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Matcha and Me

Matcha and Me

Hola Mi Gente,

Today I’m going to tell you about my break-up with coffee. I realize typing that last sentence makes me either SUPER Portland-y OR anti-Portland—trust me, I’ve had my own set of complicated feeling about this decision.

To get started, let me kind of walk you through my relationship with coffee:

I didn’t really drink coffee until I was 18, and I lived in Italy. It was the perfect time to pick up the habit, because I was surrounded by really, really, really good coffee. One of my favorite memories of drinking coffee in Italy, was on my first day there. I walked down the hill from my dorm, found a cafe, and ordered the only thing I knew how to order—a cappuccino. I sat at the bar and drank it, and it was SO good, that I ordered a second. And then a THIRD. It was as if I was trying to change my body from pumping blood, to pumping coffee. That night, jet lagged as I was, I didn’t sleep a single wink because I was so wired.

I wish I could tell you that I slowed my roll, but I didn’t, HA! Everyday before 10 AM I made sure I had at least a cappuccino ( you don’t order cappuccino’s in Italy after 10, because it’s a breakfast drink). Usually I also had a shot of espresso after dinner. At one point that term, I got to the point where I had a jar of coffee beans next to my bed, and I would eat a handful of BEANS on my way down the hill to the cafe. Yes people, I lost my soul to dark arabica beans.

Fastforward to my homecoming, and no coffee stateside tasted like what I had grown to love in Italy. So cold turkey, I quit. This actually made me really sick, because I went from being super caffeinated…to having zero caffeine. My doctor asked if I had been on any kind of drug in Italy, because my withdrawals were so bad that I felt physically ill. I reassured him (and my mom) that I had only had a lot of coffee. After my withdrawal period, I didn’t really touch coffee again in college. Maybe a starbucks drink here and there to fit in with my study groups, but no real love between coffee and me existed again until we moved to the PNW.

Ben and I picked up the  habit when we worked at the same office that had special coffee stations set up around the building. I drank it because I started work at 7:00, and sometimes I would overindulge. I would find though, that when I drank too much coffee (more than one cup), I would feel kind of sick. My palms would get sweaty, my stomach would hurt, and I would just feel anxious and ancy–as if my body was running a marathon on the inside, while it was just quickly typing and living a sedentary life on the outside. I told myself that this was the energy my body needed to run on, and I let it slide.

But then later this year, I realized that coffee just made me feel ill. Period. I went into the doctor one time because I was just feeling SO tired all the time. I couldn’t seem to shake this feeling of exhaustion, no matter how much I slept or how many cups of coffee I had. It got to the point where even drinking half of a cappuccino–a drink that I used to be able to drink in an endless supply, would have me feeling sick for the rest of the day between peaking energy, and the crash that came afterwards. After a few tests, my doctor told me that my Cortisol levels were really low.

Cortisol is a hormone created in the pituitary gland. It has a lot of functions, but is related a lot to energy and stress regulation. It sends your body signals for when to be active (in the morning) and when to slow down (when it’s time to go night-night). There are a lot of things that can stress your cortisol levels and cause them to fluctuate up or down–stress, and anxiety are two of the big ones (🙋🏽I am queen of both). After talking to my doctor about the way that coffee made me feel, she advised that I stop drinking caffeine to allow my body to detox and re-regulate, and then to try to reintroduce certain forms of caffeine to see how I reacted to them.

So, I took a break from coffee. And when I did have it again, all my old symptoms were back: the jitters, the lethargy, the brain fog, and extra anxiety. For one reason or another, something in coffee makes my body’s natural production of cortisol stress out so much, that it creates fluctuations from high cortisol to low cortisol that make me feel unwell. That was all I needed to confirm my break-up with coffee. In the meantime, I was hearing a lot about matcha, and a lot of the bloggers that I follow were making a switch over to it. In case you haven’t seen or tasted matcha, it is a form of Green Tea. Most green teas have parts of leaves in them, but matcha is actually the result of powdering and pressing the leaves themselves–making it the purest form to consume green tea. It is used traditionally in a lot of Japanese Tea Ceremonies.

I knew after I stopped drinking coffee that I still wanted some form of drink in the morning. Creature of habit that I am, I love the routine of making something to start the day. Since my reintroduction of coffee only clarified that there was something in it that just doesn’t make me feel well, I decided to try matcha. I’ll be totally honest: the first time I tried matcha the taste was not my thing. It tasted chalky and thick, and I resented it a little bit because it didn’t come with the delicious aroma of fresh brewed coffee. However, I gave it a couple of tries, and when I started adding in honey, and my extra components, I fell more and more in love with it.

And as an added bonus, I was getting the energy that I wanted in the morning without the crash or the jitters afterwards. This is because matcha contains L-Theanine, a natural compound that reduces stress and causes your body to relax, without getting sleepy. This in combination with the amount of caffeine in matcha (about one cup of coffee) was the perfect match(a—haha) for me. It also doesn’t hurt that matcha contains polyphenols–rich antioxidants that help in reducing inflammation, and also boost your metabolism (among a lot of other bonuses!).

Nowadays, matcha is pretty much an everyday ritual for me. I find that it’s probably on par, expense wise, with keeping up with a coffee ritual. It’s such a part of my routine, that even Ben knows how to make it for me (even though he’s still a coffee guy–I know, I know: a true catch). I love drinking matcha cold, hot, with frothed milk, or on it’s own. This summer I even made it with an infused syrup and a can of La Croix water for a fizzy homemade soda and it was delicious!


About Making Matcha

Matcha does have some finicky parts to it though. Here are my favorite tips and tricks to making a good cup of matcha:

  1. Always temp the water and liquids you’re mixing matcha with. You really don’t want to mix it with anything hotter than 170 F, as it will kind of burn the flavor of the matcha and change the taste composition to make it a little bitter. When I boil my water for matcha, I bring it right before the point my kettle is whistling, and then I remove it and let the water sit for a few minutes before mixing it.
  2. If you’re not blending your matcha, you’re going to want a milk frother + a way to sift or soften up the clumps. Traditionally matcha is made with a bamboo stick, that eliminates the clumps and a bamboo whisk to cause it to foam–this is a lot of work. If you want a really traditional cup of matcha, here’s a good set of those two. I tend to prefer a milk frother because my wrist just likes it better. Because matcha is a powder, you want to distribute it as much as possible. By sifting out the clumps, you can avoid my first mistake in experiencing matcha as chalky and powder-y.
  3. You can add in as much or as little to your matcha as you like. If I’m feeling sick, I add in some cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne to my matcha as a form for infusion and anti-inflammatory. I love my matcha with local honey, and a splash of frothed toasted coconut almond milk. You can pair with any milk you like. I personally think the combo of coconut + matcha is sublime.
  4. Matcha isn’t for anyone. If you try matcha a couple of different ways, and you STILL think it tastes disgusting, don’t feel like you have to like it because it’s trendy. Listen to your body–it isn’t supposed to be a modern form of torture. I also highly recommend trying out different kinds of matcha. If you’re just getting started, start with a more inexpensive brand of matcha. Experiment and make it your own, and then begin investing in higher quality and grade matchas. I like to purchase organic when I can, and I find that Ceremonial grade matcha pairs best with my lattes in the morning.

Matcha Essentials:

Matcha Latte:

Ingredients:

  • 1 TSP Matcha
  • 12 oz water at or about 160 F
  • honey to taste
  • 4 oz milk of choice

Directions:

  • Pour matcha, about half the water, and sweetener to taste in a mug and mix with a milk frother until there are no clumps of matcha and the top is bubbly and frothy. Pour in the remaining water and milk.

***To make regular matcha, just omit the milk (and sweetener if you wish).

Lavender -Matcha Soda

Ingredients For Lavender Syrup:

  • 1/2 C water
  • 1.2 C sugar
  • 1 TSP dried lavendar

Other ingredients:

  • 1/2 TSP matcha powder
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 can la croix water OR other sparkling water

Directions:

  • For simple syrup: combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves.
  • Combine matcha and 1/4 c water and mix vigorously until matcha lumps are dissolved. add la croix/sparkling water and syrup to taste.

Matcha Immune Boost

Ingredients:

  • 1 TSP Matcha
  • 1/2 TSP Cinnamon
  • 1/2 TSP Tumeric Powder
  • 1/8 TSP Cayenne Pepper
  • 16 OZ Hot Water
  • Honey or Sweetener to Taste

Directions:

  • Combine all dry ingredients together. Add about half the water and froth OR blend until lumps are dissolved. Add remaining water and sweetener to taste.

 


Since I’ve switched to drinking exclusively matcha, I’ve been feeling so much better. I’ve even gotten pretty good at traveling with my matcha and making it on the go (seriously, milk frothers are the best!). I’ve also noticed that when I talk to other people about why I stopped drinking coffee, I’m not alone in the way that it makes me feel! If you’re an avid coffee drinker, I hope you don’t feel like I’m trying to convert you to the dark side (although it is pretty great over here 😉). Everyone has their own journey with their bodies, and I realize not everyone has negative side effects when drinking their morning cup of coffee. BUT if like me you are experiencing some negative side effects, it might be time to start looking for alternatives. You shouldn’t have to feel terrible to have energy in the morning, and jitters are NOT energy. Either way–everyone is entitled to their own way of listening to and caring for their bodies. I just thought I would share one of the ways that has worked for me recently.

If you have any other questions about the transition, or even any favorite ways to make matcha, I’d love to hear them in the comments! I’m always happy to answer questions–and broaden my scope when it comes to matcha preparation.

 

Love and Matcha,

 

Mary-Beth is a creative, food-obsessed, Georgia transplant living in the PNW. She is proudly and fiercely Latina. You can usually find her wandering her house in pajamas staging the next social justice revolution in her head, or eating her way through Portland with her favorite people. Her life is a constant juggling of chasing joy, learning about rest/work balance, pursuing justice, and loving her crew deeply. Also tacos. Her life is full of really good tacos.



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