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Matcha & Me: Meant to be

By Rachel Barnecut

In high school, my superlative was "most approachable." Although it was fun to be recognized for anything, I balked at it. I knew what it meant to be approachable, but it wasn't one of the romanticized superlatives in the movies. Joke's on me, because little did I know that I'd spend my adult life trying to make things more approachable. First, it was via user-centered design: creating interfaces for systems so they were easy and intuitive for people to use. Now onto my second act: matcha.

On a trip to China in 2019 with my husband, we visited tea fields and the National Tea Museum. We tried a variety of teas, including matcha. For the newly initiated, matcha is made by grinding green tea leaves into a fine powder. I fell in love with not only the taste, but how it made me feel: focused, productive, and energized. With coffee, the jolt was sudden and the anxiety was soon to follow. When you drink matcha, you consume the entire green tea leaf. As a result, you reap all of the leaf's benefits: antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and my favorite part, a hefty dose of an amino acid called L-Theanine. L-Theanine causes your brain to produce feel-good chemicals, reduce stress, and increase focus. In combination with caffeine, it results in a calm yet energized state.

Matcha Magic's Ube

Over time, I've come to learn that much like grapes for wine, the growing and production processes impact the flavor. I've experimented with matcha from both China and Japan, and now I love the earthy, umami flavor of Japanese matcha. Due to the way it is produced, Japanese matcha is smoother and less bitter. It also retains more nutrients and has a higher amount of antioxidants.

Years before our trip to China, I had been a barista in college. I experienced the early morning buzz of being a part of someone's routine, the waves and variety of customers throughout the day, and the peace of putting the store back together at night in preparation to do it all again the next day. Matcha was present, but coffee was the star of the show. Familiarity, convenience, and a variety of options made coffee the obvious choice for most people looking for their daily caffeine hit. But after drinking matcha regularly, the benefits I experienced made it the choice obvious for me-more focus, no caffeine-induced anxiety, and better sleep to name a few. I wanted to be the one to educate, familiarize, and, not in so many words, make matcha approachable.

To me, that meant essentially establishing the modern matcha house experience and giving matcha the space it deserved, by pairing it with complementary flavors, crafting drinks that people loved to look at and to drink, and becoming a part of a person's routine.

The thing that has been the most fun in "modernizing" matcha has been incorporating things that are not modern at all. I love enhancing matcha-a superfood in its own right-with adaptogens and other superfoods. I have been able to put on my researcher hat to learn about the usage and benefits of adaptogens, and to incorporate them based on what I need, or help customers figure out what they need. With every combination of different boosters, I feel like a student at Hogwarts.

It is difficult to connect the dots in the moment, but in hindsight, the progression from barista, to matcha convert, to user centered designer, to making matcha more approachable might have seemed obvious all along.


Rachel Barnecut opened Matcha Magic in 2022, after a trip to Asia where she fell in love with matcha during visits to tea fields. Returning to Bellevue, she dreamed up a way to revolutionize these classic drinks and created the first plant-forward matcha cafe in Bellevue. Matcha Magic donates 5% of its sales to Ladies Who Launch, and is backed by Conscious Hospitality Group.

 

Matcha Magic
10246 Main St, Ste A
Bellevue, WA 98004

www.itsmatchamagic.com

November 2022


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