Green tea powder has become a star ingredient for coffees, snacks and desserts

By Lawrence Yee

Cha Cha Matcha’s
Cha Cha Nitro goes
down smooth
Photo by Ted Soqui

The Westside is going green … for matcha!

Matcha comes from specially grown green tea leaves which have been ground into a fine powder. In its pure form, it has a grassy, slightly bitter flavor.

With its natural caffeine content, national chain coffeehouses have incorporated matcha powder into their menus in the form of green tea lattes. But a number of local spots have made matcha their focus, creating specialty beverages, pastries and even ice creams.

Matcha is also rich in antioxidants and amino acids, which some studies have found help protect cells from damage and boost immunity. So it’s no surprise that the Westside has embraced this healthy ingredient.

Here are some favorite local matcha specialty stores:

Shuhari Matcha Café

Shuhari is modeled after a traditional Japanese café and imports matcha weekly from Japan, where its owner Taku Maeda is from. Mindful of its health-conscious surroundings, Shuhari has a station of sweeteners where their signature matcha lattes can be customized to taste.

Many customers upgrade from the culinary grade matcha to organic ($1 more) or ceremonial ($2 more). “Ceremonial grade matcha is the highest grade of matcha,” explains assistant manager Kaitlyn Magnuson. “It’s not USDA-approved organic, but deeper in color and richer.”

For those looking for a sweet treat, Shuhari has non-dairy organic matcha soft serve, derived from a coconut probiotic. Then there’s the matcha adzuki parfait, a tower of red bean ice cream, matcha ice cream, cornflakes, red bean paste and whipped cream with layers of flavor. Enjoy it to-go or in the tranquil backyard garden.

1522 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | (424) 238-8324 | shuharicafe.com

Cha Cha Matcha

Across the street from Shuhari is Cha Cha Matcha. Whereas Shuhari is Zen-like, Cha Cha is bold, with it’s bright pink and green palette and the sound of rock music and nitrous machines blasting.

“The store is different than a normal coffee shop. There’s usually loud music playing, super cool merchandise, interesting paintings and records on the wall,” store manager Colby Demarco describes.

Cha Cha uses a proprietary blend of imported ceremonial-grade matcha in all of their products. Each of their drinks gets a carefully measured amount of matcha: 40 grams mixed with water.

The most popular drink is the matcha latte, which comes with a choice of oat cashew, almond, hemp, macadamia, skim or whole milk. (Interestingly, neither Cha Cha nor Shuhari serve soy milk.)

Cha Cha’s specialty items include the Nitro Latte, a nitro-infused version of their popular drink that has a foamy, frothy texture. There’s also a red matcha latte made with red bean paste for those wanting something slightly sweeter.

1401 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | (855) 924-2242 | chachamatcha.com

Matcha Cha

Not to be confused with Cha Cha Matcha, the inversely named Matcha Cha is a cute coffeeshop and confectionary located at the south end of Sawtelle Japantown in West L.A.

Upon entering, patrons are struck with the inviting scent of warm waffle cones, the base for their most popular seller: matcha ice cream.

An assortment of matcha-based extras can be added to the dairy ice cream, including a dark green matcha drizzle, matcha powder, and warabi matcha-starch dumplings covered in matcha powder. Other popular toppings include chocolate syrup, mochi balls, and Pocky.

The ice cream also comes as a matcha-strawberry swirl, in a beautiful pale pink and green that delights the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 122, Sawtelle Japantown | (424) 293-8550 | matcha-cha.com

Chitchat Coffee + Matcha

Up the street from Matcha Cha is Chitchat Coffee + Matcha. As the name implies, Chitchat specializes in lattes and matcha beverages. With its lush plant wall, the inside feels greener than the outside patio.

Their signature drink is The Incredible Hulk. “It’s a matcha latte sweetened with vanilla and topped off with a double shot of espresso,” barista Iris Orozco says of the strongly caffeinated creation.

There’s also matcha croissants bakedat Pitchoun; golden pastries glazed with a dark green ribbon of matcha. Visually, they’re stunning, but don’t expect a very strong matcha flavor, which would compete with the butteriness of the croissant.

1854 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle Japantown | chitchatla.com

Koala Matcha

This small shop is sandwiched between Gramercy bar and Wilshire restaurant. Walk-up orders are taken at the window.

Koala Matcha specializes in one drink: the collagen-infused iced matcha latte.

In addition to the caffeine energy boost, this recipe — perfected in Australia, hence the name — contains the highest-grade of marine collagen, which helps repair the skin after a long day in the Santa Monica sun.

2460-A Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | (310) 828-2115 | koalamatcha.com

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