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11/19/2021

Four things to know about matcha

Find out all about this healthy, popular green tea powder
Wooden spoon with matcha powder on white background, top view
Shutterstock/ New Africa

1 MUCH ADO ABOUT MATCHA

While most teas are made by steeping leaves in hot water, matcha is a ground powder of whole green tea leaves that is mixed with water. “Unlike other green teas, when consuming matcha, you are consuming the entire leaf,” explains Oussama Saoudi, founder of the Montreal-based energy infusion drink company ToroMatcha. “It has more nutritional properties and flavours.” Matcha is high in antioxidants, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. It can also improve brain function. Dana McCauley, chief experience officer of the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN), notes matcha can be an acquired taste for some. “It’s got a slightly bitter flavour, which is not universally loved,” McCauley says. “But that bitterness is balanced by bright, sweet vegetal flavours.”

2 THE ZEN OF GREEN

“The history of matcha and its role in ceremonial tea rituals fascinates the culinary historian in me,” says CFIN's Dana McCauley. “In the Tang and Song Chinese dynasties, matcha became popular, spread to Japan and became part of the Zen Buddhist practice. It was the Buddhists who learned how to grow green tea in shady areas, a technique that resulted in matcha being more healthful than before.”

3 MORE MATCHA

Health and wellness trends have led to an uptick of interest in matcha in North America, says CFIN’s Dana McCauley. “As yoga and martial arts mainstreamed in Canada, more people started
to explore the other aspects of the self-care practices associated with those fitness regimes,” she says. “Likewise, our interest in regional and authentic ethnic foods and drinks led to more access to such products making them both ‘gourmet’ and ‘accessible’ at the same time.”

ToroMatcha’s Oussama Saoudi says the Japanese were the first to incorporate matcha into confectionery and baked goods, which has become a more common practice in North America where drinks like matcha lattes are a more mainstream consumption vehicle. These days, consumers can find smoothies, desserts and even packaged items like KitKat bars, Oreo cookies and ice cream with matcha as a featured ingredient.

Karen Danudjaja, founder and CEO of the Vancouver-based superfood blends company Blume, believes matcha has become popular in North America as an alternative to coffee. “Many people are trying to manage their caffeine intake,” she says. “Matcha boasts a higher nutrient potency than goji berries, and thanks to the natural substance L-theanine found in [green tea] leaves, sipping on this vibrant green goddess will calm your body and mind.” Blume’s Matcha Coconut blend is popular among a wide demographic, according to Danudjaja. “People from all walks of life are attracted to the health benefits and taste of this delicious superfood.”

4 SPECIAL-TEA AISLES

Are you a grocer who’s new to stocking matcha products? Jeff Proseilo, grocery category manager of Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD) in Vancouver, recommends diversifying matcha offerings to cover multiple categories like snacks, beverages, candy and ice cream. “Do a matcha-themed promotion where matcha products from all categories are included to show the diversity of offerings,” he suggests. “Educate salespeople or share education with customers about the benefits of matcha. You can capitalize on the health benefits to drive all category sales.”

CFIN’s Dana McCauley believes grocers can go further by targeting specific demographics with matcha promotions. “If you serve an ageing, affluent demographic, choose matcha products that are lower in fat and calories to satisfy true health drivers,” she recommends. “If your store [has] a young, urban demographic, stock all the fun and adventurous matcha products that are Instagrammable and experiential.”

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer's November 2021 issue.