Time is but an illusion, and the universe rarely considers our personal biorhythms when slamming us with cataclysmic natural disasters and massive consciousness shifts. This is one of the reasons I head to Urth Caffé. Because even without an apocalypse to worry about, there are mornings I wake up ahead of the mocha-java crowd, craving a cup of rocket fuel, a.k.a. the Japanese Tea Latte. Since Urth opens at 6:30 a.m., I don’t have to resort to lurking outside more laid-back caffeine dispensaries looking like the matcha junkie I am.
Still, I always feel out of place at Urth. West Hollywood types on cell phones waiting to be seen violently jerk their heads each time the door opens to see who’s coming in next. The Santa Monica location isn’t much better, but instead of the Hollywood crew, you have the Westside yoga scene: toned and tanned bodies ever and always breeding, topped off with the occasional Jeremy Piven sighting, his model-perfect fuck o’ the week dangling from the edge of his trademark smirk. It’s all the same: privileged people wearing slightly different versions of the same expensive clothes, perfectly coifed, made up, nipped, tucked and bronzed, sipping expensive (albeit consistently delicious) lattes garnished with swanlike foam flourishes.
But Urth’s Japanese Tea Latte is worth the parking problems, the people and the prices. It’s strong, sweet and milky (cow, soy or rice) and chock-full of serious stay-awake. The JTL is made from organic matcha, harvested in small batches from a 900-year-old tea farm in Japan. Matcha is a finely ground green-tea powder traditionally used in ritual Japanese tea ceremonies and known for a terrifically strong jolt that wakes you out of whatever stupor, slumber or snooze might be affecting you in the moment. On its own, matcha has a strong, sharp flavor, which is soothed by the (oodles of) sugar and milk added in its latte incarnation at Urth.
The JTL is a beautiful shade of green — somewhere between an olive and an emerald, closer to an artichoke, but brighter, with more sass. I’ve worn its splatters proudly on my lap many a time, having spilled, dribbled or drooled while attempting to wake up during early-morning jaunts to yoga.
Matcha goes for like a zillion dollars an ounce in Chinatown — and that’s for the cheap stuff. At Urth Caffé, you can get a big, fat steaming cup of the finest matcha on the planet for only four bucks and change, making your yummy morning presurf/Armageddon cupful of rocket sauce an unexpected bargain.
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8565 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., (310) 659-0628. 267 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 205-9311. 2327 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 214-7040.