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I Ditched Coffee For Matcha And I’m (Probably) Never Going Back

Culture
Photo by Sydney Gore

A coffee addict meets her match(a)

If there's one thing in the world that I absolutely can't stand, it's when people lecture me about drinking too much coffee. But as a latte addict, who averages at four cups per day and would gladly hook herself up to a French Roast IV, I tend to get this lecture a lot.

And yet, my unwavering devotion to coffee began to crack this summer when I traveled to Japan and discovered matcha, a caffeinated drink made from whisking finely-milled green tea leaves into water. While on my trip to the Kyoto region—home to one of the main tea-growing areas in Japan—matcha became a regular part of my day, from matcha lattes with breakfast to the matcha ice cream served on the plane over. Once back in New York City, I couldn't help but notice that matcha has become a full-on craze, and my interest in the drink became borderline obsessive.

The caffeine content in matcha varies greatly, but in the highest quality versions of the tea, it comes in at around 70 milligrams per cup as compared with coffee's approximately 150 to 200 milligrams and green tea's 35 to 70 milligrams. The reason matcha's caffeine count differs from regular green tea, which involves steeping tea leaves and then removing them from the water, is because matcha drinkers consume the entire leaf, giving them not only a slightly higher dose of caffeine but also up to 10 times the antioxidants. Win!

Chef and certified tea expert Melanie Franks explained to me that the caffeine molecules in matcha are also more complex than those of coffee, meaning they stay in your system longer. Translation? Matcha drinkers get all the buzz associated with coffee, minus the crash.

"The coffee caffeine cycle can be a little crazy; you’re either smoking or eating or you need some more coffee or you need a chocolate," Franks said. "[With matcha], that will be gone and you’ll have a little more peace in your life."

Part of this is because matcha contains high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid with calming benefits that's often used in natural anti-anxiety supplements. It's also the main reason Matthew Morton and Conrad Sandelman, who together founded NYC cult matcha bar Cha Cha Matcha, swear by the stuff. 

"The kind of buzz [matcha] gives you is this focused energy," Sandelman explained to me recently. "With coffee, sometimes you get so jittery that you actually get unfocused."

It's not surprising then that the vibrant green powder has long been used by Zen Buddhists during meditation.

But enough talk about the purported benefits of matcha—none of these words mean anything if the drink doesn't deliver in reality, particularly for a coffee addict like me. So I decided to put the centuries-old tea to the test: For the next week, anytime I'd usually grab a coffee, I vowed to reach for matcha instead.

To be honest, I secretly hoped this challenge would double as a way to prove to coffee-shamers that my standard iced latte has no rival. I thought I'd use this experiment to shut down holier-than-thou tea enthusiasts—I never expected to become one in the process.

Click through the slideshow below to read how it all went down, plus get some advice on buying, making, and drinking matcha from all the best experts in town.

Matcha Jasmine Latte at Bibble & Sip, 53 W 51st Street.

Day 1
I go out of my way to pick up a hot jasmine matcha latte in 90-degree weather while battling the end of a bad cold. If that's not dedication, I don't know what is. Though delicious, the drink is pre-sweetened and mostly milk, so it isn't surprising that it doesn't have much of an effect on my energy levels. I give myself an A for effort and vow to order the real deal tomorrow.

Marissa Lippert, nutritionist and owner of NYC's Nourish Kitchen + Table
On choosing where to go:
 "Make sure you’re getting [the matcha] from a place that you trust. Not necessarily a big chain, because that’s not going to be a quality matcha—well, it may be, but I doubt it."
On avoiding misconceptions: "Matcha supposedly has weight loss benefits, but it’s a tea. You’re not going to lose 15 pounds by drinking matcha."

Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, and so much more

Every weekend, we bring you #SOUNDCHECK—your destination for the best of the best new music that hit the web over the course of the week. Because you should always be prepared when someone passes you that AUX cord. This week's round features 21 of our favorite emerging and established artists including Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, Tacocat, and so many more. Turn up, tune in, and tune out.

"Please Me" - Cardi B and Bruno Mars
"Please Me" will pair perfectly with all of the Valentine's Day candy you just bought on clearance. Trust me, there couldn't be a more perfect time to listen to this ultra-'90s R&B track.

Head Above Water - Avril Lavigne
I'm honestly jealous of whomever Avril is singing about on "Goddess."

Tacocat - Grains of Salt [OFFICIAL VIDEO] www.youtube.com

"Grains of Salt" - Tacocat
When I realized Tacocat was back, I literally turned around at my desk and yelled. It's a miracle.

"Can I Talk" - Caleb Steph
Caleb Steph's debut single proves that he's ready for the spotlight.

Betty - Betty Who
"You better recognize/ That you're wasting all my time" from "The One" is my new favorite response to every "photographer" on Tinder.

"Butterfly" - Kehlani
The only thing more beautiful than this cover art is Kehlani's voice.

SASAMI - Free (feat. Devendra Banhart) (Official Video) www.youtube.com

"Free" - SASAMI feat. Devendra Banhart
I would have never predicted a SASAMI and Devendra Banhart collaboration, but I am 100 percent not complaining.

Rex Orange County - New House www.youtube.com

"New House" - Rex Orange County
Alex O'Connor never fails to impress me with his soulful bedroom pop, and "New House" is no exception.

YouTube www.youtube.com

"Cuz I Love You" - Lizzo
Distorted guitar paired with Lizzo's belting vocals? Chills, literally. She did that!

"Heads Gonna Roll" - Jenny Lewis
Like if Stevie Nicks' voice met Father John Misty's lyrics.

"Get Well" - Donna Missal
Donna Missal tells me everything I needed to hear about breakups on "Get Well."

"Patient" - Monica Martin
Sultry and sweet.

"Whorey Heart" - TeaMarr
TeaMarrr's bouncy new song is an excellent roast of the kind of fuckboi we all know and hate.

"Ice Me Out (Remix)" - Kash Doll
Kash Doll shows that she knows her way around a beat on "Ice Me Out."

"Lips of Lips" - Tiffany Young
Definitely catch me driving around with my windows down this summer blaring "Lips on Lips."