If you’ve strolled down Jinxian Lu in the last month or so, then it’s just possible you have stumbled across La Matcha. A small green tea booth set just of the street at the entrance of La Maison, it offers a brief respite from Shanghai’s hustle and bustle with its own quiet verdant courtyard shaded by tall trees.
As the name implies, matcha – finely ground powder of green tea leaves – is the base for the beverages of choice here; precisely brewed teas to stay or go. For those wishing to stay, there is a moment of quiet getaway and a chance to ponder the day upon its cushioned benches.
For this reason, matcha is the right thing to drink as – unlike coffee – green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine which, among other health benefits, has a calming effect; balancing the jitters that some can get from coffee whilst having a high enough caffeine content to give you a lift and some clear headed energy.
Tracing its history back to the Tang dynasty (618–907), matcha has been used as a ceremonial drink in China and Japan for nearly a thousand years. High grade matcha’s bright green color stems from a high chlorophyll content and is a sign that the leaves have been grown in the shade and not dried in the sun.
With four times the antioxidants of dark chocolate and goji berries, in recent years green tea has been declared as a superfood, and has gradually gained a wider fan base worldwide. We say gradually because it is fair to say that matcha has a powerful grassy flavor which, like strong black coffee, is an acquired taste.
This taste was very apparent when we tried the Coconut Matcha (RMB36), which was cold brewed matcha poured over ice with coconut water. However, if you can feel past the taste of grass, there is a creamy and buttery flavor in a good cold brewed matcha which will haunt you well enough that you want to go for another sip. It is also nice and refreshing on a hot day.
A collaboration between Olivia Mok and Camden Hauge – the co-founders of Social Supply – and Charlie Qian, this first booth is the tester as they they plan to open another La Matcha on Anyi Lu and a pop-up stall in TX Mall.
The aim is to bridge what could be considered a traditional drink and today’s modern urban tastes, and the result is a menu that approaches matcha using some creative, colorful and unique flavor combinations based on seasonal fruits like cranberries and superfoods such as turmeric, butterfly pea and chia to – in their words – make it “taste good to feel good”.
Their Cranberry Coco Cream Matcha (RMB38) creation is an example of their approach and it was an unexpected delight. Sweet coconut cream blended with tart rich cranberries and ripples of green matcha. This is a very different flavor combination to any we have had and we’d definitely drink it again; creamy but not overly sweet in any way, the flavor trio of cranberry, coconut and matcha were clear and strong.
We also tried the Avocado Chia Matcha (RMB45) with an add on shot of collagen. The matcha combined with the avocado for a buttery taste that proved very filling. So filling that – after sampling the above two drinks – we couldn’t finish it as a thirs, so took it home and put it in the fridge.
The next day the matcha green tea had prevented the avocado from oxidizing, and it was exactly the same shade of bright green as when it had first been made. We’ve had a few avocado smoothies which are muddy brown the next day, so this was a good reminder of how matcha does contain the antioxidents it’s claimed to have. Also worth noting as La Matcha is available for delivery by Eleme.
On the classic menu the Hot Matcha Latte (RMB35 + RMB8 for oat milk) is smooth and soothing and its flavors are subtle and warm with a sweet aftertaste off its own which doesn’t come from sugar.
There is also a range of matcha foods designed to go with the drinks such as matcha crystal cookies, matcha eclairs and even Matcha tiramisu. However the only food available at the time we went were matcha cookies that tasted strongly of matcha and were not too sweet.
Good for: Matcha lovers, fruit lovers, anyone wishing to swap out their daily coffee for something different, health conscious passersby.
[All images by Dean Clayden/That’s]