A new green drink is taking over New York City: matcha. Originating from ancient China and popularized in Japan, matcha is a form of green tea where rather than infusing water with the leaves, the leaves get ground into a fine powder and are mixed with the water. This makes the drink feel more powdery but elicits a stronger taste while waking up its consumers: it contains three times as much caffeine as one cup of tea.

With its high antioxidant levels, these ground tea leaves are finding their way into cupcake and smoothie recipes, since this new “superfood” even boosts metabolism.

Photo by Diamond Naga Siu

Matcha making is a simple process, and it is prepared by mixing hot water into the matcha powder and pouring it into drinks.  These beverages normally include a sweet topping, such as boba or jelly, and are combined with different milks and sweeteners for flavor.

Nanako Mizutani uses this process for her boba shop Nohohon in St. Marks Place, but she uses all natural ingredients.  She substitutes sugar with agave nectar, and instead of using chemicals and powders for different boba flavors, she uses only matcha.

“Everyone said they loved my bubble tea the best, but I felt like I was not honest to my customers,” Mizutani said. “So then I thought of making a healthy bubble tea: bubble tea for everybody’s sake.”  She felt guilty for serving unhealthy drinks to her customers at her original location in Toronto, so she changed the values of her shop.

Photo by Diamond Naga Siu

She said that most boba places have a wall to separate customers from the process of making the drinks so that they do not see the process of combining different powders and chemically based ingredients.  But she wanted to serve a drink with ingredients customers would not be ashamed of consuming, so she eliminated the wall at Nohohon to let her customers see the creation of their drinks: from scooping the boba to whisking the matcha.

The St. Marks menu only has six different flavors, since Mizutani preaches quality over quantity, but she said the healthier results are worth it—she even imports organic matcha from Japan.

Although her new location is small Mizutani joked that the foot traffic on this busy street is comparable to the entire Toronto population. But regardless of how many customers go to her shop, she keeps the same principles for the beverages that come out of it.

“Making the drinks is very simple, where they’re sweet but they’re not overly sweet. All the ingredients are organic, and I even got rid of all the white sugar,” Mizutani said. “It’s not just the taste—it’s honoring your body.”

Photo by Diamond Naga Siu