In just three years, matcha tea has gained a foothold in the US beverage market with no signs of slowing.
About 80% of Americans regularly drink tea, according to the Tea Association of the US. In 2016 alone, they drank about 3.8 billion gallons, most of it black tea. But within the category, the matcha green-tea variety, rich in antioxidants, has gained mass appeal—so much that last week, the rapper Drake jumped onto the bandwagon, investing in MatchaBar, which sells matcha lattes at its cafes in New York and Los Angeles and other drinks through retailers like Whole Foods.
“Max and I are thrilled around Drake’s involvement,” one of the founders said. “Inspired by his hustle, MatchaBar is innovating the energy space, pushing the energy category forward with a product that suits the needs of the millennial consumer.”
Drake joins other celebrity fans, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt—and millions of ordinary people. Matcha tea sales have grown at a double-digit rate for the last several years, especially as a bottled, ready-to-drink product, according to Food Navigator. Part of that success can be attributed to consumer suspicion toward once-popular beverages that have since fallen out of favor, according to Brian Keating, a tea industry consultant at Sage Group.
“Soda is concerned and worried, energy drinks are controversial, and tea continues to shine with positive accolades from the medical community,” Keating says. “The medical community, hands-down with few exceptions, says tea is marvelous.”
Matcha is a ceremonial Japanese tea, derived from green tea leaves. For typical green teas, the leaves are steeped in warm water and then discarded. But with matcha, the whole leaves are ground into a powder, which is then mixed into the water and consumed. The result is a strongly-flavored tea rich in antioxidants, caffeine, and Vitamin C—the perfect allure for a culture eager to consume all manner of so-called “super foods,” be it avocados or quinoa.
As the health halo around matcha appears to be holding steady, it’s reportedly no longer just a human food. Some reports show it’s even creeping into dog chow.