gram matcha is higher than spinach, Goji berries, broccoli and a lot of other superfoods.

It was kind of funny for me, when I went to Tokyo, if you walk the streets in Japan, every vending machine and café and even Starbucks serves matcha lattes, matcha shots, your Matcha this and your Matcha that. It’s everywhere. Here, in the US, it’s not easy to find.

You think a modern metropolis like New York and in particular Brooklyn, there would be an alternative for people looking for a healthier start.

Does it have caffeine? Can it replace coffee?

With matcha, you also get around 70 mg of caffeine. Coffee has around 80-90 mg. So the first thing we tell people is that the beauty of matcha lies in how it interacts with your body. Rather than 70 milligrams of caffeine hitting you all at once it is a more gradual release, what we call extended release. The caffeine binds to the antioxidant molecules in the green tea leaves and it gets released over three hours. The extended release caffeine results in what we believe is a more calming, focused energy.

I know a lot of people who are dependent on coffee to stay awake and to get energy throughout the day but it may not be the healthiest choice.

What we found is that people have really celebrated matcha for a really calm and focused energy. Matcha naturally contains something called L-Theanine – a natural calming agent. Funny enough, a lot of people who have issues with coffee take L-Theanine supplements, you can get them in any health food store.

We position the product as a healthier alternative to your energy drink, whether it’s a Red Bull, coffee or espresso. We believe that it’s a better approach to fueling your day.

A lot of people who come in every day say one of two things. Either, “I’ve been trying to get off coffee for forever,” or, “I can’t do coffee because it’s too harsh on my body.”  Many people feel kind of lost without coffee and we want them to know that there is an alternative that is going to improve your life.

For some people it’s the flavor and the smell of coffee that gets them going. Can you still get the overall wellness and get your fix when it comes to flavor and preparation of matcha?

What we’re known for is our innovative drink preparations. We have very detailed directions for people who are buying our teas online and for preparation at home. We’re able to offer unique takes on it. For example, you have matcha tea by itself traditionally prepared, it has a strong green tea flavor profile and umami finish that many Americans have never tasted before.

Imagine when you had your first espresso. It probably took a while to get used to it. We take the model of an espresso and we just replace that espresso shot with a matcha. You can do a matcha latte. Some of our best sellers are a vanilla almond and cinnamon hemp matcha latte. Our winter specialty is a matcha cocoa and a matcha chai. A lot of people say, “Wait. You have this healthy product with these unhealthy preparations,” and we say, “No, not whatsoever.”

For example, our vanilla almond. We’re using a raw vanilla powder and a steamed high quality almond milk. A non-dairy milk doesn’t weigh you down and a raw vanilla powder gives you taste without the sugar. Even in our matcha chai, we use an organic, single origin chai, low in sugar and defined by the awesome spice that everyone loves. We take a unique approach by pushing a lot of the non-dairy milks.

Our best-selling drink on the menu is our cinnamon hemp latte. You can get it hot or iced. It has unsweetened hemp milk and a freshly ground cinnamon with matcha.

It’s a great way for us to innovate flavors and attract customers who have reservations about trying a straight matcha. We also do that with our ice drinks. In the winter our bestselling drink is an iced watermelon matcha. It’s delicious.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of our interview with matcha expert Graham Fortgang.

About Matcha Bar NYC

MatchaBar was founded by two brothers, Max and Graham Fortgang. As native New Yorkers, entrepreneurs, and full-time students, the pair were full-blown caffeine addicts. Venturing to a tea retailer on the lower east side, the brothers were first introduced to matcha by chance. In the weeks and months that followed, they shared in a matcha ritual at Max’s East Village apartment, falling in love with the feeling it inspired within them.

As they delved deeper into matcha, discovering its different preparations and health benefits, Max & Graham became fixated on the idea of sharing this ancient tradition with the modern metropolis around them. Their vision is to uplift and motivate generations to come with the power of matcha.

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