My first proper introduction to matcha was a tea ceremony held in Beachwood Canyon back in 2019. A friend invited me to join the small gathering led by Lisa Müeller, a professional-chef-turned-wellness-specialist visiting from France. Going into the ceremony, all I knew was that matcha was green. Müeller opened my eyes to the delightful world of matcha and I walked away that morning with a desire to learn more. I was also inspired to integrate a new ritual into my morning routine.
Matcha is made from green tea leaves that have been ground into fine powder. Matcha is distinctive for its bright green hue, indicative of a higher chlorophyll content because the tea bushes are grown under shade. The result is a more nutritious tea and, given you consume all of it (unlike brewing tea leaves), you reap greater health benefits. Matcha has a high level of the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate, touted for its cancer-fighting effects. Plus, it has all of the other positives attached to green tea, which include preventing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Another perk? Los Angeles-based holistic nutritionist Christina Shadle says, “Swapping matcha for coffee in the morning could help decrease your body’s anxiety response and reduce symptoms of caffeine overstimulation thanks to L-theanine—a calming amino acid found in green tea leaves—while still giving you enough of a caffeine boost to get going in the morning.”
In her book Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit, LA-based wellness expert, author, and chef Candice Kumai shares, “A few years ago, I cut excess sugar out of my diet and swapped coffee for matcha, and it has done wonders for my life. I feel less jittery and anxious, my mind feels clear, and I am more able to focus on the tasks at hand.”
I personally have not given up coffee altogether, but I do opt for matcha instead a few mornings a week and sometimes I use it as an afternoon pick-me-up. Preparing a matcha has a meditative quality, making it a great tool for mindfulness. According to Müeller, “Matcha means ‘me time,’ connecting with myself first thing in the morning. It’s the moment I can control and create without distraction before opening the doors and my heart to the ‘real life.’”
All you need to create your own matcha ritual at home is quality matcha, a traditional matcha bowl (or a pretty bowl of your choosing), a bamboo whisk, hot water, and milk (ideally non-dairy). The quality of matcha powder comes down to the source, whether you are making it at home or ordering a matcha latte from Matcha Kone. If you want the best matcha, it should come from Japan, where its centuries-long traditions originated. The harvesting process is a meticulous art as much as the tea ritual itself. Leaves are picked, destemmed, and deveined by hand, which is why matcha tends to be more expensive than other green teas. But a little goes a long way and you can taste the difference in processed powders that do not follow the Japanese tradition.
Kumai says, “I am so passionate about matcha from my mom’s homeland island of Kyushu in Japan. There’s a place called Kagoshima that has delicious organic matcha from the motherland!”
Kumai has a dedicated online store, The Matcha Shoppe (thematchashoppe.com), where you can purchase premium Japanese matcha, beautiful bowls, bamboo whisks, and tea scoopers. The site also has a large collection of recipes she developed for matcha lattes, smoothies, cookies, pancakes, avocado toast, and more tasty ways to consume matcha beyond the bowl.
Since Müeller’s matcha line is only available in Europe currently, she turned me on to the U.S. brand Matcha Kari (matcha.com) that sources high-quality matcha working closely with growers in Uji City near Kyoto. They carry a range of price points, some better suited to new drinkers developing their matcha palate while some are high-end ceremonial grade. Matcha Kari also sells all of the tools needed to start your own matcha ritual.