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Green tea, leaves and all

Matcha hits North Park

Grind those leaves up, give the powder a vigorous whisking, and voilà — you have matcha.
Grind those leaves up, give the powder a vigorous whisking, and voilà — you have matcha.
Place

Holy Matcha

3118 University Avenue, San Diego

I’m an every day, any time of day coffee drinker, and as long as I am physically able to lift a cup of joe to my lips, that will be the case. Still, while I may not exactly be on the lookout for a coffee replacement, when I heard about the opening of Holy Matcha in North Park, curiosity drove me to give the green tea drink a chance.

Matcha differs from typical green tea in that the leaves have been ground into a powder. So rather than being brewed by steeping tea leaves in water, matcha powder gets stirred into water to make a drinkable solution, like Kool-Aid.

A dedicated matcha shop in North Park

Okay, not exactly like Kool-Aid. The ceremonial Japanese method of making matcha involves a vigorous whisking of the powder in a ceramic cup to create an airy, frothy drink. And since it includes the green tea, leaves and all, the caffeine levels are on par with coffee.

Somehow the pink-and-green motif sort of works

Holy Matcha owner Geraldine Ridaura has a natural intolerance to coffee, so she’s never been able to enjoy it. But matcha suits her just fine, so she’s delved into to the history and process. She’s put together a stylish shop, outfitted with an abundance of pink paint and furnishings to contrast the green beverage and leafy plants. It’s light fare and a variety of matcha drinks, each made using a traditional bamboo whisk, called a chasen.

Surprisingly, the premium matcha is the cheapest on the drink menu, at $4.50. Matcha tends to involve high-quality tea leaves, but there are several different grades of it, based on the leaves used to make it, whether stems were removed, etc. Premium is one of the higher grades of matcha available, and higher still is the ceremonial grade. Used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, it’s more finely ground and culled from younger tea leaves, producing a thicker, sweeter tea.

The ceremonial drink goes for 7 bucks at Holy Matcha — a little steep, even by my snooty specialty coffee standards. But knowing matcha would be competing against my fondness for pricey beans, I wanted to give the drink a fair shake.

It was served in a traditional ceramic tea bowl, or chawan — pink, of course — along with a green tea Pocky Stick. While it did taste of green tea, my first take on the bright green drink was that it’s much grassier than what I’m accustomed to sipping at sushi restaurants. However, as I continued to drink, my palate acclimated to the greener flavors and a much deeper, more compelling umami shone through. Between the smooth texture, mellow sweetness, and caffeine, by the time I made it to the bottom of that chawan, I could see myself getting hooked.

The cheaper, premium drink tasted similar, though slightly more bitter and not quite as smooth. I’d suggest ordering this grade as intended, mixed with lemonade ($5) or as a non-dairy latte with almond milk ($5.50). I came back to try an iced version of the latte, lightly sweetened with agave syrup. I’d recommend that for matcha first-timers wishing to ease into the unfamiliar, as a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous iced mocha latte.

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Grind those leaves up, give the powder a vigorous whisking, and voilà — you have matcha.
Grind those leaves up, give the powder a vigorous whisking, and voilà — you have matcha.
Place

Holy Matcha

3118 University Avenue, San Diego

I’m an every day, any time of day coffee drinker, and as long as I am physically able to lift a cup of joe to my lips, that will be the case. Still, while I may not exactly be on the lookout for a coffee replacement, when I heard about the opening of Holy Matcha in North Park, curiosity drove me to give the green tea drink a chance.

Matcha differs from typical green tea in that the leaves have been ground into a powder. So rather than being brewed by steeping tea leaves in water, matcha powder gets stirred into water to make a drinkable solution, like Kool-Aid.

A dedicated matcha shop in North Park

Okay, not exactly like Kool-Aid. The ceremonial Japanese method of making matcha involves a vigorous whisking of the powder in a ceramic cup to create an airy, frothy drink. And since it includes the green tea, leaves and all, the caffeine levels are on par with coffee.

Somehow the pink-and-green motif sort of works

Holy Matcha owner Geraldine Ridaura has a natural intolerance to coffee, so she’s never been able to enjoy it. But matcha suits her just fine, so she’s delved into to the history and process. She’s put together a stylish shop, outfitted with an abundance of pink paint and furnishings to contrast the green beverage and leafy plants. It’s light fare and a variety of matcha drinks, each made using a traditional bamboo whisk, called a chasen.

Surprisingly, the premium matcha is the cheapest on the drink menu, at $4.50. Matcha tends to involve high-quality tea leaves, but there are several different grades of it, based on the leaves used to make it, whether stems were removed, etc. Premium is one of the higher grades of matcha available, and higher still is the ceremonial grade. Used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, it’s more finely ground and culled from younger tea leaves, producing a thicker, sweeter tea.

The ceremonial drink goes for 7 bucks at Holy Matcha — a little steep, even by my snooty specialty coffee standards. But knowing matcha would be competing against my fondness for pricey beans, I wanted to give the drink a fair shake.

It was served in a traditional ceramic tea bowl, or chawan — pink, of course — along with a green tea Pocky Stick. While it did taste of green tea, my first take on the bright green drink was that it’s much grassier than what I’m accustomed to sipping at sushi restaurants. However, as I continued to drink, my palate acclimated to the greener flavors and a much deeper, more compelling umami shone through. Between the smooth texture, mellow sweetness, and caffeine, by the time I made it to the bottom of that chawan, I could see myself getting hooked.

The cheaper, premium drink tasted similar, though slightly more bitter and not quite as smooth. I’d suggest ordering this grade as intended, mixed with lemonade ($5) or as a non-dairy latte with almond milk ($5.50). I came back to try an iced version of the latte, lightly sweetened with agave syrup. I’d recommend that for matcha first-timers wishing to ease into the unfamiliar, as a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous iced mocha latte.

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Comments
1

The non-smoking, unemployed folks outside nearby will now say: "Hey buddy, have you got a matcha?" ;-) [rimshot!]

April 13, 2017

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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