Matcha Makes Me Love Myself

by Taylor Mascetta

My life changed forever on June 14, 2018. 

I was trapped inside an SUV for nearly twelve hours as my family and I drove down to North Carolina for the New Balance Nationals Track and Field Championships. Needless to say, I was super excited to race with my friends and get the complimentary swag bag. However, I desperately needed caffeine about midway through the trip,  and the car was growing crankier and crankier as we drove through the endless highways of Virginia. 

Naturally, we took a pit stop at Starbucks. I immediately entered a state of panic. I was 16 at the time, so I only ordered Frappuchinos (embarrassing, I know). I couldn’t risk food poisoning the night before the big race, and teenage me refused to drink coffee after 5 p.m., so I continued to scour the menu. The only viable option seemed to be the Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte. I figured, why not, I’ve had green tea before, and it won’t have me bouncing off the walls at 1 a.m.

I took the first sip. At first, I recoiled. I thought to myself, “WTF is this?” It tasted off-putting, unnatural. But then, an euphoric sensation overwhelmed my entire being. The sweetness hit my tongue as my eyes widened in disbelief. I think I saw God. I finished the drink before we even stepped foot back into the car. I looked at my mom in bewilderment. “Mom,” I said, my mouth dropped open. “That was the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.” 

And indeed it was. Ever since that fateful day, I’ve been addicted. It’s still one of my go-to Starbucks orders. But now, I’ve learned how to make it myself. I spend an obscene amount of money on matcha powder for at-home lattes. I also know a plethora of matcha cafés across the city. Once, I told my teammates that matcha made me love myself. To that, they laughed in my face. But it’s true. Nothing excites me more than matcha, and the entire world should feel the same way. 

You may be wondering, what is matcha, besides being the greatest substance on this planet? Basically, matcha consists of finely-ground green tea leaves which originate from East Asia. Matcha dates back over one thousand years during the Song Dynasty in China, where Zen Buddhists cultivated green tea plants under shaded conditions. Matcha eventually made its way to Japan and rose in popularity fairly quickly. A Zen student named Murata Juko developed a Japanese tea ceremony, often called the “Chado” (The Way of Tea), for making matcha green tea. During the ceremony, participants whisked the matcha powder with boiling water in a low, shallow bowl before drinking it during a reverent ceremony. 

Preparing matcha the traditional way is super easy. All you have to do is take a teaspoon or so of matcha powder and dissolve it in about a tablespoon of hot water. You can do this with a traditional matcha whisk, but a milk foamer works just fine. After this step is done, the possibilities are endless – you can pour it into more hot water for traditional green tea or throw it in with preferred milk and ice for a green tea latte that rivals Starbucks’.

Now, I know what you’re all wondering – how does it taste? In my opinion, matcha does taste like a sweeter, creamier version of green tea. Straight matcha, however, can taste a little bitter. People sometimes equate that taste to grass. To them, I say, you are uneducated. You can easily sweeten up matcha with honey, sugar, or my personal favorite, agave nectar. To some, matcha is best left alone, and I believe that fans of black coffee would prefer its taste unsweetened. Matcha also pairs really well with different kinds of milk and creamers. In my opinion, almond milk pairs with matcha the best.

If you’re like me and have a heavy reliance on caffeine to function, matcha is a healthier alternative over coffee. For starters, matcha WAKES YOU UP, but not in the jittery way you would expect. With coffee, taking a sip will result in caffeine immediately hitting your system and providing a quick boost in energy. While this does sound convenient, the crash comes fast. Your energy decreases steadily over time, leading to extreme tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. On the other hand, matcha slowly releases caffeine into your system with help from a rare amino acid called L-theanine. This slow-release prevents any sort of jitters or shakiness, along with keeping you awake for a longer period of time. Even better, you can barely feel the crash – a cup of matcha will keep you going all day long!

Matcha also has all sorts of additional health benefits. Regular green tea naturally has a high level of cancer-fighting antioxidants called “catechins,” but when the tea leaves are steeped, most of the antioxidants are lost. On the other hand, matcha is the powdered version of these leaves, so you consume the entire leaf and get ALL of the antioxidants! Matcha also curbs hunger, clears your skin, and improves oral hygiene. WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK FOR?

So go ahead! Drink matcha. I’ll gladly join you. Matcha will make you love yourself. 

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