If you've never had a properly made cup of matcha, the frothy, powdered green tea popular in Japan, Alissa White, owner of the just-opened Matcha Source Shop in West Hollywood, is on a one-woman mission to make sure you finally do.
Since launching her online store in 2006, White has been preaching the glorious ways of the matcha life to tea bag-obsessed Westerners. But despite the overload of search-engine friendly health buzzwords on the Matcha Source website (words like "detox" and "weight-loss" never get us excited about any food), it wasn't the tea's purported health benefits that initially got even White hooked. "Matcha fascinated me from the get go," she says. "It's so magical and beautiful, with the tea literally so green it looks like [paint] pigment. And the taste was so extraordinary and unlike anything else I'd had before."
Taste is something White has mastered, as the custom blends she imports from small farmers in Japan that we've tasted are great -- full-flavored and fresh (if you've ever had a bad cup of matcha, poor quality tea is likely to blame).
Making a cup of matcha isn't difficult, but it isn't exactly second nature to loose tea aficionados used to steeping the leaves. To make matcha, you sift the powdered tea into a bowl, add hot water, then use a bamboo whisk to make the tea frothy.
Now that White has a brick and mortar shop, she can offer tea making demos to the matcha-challenged before handing customers their own bamboo whisk. You'll also find a selection of gifts like tea trays and linens imported from Tokyo, chocolates from ChocoVivo and the requisite books on various tea topics.
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But we're holding out for those traditional Japanese tabi socks (in modern terms, essentially flip-flop socks), which White says she'll have in stock soon. Matcha tea and flip-flop socks: a hilarious (and actually useful) holiday gift pairing.
[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com