I know I love to write a lot of personal stories here on The Chill Times, but this one is about as personal as it gets. I’m gonna be straight up with you right now guys: I pitched this story so I could justify my seemingly never-ending craving for matcha. It’s become a huge part of my everyday life recently and I can’t seem to quit it. In fact, I don’t want to quit it, I actually really, really love it. I think it’s best to be honest about my intentions, right?
If you’re new to matcha (ah, I remember the days), think of it as extra strength green tea. It’s got all the health benefits you’d get from traditional green tea, like antioxidants, cancer-fighting catechin ECGC, and heart disease prevention, but it’s even stronger since you’re not taking the nutrient-dense leaf out of the water as you would with a traditional green tea (you’re actually drinking the entire leaf, as matcha powder is really just ground-up tea leaves). Matcha is also great if you’re looking for more of a natural energy boost than the jolt of energy you’d get from coffee.
If you’re not into matcha as much as I am, I get it. I would say it’s an acquired taste, a bit “earthy” as I like to tell my friends. Sometimes it can be a bit bitter, too, which isn’t ideal. However, good matcha has a bit of sweetness to it—minimal added sugar necessary. It’s that good matcha, the one that doesn’t necessitate a ton of sugar, doesn’t feel gritty or chalky, and is oh-so-creamy down to the very last drop, that inspired this latest expedition of mine. So whether you’re new on the scene, a matcha skeptic, or just as passionate as I am about bright, green beverages, there’s something here for you.
Now that that’s all out of the way, let me present to you: my findings.
Brooklyn Ball Factory
Nestled inconspicuously on East Williamsburg’s Montrose Avenue sits what is perhaps my favorite iced matcha latte. It makes sense considering Brooklyn Ball Factory is Japanese, so of course, they would offer some serious matcha. They use Ayame matcha, a culinary-grade matcha that comes straight from Uji, Kyoto, Japan (the world’s matcha capital) and is so naturally smooth and delicious that come to think of it, I can’t recall the barista ever adding even the tiniest drop of simple syrup to any of my drinks (I have a major sweet tooth so I’m guilty of adding this most of the time if given the option). Bonus: their food menu is stacked with wonderfully authentic dishes like bento boxes and Japanese curry. Bonus, bonus: they’ve got of the cutest and sunniest outdoor roofs I’ve seen in ages.
Bibble and Sip
Heading more towards Midtown West we have Bibble and Sip. This adorable bakery (and I do mean adorable—some of their pastries have tiny little faces on them) will satisfy every matcha craving you have and even the ones you didn’t know you had. Bibble and Sip use an extremely high-grade matcha from Japan that’s made specifically for them, how cool is that? Before I visited this spot, I’d never heard of lavender matcha, but now that I’ve been, I can’t possibly forget. Adding flavor to matcha, like this calming, sweet lavender, deepens and broadens the flavor, but doesn’t masks it. Pair it with one of their famous matcha creme puffs, and you won’t regret this experience. Oh, and heads up, the whole place is alpaca themed. So get ready to take hundreds of photos for the ‘gram.
Tucked into Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, which is trendy as it is cozy, is Regular Visitors, “an amalgamation of the main street coffee shop, newsstand, stationer, pharmacy, and housewares store.” Aside from the fact that this place is practically perfect, it also has fantastic matcha lattes on the menu. They are proud suppliers of Kettl matcha, a company that purchases new teas weekly from farms in Uji and Yame, Japan. They offer eight different types of matcha, with RV currently using the Kaori blend, known for its subtle sweetness. The super smooth and finely ground matcha is accented nicely with their vast selection of milk. Their matcha is so good that my first-time substitution of oat milk into my iced matcha latte did not make it less creamy (as sometimes happens with almond milk), but in fact may have made it even better? Perhaps it’s the slight sweetness in oat milk, or perhaps it’s the sorcery at work in the always pristine and incredibly well-lit Regular Visitors.
It’s no surprise that the San Francisco-based bubble tea chain Boba Guys made its debut across NYC to widespread acclaim. They take their ingredients incredible seriously. Andrew Chau, one of the founders of Boba Guys, told me that their matcha is, “high-end premium organic grade.” It’s directly sourced from well, themselves! They own Tea People, a tea company that like Boba Guys, focuses on sourcing the highest quality tea in, this case, you guessed it, directly from Uji, Japan. So not only do they use authentic Japanese matcha, but everything, even the milk used in their milk teas, is of the highest possible quality (local and organic, if you were wondering). In fact, they’ve said that the three most important words that go into shaping their business are, “quality, passion, and transparency,” which just about sums every item on the menu, especially the matcha. So if you’re looking for more out of your usual matcha latte, try adding some boba. (Or some “Grade A balls,” as they like to say.) They’ve got a strawberry matcha latte that’s out of this world.
Cha Cha Matcha
What matcha-themed list would be complete without the mention of the famous Cha Cha Matcha? As seen on social media, Cha Cha Matcha is a beautifully curated spot originally located in Nolita—they now have a location in Nomad and plans to continue expanding—that has pretty much become the matcha spot since it opened just two years ago. Their matcha is fantastic, straight from a supplier in Uji, Japan (there seems to be a trend here!) and really should not be overlooked, but more recently, some of their treats have been catching my eye. Their matcha soft-serve, which comes in a selection of seasonal flavors, will surely (and happily) transition from being a summer indulgence to a year-round delight. Oh, and their matcha banana bread? Woah. That’s all I’m gonna say. In short, come to Cha Cha Matcha for the matcha, whatever form you may choose it in, but stay for the perfect Instagram shot. Neither will disappoint you.
Maman, which means “mother” in French, is just about as cozy and familial as it gets. Throughout all their NYC locations (and Toronto, too!), they manage to keep the atmosphere, as well as the menu, consistently fantastic. This, of course, includes their matcha latte. I’ve been here before to munch (great tuna salad, even greater cookies) but I hadn’t tried their matcha until it was recommended to me by our e-comm coordinator (and one of my BFFs) Allegra Thomas. This might be one of the creamiest matcha lattes I’ve ever had. Like, ever. A sprinkle of matcha powder was added to the top of my drink and there wasn’t even any powder residue left at the bottom of my cup! Amazing! Maman are proud partners with Panatea Matcha, a high-quality matcha brand that could be the secret to their success. However, I think their slow and hand-crafted practices contribute just as much to their incredible matcha latte. (Bonus points for some of the prettiest takeaway cups in the game, too.)
You might think you know the West Village, but I bet you haven’t been to The Elk—and I gotta say, you’re missing out. The tiny cafe, nestled in about as far west as Charles Street can go, is almost as cozy and comfortable as their delicious matcha latte. I’d go so far as to say that the warmth and flavor of the lattes are actually amplified by the cafe’s chill vibe—which is decidedly more of a tech-free kind of space (all the tables are designated laptop-free). The incredibly smooth matcha latte, which is made with Matchaful brand matcha from Japan (and I must say is made with a very generous serving of matcha), goes really well with the food items available at The Elk. The breakfast items like their grapefruit brulée and breakfast burrito are definitely worth a second look—even if you’re just popping in to sip on a latte and read a good book (Yes, it’s that kind of space). Oh, and while I’ve said that an iced matcha latte with almond milk isn’t really my thing (I tend to prefer a creamier feel in my lattes), this one just might be the only one I’ll consistently order (and consistently love).
Oh, and if you’re in the LES, you know, like around 149 Essex Street? I know of a cute little spot down there that serves some pretty fire matcha. *wink wink*
Feature image via @headstandsandheels