It’s all of the buzz right now: We are experiencing a bit of obnoxious “matcha madness” in Los Angeles, and I’m joining in on the trend. But I’m hoping that as an ex-coffee junkie, my message is more palatable for the masses. Are you confused about what matcha is, WHY matcha is, and how the hell to make it? Allow me to explain..
But first, my dysfunctional relationship with coffee:
I remember my first cup of coffee. I was about 8 years old, and surrounded by caffeine addicts.; It seemed like every adult around me drank the brown stuff. One evening, the “cool” adults were about to drink their coffee around my parent’s suburban kitchen table, and I was feeling left out so I asked my mother if I could try coffee that night, thinking —like every kid does—that coffee MUST be delicious with a side of awesome and professional since adults are consuming 3-4 cups a day. My mom gave me half a cup from my Peter Rabbit mug infantilizing the whole experience with milk and sugar. But there wasn’t enough milk or sugar in our kitchen to make coffee taste good— one sip down, and I grimaced. I coughed. Ew. Bitter. Like warm water with a bitter cough drop inside. Why drink this when there’s Capri Sun and Tropicana? Seriously, why? I would never be a coffee drinker. Nope no way. I didn’t want to be at the adult table anymore. Gross.
But six or so years later, life happened without my consent and I was a teenager. My innocence quickly dissipated and I turned into a rowdy, attention-seeking, smoking, drinking, and belly-shirt-wearing troublemaker. I picked up iced coffee before school as a way to ward off hangovers and stay awake in class. I enjoyed the bitterness with my morning cigarette, and I got a real kick out of the appetite suppressant quality. I enjoyed a couple of years of drinking coffee-for-fun, dressed up with sweetness and cream before it became an absolute necessity, stick-it-to-my-veins-upon-awakening situation.
As I grew up, my addictions fell away (or were ripped away): I quit booze and drugs, I quit smoking cigarettes, I cleaned up my diet, I exercised regularly, and I even meditated. BUT coffee…coffee had me in its grip. It seemed like the least offensive thing I could do, my last surviving addiction and I didn’t want any crap for it. Besides, everyone around me drank it, and it quite literally MADE ME HAPPY. Yes, caffeine is a natural anti-depressant.As the years passed, it went further. I relied on coffee to aid in “elimination,” I relied on coffee to have any energy through the day, I used it to ignore how tired I may or may not be, I was jittery, constantly using coffee instead of sleep, burning my adrenal glands with each cup. I was tapped out, and I relied on it to suppress my appetite too so i was lacking caloric and nutritional intake. I was obsessed, and at some point, it became a concern.
The deeper I got into spiritual practice, the less I liked the high-highs that coffee provided. I didn’t like how controlled I was by coffee. If only I could be a one cup a day person. I was SO jealous of the people who drank one cup in the morning. ONE CUP. I used to say I drank one cup in the morning because I used the same cup for the first couple of hours of the day. But I knew it was a lie. I knew it was more like 6 cups. It’s like that picture of the alcoholic who says he only drinks one glass a day:
Yeah, that was me. AND then, I drank more in the afternoon. This is NOT a piece about how coffee is bad for you. The way I drank coffee was bad for me and it did not make me feel good. It did not feel like self-love, self-care or a warm hug. In fact, I hated what it did to me, how it consistently threw me off balance, I couldn’t focus or feel my body. But quitting remained too scary and too hard.
Then I got sick. And slowly, I cut out even more of the “bad stuff.” Sure, all of the normal stuff like gluten and sugar, but I even cut out canola oil and “natural flavors” and parabens and fucking BPA. I felt like a phony, though—there aren’t too many self-proclaimed health-nuts who consume—let’s say—SIX-EIGHT cups of coffee a day. So I started to seriously try to quit. I tried more times than I can count, and I kept coming up against something more powerful than me: No matter how much time went by, I MISSED coffee and I felt unhappy without it. In general, I only quit something if it eventually makes me feel better. So I continued to drink it because if I was going to be miserable then that wasn’t really aiding my health either, was it?
I had a session at Lighthearted healing one afternoon. Emily works intuitively, and after our initial check-in, she said “I want to ask you about coffee.” I nearly cried because I knew what she was going to say and I still wasn’t ready. But she was gentle, “you don’t need to be ready yet, but what if giving up coffee would make you 100% well, would you’d do it?” I had that same thought so many times, and it seemed crazy that I wouldn’t put it down with glee but I was too fucking hooked. I did what I always do in predicaments like this, I started talking about it openly. “I want to quit drinking coffee, but I’m not willing yet.” I just started saying that out loud… a lot. To a lot of people. I started to drink green tea every so often, and that helped me envision the tea-drinker I wanted to be. I actually started to think tea drinking was super dope. Finding a healthier alternative that actually EXCITED me was key.
I made a decision: January 1, 2017 I would give up coffee for one year and see if it made any difference to my health or my life.
That morning, Ian and I had a flight out of NYC at 6 am. A cold, dark winter morning at an airport awaiting a five-hour flight: the perfect time to drink a coffee. The perfect excuse. But I shocked even myself by ordering a green tea at the desolate coffee bean. It wasn’t willpower. Not at all. It was grace. Because I was happy to drink the green tea. I enjoyed it—I was ready.
I went through three, four, maybe 7 days of physical discomfort. I had headaches, I was exhausted, but I didn’t really crave coffee, the obsession was removed. I did, however, feel a lacking. I wasn’t enjoying the morning beverage of hot green tea as much as I wanted to enjoy my morning beverage. I watched a friend make this frothy delicious green tea drink that I tried to emulate by blending green tea, goat milk, coconut oil and cacao. That worked for a while, but it got boring too. The snooze fest that was my morning drink was the only thing that made me miss coffee. I ordered one of those steamer and frother electric things and started making lattes at home. Green tea lattes with almond milk. FAIL. It still wasn’t producing that “ready to start my day” sensation I was after. But it had taken so long for me to be willing to quit and I *would not* go back.
Oh the delicious, glorious matcha latte. Thank god I live in Los Angeles and it’s readily available because it is my caffeine soul-mate. I started ordering matcha lattes with almond milk in an effort to find something as exciting as coffee. First I got one from Starbucks. It was very sweet, and, as it turns out, not really matcha. I found out the hard way when I went to buy “matcha” from Trader Joe’s. As always, I took a look at the ingredient label:
WHAT!? Always read the label people. There’s fucking milk AND wheat in it. So I started being extra obnoxious and asking to see the packaging at my matcha havens. Starbucks and Coffee bean and Tea Leaf sell matcha similar to the one above. And, for me, that’s not a healthy option. I was seeking organic matcha from Japan, ideally ceremonial grade. But, organic and ceremonial grade aside, the only ingredient should be matcha or “ground green tea.” Matcha is mostly grown in Japan and shaded from the sun to enhance chlorophyll content giving it its vibrant green color. The leaves are gently ground with stone producing the fine powder.
Buying a good matcha isn’t cheap: It ranges from four to seven dollars to buy a matcha latte from any specialty coffee shop. But I started doing just that, throwing away nearly ten dollars a day on this happy, frothy, delicious matcha. Well, actually, it wasn’t the “delicious” and it wasn’t this rumor health-fad about how good matcha is for you— our newest superfood member, matcha is said to have double the antioxidants than green tea, especially rich in EGCG. If I’m going to consume a caffeinated beverage daily then green tea seemed the most responsible choice to make as the caffeine boost is steady and slow, leaving me without insane ups and downs. The health benefits are all bonus, but the reason I love matcha is because I really enjoy the high. Yep, that’s what I said. I like the boost and I like the ritual AND I like how it makes me feel. One cup in the morning and I don’t crash or have physical fall out of any kind.
HOW TO MATCHA
In order to spend a manageable amount of money, I invested in an at-home matcha set: I LOVE my matcha set. I suggest you get one that makes you smile. (TIP: You only really need the whisk and whisk holder. I also have a bowl but it’s not necessary.) You’ll also need a blender or a steamer and frother if you want to make lattes. I purchase two bags of organic matcha from my farmer’s market (Larchmont, Los Angeles, Sunday morning) at the Sugarbird stand. They are 13$ each and 2 for 20, leaving my matcha habit ranging from 10-15 dollars a week depending on if I buy any to-go. You can make your matcha any way you want. You can blend it with warm water, goat milk, coconut oil, and collagen or you can pour it over ice. It’s a powder so you really can blend it up with anything you want. I urge you to experiment and find what’s fun for you.
My simple matcha:
½ tsp matcha
½ cup of hemp milk (or non-dairy/ goat dairy of choice)
pinch or drop of organic stevia
1 ¼ cup warm water
-Place matcha in your mixing bowl
-begin warming/frothing your milk however you choose
-heat water and remove from heat before boiling
-add water to matcha and whisk (ideally with wooden matcha whisk) until frothy
-add frothy milk to fun mug, add pinch or drop of stevia, and pour matcha on top
Feel free to replace stevia with honey or agave. I use stevia because of the recent hearsay that stevia kills Lyme bacteria. Now, I don’t know that I believe it BUT I figure if I’m going to use sweetener, I might as well use stevia right?
As January 2018 approaches, I have no desire to go back to the brown stuff. I have more energy these days, fewer ups and downs, I’m able to accomplish more in a day, napping and resting comes easier to me, and my physical pain is less. I feel more grounded in my body, more grounded in the present moment, and life is smoother overall.