Americans are obsessed with matcha tea - but we're drinking it all wrong

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Matcha is blowing up.

According to Google Trends, the search term "matcha" started to spike in January 2014 and hit an all-time high this May. Everyone's trying out the antioxidant-filled tea that's been a staple in Japan for centuries.

But, thanks to chains like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a lot of American matcha drinkers have no clue what real matcha actually tastes like.

matcha
Photo Credit: Business Insider

You see, matcha has a unique balance of vegetal (think seaweed or edamame), bitter, and malty flavors. To appeal to the American palate — which hasn't acquired a taste for matcha's bitter, seaweed-y side — many cafés use sugar-laced matcha powder and steamed milk to make the trendy matcha latte, in addition to other treacly concoctions.

And not only are we masking its flavors and jacking it with sugar, we're also drinking matcha differently than it's traditionally enjoyed in the East, as I learned one recent afternoon over a bowl (not cup) of the algae-colored tea with Kathy YL Chan, my matcha teacher.

She taught me the basics and then referred me to several tea spots where I could continue my matcha exploration.

Meet Kathy YL Chan, a New Yorker by way of Hawaii who has been drinking matcha for as long as she can remember. She's a tea writer, importer, and all-around expert.


Photo Credit: Business Insider

In addition to writing about matcha and its rich cultural history for websites like Eater and Condé Nast Traveler, Chan also has an eponymous line of matcha.

The first thing she taught me is that matcha should be sipped from a bowl, not a mug or to-go cup.


Photo Credit: Business Insider

Drinking matcha is a sensory experience: you cup the bowl with your hands, take it to your lips, and breath in all those luscious matcha fumes as you sip. The bowl acts as a sort of dome over your nose and mouth; you can't get that from a teacup. Here, Chan sifts the finely milled tea leaf powder into a ceramic bowl.

Matcha cafés may be popping up left and right, but Chan prefers to drink her matcha at home.


Photo Credit: Business Insider

She tells me that matcha is an all-day beverage in Asian households: "They drink it in the morning, afternoon, after dinner." People also use it during meditation to help focus. "Lots of times when I panic, I'll make matcha," she says. It has an adaptogenic quality: if you're frazzled, it calms you; if you're feeling sluggish, it energizes you.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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