From coffee shops to juice bars, matcha is popping up on more and more menus lately. But what is it and why should you give it a try? Originating in China and Japan, matcha is one of the most antioxidant rich teas in the world. Its high chlorophyll content gives it a beautifully potent emerald green color.
The frothy liquid is made from finely ground tea leaves – rendered into powdered form then whisked into hot water or milk. Unlike a traditional cup of tea where you're just drinking the steeped liquid remains from the tea leaves, with matcha you're essentially consuming the whole ground tea leaf, so you end up getting more of the nutritional benefits. Due to the chlorophyll, the taste is wonderfully herbaceous, mild and pleasant.
In addition to antioxidants, other health benefits include a soothing calmness (in fact, when you take the first sip you can’t help but inhale and exhale a little deeper, and feel a sense of renewal and relaxation), it helps keep your heart healthy, detoxifies, increases focus and concentration, and, yes, it's caffeinated so you get an energy boost from drinking it.
You might see on some menus that "ceremonial grade" matcha is used. That means that particular type of matcha was specifically crafted to be mixed in with hot water. Culinary grade matcha, on the other hand, is perfect for lattes and smoothies. Both grades are high quality, but the flavors are slightly different. You can taste the difference in the quality of matcha even when mixed with something like steamed almond milk. The matcha used at the Bluestone Lane and Konditori cafes really stand out for the herbaceous tasting notes.
Give it a try: Prices range from $4-$6.
Straight no milk
Elixr Coffee Roasters
If you want to try the pure matcha experience, grab a warm cup here. Baristas prepare cups to order, mixing matcha and hot water using a traditional Japanese whisk and bowl, and the tea is served in a nice wide-rimmed cup. | 207 S. Sydenham St. elixrcoffee.com
The Tea Leaf, Reading Terminal Market
This super cozy stall's shelves are packed with beautiful canisters of teas from around the world. The no-fuss cup of matcha is quickly prepared and placed in a to-go cup. If you want a caffeine pick me up after lunch but don't want the high and low of a cup of coffee, this is a great substitute. | Arch St & N. 12th Street. readingterminalmarket.org
Bluestone Lane Cafe
This Australian-inspired cafe serves up ceremonial grade matcha with almond milk as part of its wellness menu. The ratio of milk to matcha is nice, you really get a strong taste of the matcha's herbaceous quality. Pair it with their signature avocado toast. | 1701 Locust St. & 1 S. Penn Square bluestonelaneny.com
A newcomer to Philly, this Swedish espresso bar that originated in Brooklyn also offers up a well-made matcha latte. Sipping a warm cup is super soothing and comforting, and the cozy vibes of the miniature coffee shop add to a nice experience. | 40 S. 17th St. konditori.com
Green Street Cafe
This local roaster has plenty of steeped tea and hand-poured coffee options on its menu, but it also offers up the most beautiful and Instagram-worthy cup of matcha. The emerald latte has been on the menu for awhile, the rest of the city finally caught up. | 1101 Spruce Street. greenstreetcoffee.com
Mixed in-house and sold in a 16-oz bottle. Grab one of their ceremonial grade almond matcha lattes to go from their cold case. Super tasty and addictive! | 120 S. 13th St. doubleknotphilly.com
Philadelphia Juice Bar at DiBruno Bros.
An organic, protein-rich "homestyle" mix of cashew milk, matcha, alkaline water, dates, vanilla bean and Celtic sea salt. They recommend it as a breakfast substitute or as a healthy dessert option. | 1730 Chestnut St. dibruno.com