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Mighty Matcha

Matcha tea is the new star café beverage

America’s latest caffeine fixation is matcha, a finely powdered form of premium green tea that reportedly possesses stress-reducing, immune-boosting health benefits. This new kid on the wellness beverage block is actually quite old – the Japanese have been consuming it for centuries as part of the traditional (and time-consuming) chanoyu tea ceremony. Now, New Yorkers are enjoying a truncated version at a new crop of specialty cafés throughout the city.

020415-3Chalait: Newly opened Chalait (pronounced like "chalet") in the West Village sources its matcha from Uji, one of Japan's oldest and most celebrated tea-growing regions. Proprietors Michelle Gardner and Ramon Puyane offer customers both a standard and premium version of the powder, which can be whisked with water or served in milk-based drinks such as the matcha latte or matcha cortado. (Tins of the powder are available for purchase for those who’d rather enjoy it at home in their pajamas. )Though matcha is Chalait’s clear star, patrons can also enjoy the café’s robust selection of loose-leaf teas and Counter Culture Coffee.

020415-2Matcha Bar: Touted as New York’s first specialty matcha café, MatchaBar opened in Williamsburg last September to much fanfare. Owners (and brothers) Max and Graham Fortgang import their ceremonial-grade matcha directly from the fifth-generation family farm in Nishio, Japan where the duo first learned to prepare the drink. The Fortgangs sell the powder by the tin and serve it in hot and iced teas, matcha lattes, and the Matchaccino, a "cappuccino" made with almond milk and matcha and vanilla powders. Additionally, they sell foods by Watty & Meg that cleverly use the tea as an aromatic ingredient, including “matchamole” – matcha-enchanced guacamole – and cupcakes with matcha frosting.

020415-1Matcha Café Wabi: Before Matcha Café Wabi opened its doors in a cozy space in the East Village last December, neighbors were offered a sneak preview to familiarize the community with matcha and sencha drinks, the latter of which are made from the whole, un-powdered leaves of the tea plant. In addition to the vibrant green tea, the shop also serves pour-over coffees from 95 RPM Coffee Roasters and gluten-free red bean paste and green tea pastries. The café’s name was inspired by the classic Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the aesthetic beauty of imperfect, incomplete, and modest or humble things.