There was a time when a foamy green latte would have seemed unusual unless it was made on St. Patrick’s Day. Today, such drinks are a sign that an operation is tapping into matcha—a hot trend in café culture and beyond.
Matcha—the powdered green tea from Japan—is turning up in everything from specialty beverages to baked goods, breakfast foods, condiments, and seasonings.
For the uninitiated, matcha is the ceremonial green tea used in traditional Japanese tea rituals. Carefully cultivated and curated, matcha tea leaves are stone-ground to a fine green powder that offers a distinctive flavor, appearance, and health halo.
“The primary attraction for many,” says Gordon Food Service® Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC, “is the significant amount of antioxidants, caffeine, and L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid. This combination is said to provide a slow release of caffeine for sustained energy and mental clarity.”
Based on his cross-country tasting tours, Ludwig notes that one thing is definitely clear: Matcha spells opportunity.
Get prep down to a tea
Matcha is produced in grades from top ceremonial to cheap pre-sweetened blends. Ludwig recommends using “a universal mid-grade” that’s affordable and suitable for a range of applications.
Experts say there’s a learning curve to preparation. Super-fine matcha powder can be challenging to blend using a traditional milk steamer. For best results, blend matcha powder into a paste for streamlined preparation and a smoother finished product. Matcha Café Wabi in New York steams prepared matcha paste with milk (regular, almond, or soy) and sweetener. MatchaBar, also in New York, dispenses matcha paste from a tap system for its menu of specialty beverages.
Tea-luxe beverage applications
Matcha may be steeped in tradition, but it’s versatile enough to update modern beverage menus.
Basic matcha. Whip matcha powder with hot water using a bamboo whisk called a chasen to produce a brilliant green, slightly creamy, sweet-tasting cuppa with a soft vegetal finish.
“When matcha is made well, it is sweet, creamy and lightly frothy, with round, fresh, vegetal flavor and an almost white-chocolate presence,” says Tony Tellin, Head Teamaker at Portland, Oregon-based Steven Smith Tea.
Specialty beverages. Tellin concedes that customers who prefer traditional matcha make up a small percentage of sales, even at specialty tea shops. The real opportunity is with barista-style beverages—lattes, cortados, frappes, iced teas, cocktails, and even matcha hot chocolate.
Matcha/juice-blend iced teas. Infuse fresh-squeezed juice—especially watermelon, cucumber, apple, and ginger—with prepared matcha for light and refreshing signature iced teas.
Matcha smoothies. Blend matcha powder with chilled or frozen yogurt and/or fresh fruit.
Matcha is more than just a liquid asset; it’s a solid opportunity to add flavor everywhere.
Breakfast bowls. Mix matcha into Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, berries, and granola.
Baked goods. Incorporate matcha into doughnuts, muffins, biscotti, macaroons, and other desserts. Matcha pairs especially well with lemon, chocolate, and ginger.
Savory seasonings. Add matcha powder to a finishing-salt blend that can top everything from popcorn to seafood, Ludwig advises.
Condiments. Blend matcha with yogurt, mayo, mustard, and house dressings.
Matcha on menus
- Matcha Hot Chocolate. Matcha latte with chocolate sauce—ChaiLait, New York.
- Chailait Arnold Palmer. A shot of matcha iced tea with lemon syrup, topped with sparkling water—ChaiLait, New York.
- Matcha Green Tea Blast Smoothie. Jamba Juice, multiple locations.
- Matcha Chicken Wrap. Matcha blended with yogurt on a chicken wrap at Miro Tea, Seattle.
More matcha for you
Ask your Customer Development Specialist about our Kitchen-Tested Recipes using matcha, and special-ordering Matcha Green Tea Powder.