As the editors of this digital magazine, we (Betsy and Cleo) spend substantial time talking about all things food. While our taste palettes mostly align, our respective caffeine habits completely diverge. One of us drinks coffee daily while the other entirely avoids it, though we both enjoy the occasional matcha or caffeinated tea. After reflecting on our differences, we wanted to dig deeper into our one shared caffeine preference by co-writing an article about matcha.

Positive reviews from friends of Nekohama’s high quality ceremonial matcha inspired us to research the company’s specialized products and mission. We decided to reach out to Nekohama's founders and pitch an article about their company. A productive Zoom meeting ended in a collaboration beyond a feature story.

As two college students with incompatible caffeine relationships, we committed to drinking one cup of Nekohama matcha every morning for one month. Now that our experiment is over, we’re ready to share our thoughts on the brand, its products and our personal experiences.

Max Ando created Nekohama with his fiance, Sanne Vloet, after taking a trip to Japan in 2019. Ando’s grandmother introduced the couple to the Kyushu island in Japan, the origin of their authentic, artisan matcha powder. Ando’s mother is a co-founder, which helped Nekohama “source a certain supply that, from what we understand, nobody has access to from outside of Japan,” Ando said.

Betsy Winick

Benefits of matcha manufactured in and distributed from Japan include meeting the Japanese standards at over 95% organic, whereas products from the U.S. require only 70%. Ando also stressed the specialized production of Nekohama’s matcha, which gives a sweet flavor to the typically bitter substance.

Before his trip to Japan, Ando heavily consumed coffee. He attributed his onset of Alopecia, a hair loss disease, to his coffee habits. Specifically, Ando said, coffee increases cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, which strains regular body functions. On our Zoom call, Ando removed his headphones to shake his long, thick hair and explained how after eliminating coffee from his diet and switching his primary caffeine intake to matcha, his Alopecia subsided.

He and Vloet also noticed lifestyle changes after replacing coffee with matcha. The green tea powder contains a unique type of caffeine, theophylline, which provides a sustainable and steady energy boost without a “crash.” Energy from drinking one cup of matcha can last between six to seven hours, while coffee gives only one to three hours. Ando said their overall health and wellness improved, since matcha contains antioxidants which can boost the metabolic and immune systems, enhance brain functioning and help reduce risks of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Ando repeatedly called coffee a “carcinogen” because the process of burning coffee beans leaves ashes in the mixture. While there is no confirmed evidence of coffee causing cancer, Ando is right to emphasize the risks of drinking burnt products. He stressed the clean nature of matcha production in addition to its high saturation of antioxidants and lasting caffeine to convince us to drink his matcha.

Given Nekohama’s foundation and Ando’s persuasive pitch, we committed to replacing coffee with matcha or incorporating matcha as our only source of caffeine for one month. Ando sent us each a month’s supply of powder as well as a matcha essentials kit and taught us to sift two scoops of powder into a bowl, whisk it in warm water and serve hot or poured over ice. For Betsy – with an extreme caffeine addiction and an average of two to three coffees per day – and for Cleo – someone with a high sensitivity to and rare consumer of coffee – the process and outcome were completely different.

Cleo Kanter

Here are our separate takeaways:


I started drinking coffee during my sophomore year of high school. I’m currently a senior in college. By now, my caffeine intake remains the most consistent piece of my diet. I begin every morning with a cup of iced coffee and typically reignite my energy later with one or two additional midday cold brews. My caffeine addiction fueled me through early high school mornings and grew stronger with late college nights.

When Max asked me to end my yearslong coffee streak and switch to Nekohama's specialty matcha, I was surprised to find myself welcoming the challenge. Though I had doubts I would enjoy the taste of matcha and manage to stay awake throughout my busy schedule, I thought, “why not?

Cleo and I received the beautiful Nekohama package with six pouches of green powder (three for each of us), a tiny metal sifter, a light wooden whisk, a cloudy glass bowl and a branded bag of green chocolate matcha hearts. I was impressed and intrigued, but highly intimidated. I knew my morning routine would likely double in time, and I couldn’t imagine myself scooping, sifting, boiling and whisking away for a minimal energy boost compared to my usual ultra-stimulating acidic espresso.

I’m not exaggerating when I say my mind completely changed during my first afternoon post-matcha. Without getting into too much detail, I was in utter disbelief when I didn’t have a fraction of stomach pain during my 9:30 a.m. class. I felt calm both mentally and physically. I was alive and functioning without jitters and hyper-anxiety, and my energy lasted nearly all day. I’m not trying to be dramatic, and I know plenty of other factors influence these symptoms, but they lasted throughout my entire matcha journey.

Perhaps it was a placebo effect, since Max drilled statistics and anecdotes about the harmful affects of chronic coffee drinkers (like myself) into my head since our first conversation. But even so, I knew I was helping and healing my body. For some reason, I liked knowing I was stabilizing my mood and energy with something green.

The matcha process quickly became mindless and easy, and I didn’t mind the scooping, sifting, boiling and whisking. At the beginning of the month, I drank around three cups of matcha each day. Maybe my tolerance grew stronger or my caffeine addiction weakened, but eventually, I was drinking one cup per day, and I loved the taste. I didn’t miss a single morning, and, price tag aside, I substantially preferred the matcha I made at home to a cafe’s. I often offered to make some for my friends so they could indulge in Nekohama’s high quality powder and understand why I committed to the switch.

Betsy Winick

My three packs of Matcha lasted about three months, and I didn’t return to coffee until they were practically licked clean. Ultimately, I began drinking coffee again out of convenience, habit and a limited budget, and I’m still shocked that I lasted so long without it. My goal was never to fully replace my coffee intake, but rather to give matcha a chance and test the true limits of my coffee dependency. Matcha remains a somewhat frequent beverage in my life these days, and I could definitely envision myself ditching coffee altogether again upon my return to school.

I don’t have one negative thing to say about Nekohama’s products. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to understand the matcha industry and to live a few months under Nekohama’s luxury caffeine experience. 

Cleo Kanter


I spent significant time in the past working as a barista in various coffee shops and cafes in my hometown, and so I knew how to make many different matcha recipes from a classic matcha latte to specialized flavored matcha. In spite of my experience making various cafe beverages, I was never a frequent coffee or matcha drinker because of my poor reaction to caffeine.

While most college students are well accustomed to the effects of caffeine to enhance study hours or to provide energy boosters, I always found coffee to have an abundance of negative side effects, which I naturally assumed were elements to all caffeinated beverages.

Though I actually like the taste of coffee and most caffeinated teas, I was always unable to consume them because they increased feelings of anxiety and jitteriness and caused difficulty sleeping. However, there were occasional days in which I would deem it “worth it” to treat myself to a caffeinated beverage—deciding that it was worth the late night or subtle shakes to enjoy a warm, delicious beverage to start off a cold winter's day. 

When Max invited the opportunity to begin drinking a cup of Nekohama matcha every morning, I was instantly intrigued. After all, in addition to enjoying the taste and harmony in the ritual of making it, I was sold on the idea of "adapting" to caffeine

Though this was a challenge that I was hoping to be successful in, I definitely feared developing a caffeine dependency. Though I always envied other kids who could start their morning off with a warm cup of coffee, I never envied anyone's inability to function without it.

On our first Zoom meeting after receiving Nekohama’s essential Matcha-making kit, Max taught Betsy and me the traditional methodology behind a matcha latté, demonstrating the strategic side-to-side whisking technique and introducing us to his personal favorite recipes. I quickly adopted his classic Matcha-cano (a Matcha-lover’s take on an Americano) into my regular diet.

Cleo Kanter

I must admit, as someone who was used to rolling out of bed and grabbing a to-go breakfast, I definitely did not take into account the time commitment that making a morning matcha would add to my day. During the first few mornings, I set my alarm particularly early to ensure that I had an appropriate amount of time to prepare my matcha. However, after only a few short days, I found that mixing and measuring became second nature. What originally took 5 minutes in the morning didn’t even take one.

Additionally, I found that my focus and energy levels in my early morning classes were much higher and more sustainable than before. Not only did I feel awake and energized in the early morning hours, but I also found that I was able to focus for extended periods of time.

In the mornings when I had a late class and drank my matcha a little bit later, I found the energy boost to last a bit longer than I really needed. And so, after finishing our experiment, I decided that on mornings with later wake-ups, I could skip the morning matcha. Additionally, I have now spent extended periods of time without drinking matcha and found it to be no problem. While caffeine habits can become a dependency for many people, I discovered that I can now enjoy it at my own leisure.

Nekohama’s products were the ideal introduction to the world of matcha and it has been so much fun working alongside their team. Their products are available at for purchase. 

Cleo Kanter

Photos courtesy of Nekohama matcha.