It wasn’t long ago that matcha — finely ground powder made from green-tea leaves — seemed to be a foreign, ancient delicacy. The traditional preparation process (it’s called a tea ceremony for a reason) is slow and meditative: You need a whisk and time to unlock matcha’s calm energy and antioxidant properties. But in the name of “wellness,” Americans have now started to adapt the ingredient beyond recognition, essentially reducing it to the level of pumpkin spice. Matcha has hit its saturation point, and it’s time to dial it back.
We should’ve seen this coming, as an influx of cafés with strikingly similar names — Chalait, Cha Cha Matcha, MatchaBar, Matcha Cafe Wabi — have all opened within the past year or two in New York. Then matcha started sneaking its way into frozen yogurt, and babka, and labneh, and even beauty products. Now Panatea, one of the most respected matcha purveyors, has unleashed instant-matcha packets, which require no whisk and dissolve into water, just like Crystal Light.
The quality of the tea at Cha Cha Matcha (the newest, and most popular, of the cafés) is poor, but that doesn’t matter: The entire place is built to be Instagram bait, and you can get pink-lemonade soft-serve with a shot of matcha drizzled on top! Or a matcha dough’ssant — a Cronut knockoff! That’s the other problem: We’ve moved so far away from what matcha actually tastes like — vegetal, slightly bitter — that it basically serves the purpose of green food coloring. Here’s a sampling of what’s on the market right now:
• Matcha beer.
• This matcha body scrub, which promises to “leave you with bitchin’ skin.”
• Matchia — matcha + chia pudding.
• Matcha labneh.
• Vegan chocolate-matcha babka.
• Matcha-sweet-potato muffins.
• Matcha Snakaroons — coconut macaroons “with a green-tea zing.”
• A green-tea latte at Starbucks that contains powdered sugar. (Starbucks also added a matcha flavor to its Via line of instant drinks.)
• A matcha face mask that claims to “fight damaging free radicals.”
• Bottled matcha iced tea.
• Matcha popsicles.
• A matcha croissant stuffed with strawberry sorbet.
• Matcha milk bath that’s “handmade” in Brooklyn.
• While the Cannibal in Los Angeles has retired its (unpopular) matcha-chicken-liver mousse, it does now serve a matcha cinnamon bun.
• A matcha chocolate bar that also contains spirulina.
• Matcha inside green juice.
• Trader Joe’s baking mix.
• A matcha crème brûlée doughnut.
• Matcha waffles.
• Matcha beignets at Dominique Ansel Kitchen.
• Matcha-custard pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds (which is indeed excellent).
• Matcha noodles at Mission Chinese Food.
• Vegan matcha ice cream made with cashews, coconut, and cocoa butter.
• Moon Juice’s “matcha pearl” with “alkaline, mineralized, oxygenated” water, coconut, lucuma, pearl powder, vanilla, sesame butter, coconut nectar, and pink salt.
That’s not to say that some of these gonzo matcha items aren’t delicious and that the ingredient should only be enjoyed in its purest, highbrow form. (Matcha Kit-Kats — great!). It’s nice that it’s more widely available and that people are now at least vaguely aware of its existence. But it’s time, now, to Make Matcha Great Again.