There's a new craze for a drink called Matcha tea. Drinkers claim it gives the same jolt of coffee but without the side effects.
Graham Fortgang was a daily coffee drinker who says he needed the boost, so he ignored the drawbacks.
"Espresso energy drinks make my heart race. I have, like, little acid reflux issues, so I was looking for something that was not only gentler on my body, but would result in what I call, like, a more sustainable fuel," says Fortgang.
That's when he found Matcha, which is ground up green tea leaves harvested primarily from the Kyoto region in Japan.
Matcha didn't upset his stomach, it's low in acidity, and left Fortgang alert and relaxed for hours without the jitters associated with coffee.
"Matcha has something called l-theanine in it. Not only do you have an extended-release caffeine, but you also have this calming factor which results in what we call a calm, focused energy," according to Fortgang.
So he and his brother Max decided to open Matchabar in Brooklyn, becoming the first modern Matcha cafe in New York City.
"People who respond nice to it, they're comin' back every day. Instead of their morning espresso, it's their morning Matcha," says Fortgang.
That morning Matcha is a lot more accessible these days with cafes popping up from Los Angeles to Miami to Boston.
A place called Ippodo tea has been preparing Matcha in the same way for nearly 300 years in Kyoto.
The owners opened a Manhattan store two years ago where tea expert Kathy Y.L. Chan is a regular customer.
"It's become really trendy in the last two years, but it's not new at all. It's been around for centuries," Chan says.
To make traditional Matcha the tea powder is first scooped and sifted to make it more uniform. Then hot water is added.
"Make sure it's not boiling, you want water somewhere between 160 to 170 degrees," says Chan.
The tea master then uses a handcrafted bamboo whisk to stir, flicking his wrist without ever touching the bottom of the bowl.
Matcha was originally used by monks in Japan to center themselves during meditation. Over time, it become part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and then an everyday drink.
Since you consume the entire leaf instead of simply a bag steeped in water, Matcha has more fiber and ten times the amount of antioxidants than regular green tea.
"The tea leaves that are used to produce Matcha are shaded a few weeks before they're picked. So you get lots of extra chlorophyll, vitamins--which is good for a detoxing, removing heavy metals from the body," says Chan.
While Matcha's popularity is relatively new in the U.S., you can already find it cropping up in cutting edge restaurants, sprinkled on Starbucks green tea lattes, or used by models during New York's fashion week.
The growing Matcha community is also taking to social media, sharing ideas and creations, or simply beautiful photos.
"In this world of, like, Instagram, Twitter, social media and blogs and everything, visuals are such a huge part of the appeal. And Matcha's just, it happens to be prettier than most tea," says Chan.
And while Graham Fortgang admits the flavor takes some getting used to, he believes green is the new gold.
"The proof is in the pudding. New Yorkers are the biggest skeptics in the world, so if you can turn, if you can turn them against coffee, you know, you can turn anybody against it," says Fortgang.
Click here to learn more about Matcha tea.
Click here for a list of places to find it in the Cleveland area.