Esquire: Thanks to Drake (and Brooklyn), High-Grade Matcha Is Going Mainstream

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Mariel Pica, TE '16G, Project Manager, MatchaBar LLC

Matcha just might replace your daily coffee. MatchaBar, which opened the U.S.'s first specialty matcha cafe in Brooklyn in 2014, announced Wednesday that it will be offering its "Better Energy" bottles nationwide at Whole Foods starting in September. "For us, this is a natural evolution," said CEO Graham Fortgang, who co-founded MatchaBar with his brother Max. "It's very clear that they're at the forefront of the natural food and beverage space." MatchaBar's bottles will be the first ceremonial grade matcha approved by Whole Foods nationally.

 

On top of that, the brand just finished a Series A round of financing, and Drake is one of its new investors. Fortgang, who previously worked in the music industry, felt the rapper's hardworking lifestyle jibbed well with MatchaBar's "Better Energy" message. "Max and I are really thrilled about Drake's involvement, inspired by his hustle and what he's done in the music world," he said. "As matcha has evolved from a novelty to a fad to a trend, we always knew that it would really emerge as a staple in the energy category. So to have someone like him invest in our brand, we're really humbled by his decision to get behind our 'Better Energy' platform."

 

Wellness drink, energy drink, flavorful refresher—Fortgang believes matcha has the power to provide it all. Not convinced? Read on for his Matcha 101 lesson.

 

Matcha 101

 

Matcha starts with powder.

Matcha is shade-grown, high-quality green tea leaves, ground into a fine powder—not rocket science. On a real top-line level, all it is is powdered green tea. You take that powder, you whisk it into water, and you make a tea, a matcha.

 

It has 3 ingredients that make it good for you.

In terms of the basics, there's three main things that make matcha good for you. You have antioxidants, a lot of them. And the second thing is caffeine. There's anywhere from about 70 to 80 milligrams of caffeine per bottle that we serve or per cup that we sell at the cafe, and this is similar to about a shot of espresso. The third thing is L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid found in all sorts of teas, but with matcha it's a very high level. L-theanine is a natural calming agent. So essentially, as you are getting jazzed up by the energy, the L-theanine is working to keep you calm and alert.

 

Matcha caffeine works differently than a shot of espresso.

The difference is with matcha, it's a sustained energy. It's actually released over a three- to four-hour period, rather than hitting you all at once. It's not necessarily less caffeine, it's how it interacts with your body. We call that sustained energy.

 

Switch out your daily coffee with matcha.

We always say, begin your matcha journey by replacing your daily coffee, espresso, or energy drink intake with a matcha. Very simply, if you walk into MatchaBar, and you spent your entire life getting a skim espresso latte, you can come in and get a skim matcha latte. What we've found is that users are immediately experiencing not only a better energy, but an overall better mood and better mindset. We always joke, whether you're able to fit in that extra yoga you always miss or you just yell at your interns less, our hope is that this product puts you in a better place to succeed and to be your best self.

 

Not all matcha is created equal.

With matcha, there's a cooking grade, a culinary grade. Now a lot of this cooking grade matcha is sold by all sorts of purveyors as a matcha, and it's hard for us to police other brands from selling low-quality matcha. That's why we're so proud that we use ceremonial grade matcha. What that title denotes is that it's of a quality to be used in the Japanese tea ceremony; essentially it should be used to consume as a tea rather than to cook with, like with matcha pastries. There's as little as half the caffeine in other kinds of matcha.

 

Making matcha on the go? All you need is a bottle.

If you have matcha powder, and you're on the go, you can use what we call the "quick fix" solution: get a full teaspoon—two grams—of matcha into a bottle and shake it up until you see that the powder is mixed in and no longer suspended, and you see a nice little layer of froth.

 

Mariel Pica, TE '16 Graduate

Mariel Pica, TE '16G - Project Manager, MatchaBar LLC