After a week spent sipping iced matcha drinks around Vancouver, I appreciate the versatility of this vibrant green tea powder. It morphs to fit with flavors ranging from fruity to floral while adding creaminess, grassiness and sweetness.
Matcha is made from the newest spring buds. The tea leaves are shade grown for several weeks to a month before harvest, which increases chlorophyll production and results in a bright emerald color. For most types of tea, leaves are rolled, shaped and dried. But to produce matcha, they’re laid flat to dry, stripped of their stems and leaves, and then ground in a slow-turning stone mill to create a smooth powder. Matcha’s caffeine content is higher than other greens teas — about the same as black tea but less than coffee. It’s typically prepared by adding hot water and whisking into a frothy texture.
For iced matcha drinks, typically priced between $5.50 and $6.50, the most common accompaniment is strawberry syrup and dairy or nondairy milk. The berry flavor melds well with the tea and layering these vibrant liquids creates a stunning drink. River Maiden (5301 Mill Plain Blvd.), Kafiex Roasters (100 Parkway Place and 720 Esther St.), Thatcher’s Coffee (104 Grand Blvd., Suite 100), and Short and Sweet (1001 Main St.) offer excellent takes on this summery libation. For example, River Maiden’s Boba Fett has freshly whisked Mizuba matcha with Oatly oat milk, black tapioca pearls and a seasonal housemade jammy syrup (currently strawberry rhubarb).
Botanicals also go well with this frothy tea powder. The menu at Relevant Coffee (1703 Main St.) includes a matcha drink made with Jack Rudy tonic syrup. This cocktail-focused quinine and botanical-laced base lifts and twists the matcha in interesting ways. In line with its cocktail-like nature, Relevant serves its matcha tonic in a rocks glass over ice. To maximize the tea flavor and boost the sweetness, add a splash of housemade simple syrup with jasmine tea and pea flower.
The Marianne at Dandelion Teahouse and Apothecary (109 W. Seventh St.) also lends the taste of wild fields to matcha by adding lavender honey and oat milk to the tea powder. The creaminess of oat milk goes well with matcha. I often order this dairy-free milk in strawberry matcha drinks.
Another interesting variation is adding nuttiness. Pistachio matcha at Gold Cup Coffee (10805 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.) in Orchards is made with organic syrup from Holy Kakow out of Portland which adds a subtle pistachio flavor.
Compass Coffee (817 Washington St.) will offer a coconut matcha this summer, as well as a lemonade add-on that adds a bright citrus pucker to matcha and goes well with cold-brew coffee.