Taste December 19, 2017

Matcha Arrives in Boise with Style

Not coffee, not tea, matcha finds its own niche

Light pours into the Simply Grove Shop from a wall of glass windows overlooking Idaho Street. The shop is fresh from its late-September opening in downtown Boise’s new Watercooler building. Housewares cover the modern Ikea-style tables and shelving, and Ashley and Austin Townend of Wanna Matcha take turns manning the kitchen space in the rear of the shop.

When the Townends prepare matcha—a type of shade-grown green tea ground into a powder—they start with a smile and the finest ingredients. Then they ask how you want it. With a menu that spans from the most traditional method served in a beautiful ceramic cup, to quirky mocktails, like the spicy Boise Farmers Market crowd favorite, “Some Like it Hot,” they’re constantly developing their recipes.

Each cup of matcha is fully customizable, with options of milk, added sweeteners and housemade flavored syrups for latte-style drinks. The Townends also pride themselves on crafting mocktails that change with the seasons, like the “Matcha Mule” (Reed’s ginger beer, lime and matcha), or the “Some Like it Hot” (jalapeño simple syrup with muddled mint, lemon, honey and matcha). Even as this issue went to print, they were introducing seasonally inspired drinks, like a golden milk latte with turmeric and a roasted brown rice tea called hojicha. This winter, they’ll serve a cranberry-themed mocktail and more robust warm drinks.

The traditional preparation starts with a teaspoon of vibrant green powder, as soft and fine as talcum powder, that the Towends sift through a fine mesh strainer over a cup. Then, they add about 12 ounces of boiling water to the sifted powder and whisk it until frothy with a traditional bamboo whisk. The result is a steaming evergreen-colored tea that has an earthy flavor, with a specific type of caffeine that takes longer to break down in your blood stream. It’s also packed with L-theanine, an amino acid that supports the activity of alpha brain waves and creates a calm feeling that sharply contrasts with caffeine jitters so often associated with coffee.

“We never try to deter anyone from coffee, just because they’re two different things, but I do always tell them that it doesn’t make you jittery, it doesn’t make you crash. It just gives you a calm, focused energy all day, and that’s why I drink it,” said Ashley Townend.

The Townends first discovered matcha in the winter of 2016 on their honeymoon. They came across samples of matcha in a tea shop in Brighton, England. They had never tasted it before, but after a few sips, they were hooked. After some stateside research, they learned that matcha was already trending in other cities, but there was no sign of it in Boise. To test their new venture, they applied to the Boise Farmers Market and were accepted on the condition they source as much of their ingredients locally as possible.

Their first season at the market was a hit. They enjoyed getting to know the farmers and sourcing herbs like mint and lavender for their mocktails. Wanna Matcha built a following and the Townend’s energy and innovative drinks kept customers, this writer included, returning every week. As the seasons changed, new beverages appeared on Wanna Matcha’s menu, and each recipe’s success made them ponder a brick and mortar shop.

This summer, their friend Kirsten Grove, Boise’s beloved interior designer, author and blogger, proposed an idea. Grove was planning to open a shop with business partner Caycee Coffield in the Watercooler building and the mixed-use loft-style space had a kitchen. With beverage pop-ups in retail spaces trending in urban areas, Grove cites the city’s growth for creating a perfect climate to open the shop.

“Boise is growing and developing into quite the artistic space. People are moving in from all over the country, which causes our culture to be more diverse. Bringing in products from all over the world is a fun way to add my stamp on this beautiful city,” said Grove.

Grove suggested the duo pop-up in the shop when the market slowed for the season. Since the Sept. 21 opening, the Townends have enjoyed the slower pace and cozier conditions of their brick-and-mortar spot.

“[The farmers market] is like putting a week into four hours, so it’s crazy busy. Here, it’s a lot more relaxed because we’re not like stressed out all day. It’s so nice not being in the elements anymore,” said Ashley Townend.

The pop-up is a temporary fixture within the shop, allowing the Wanna Matcha team to remain mobile. They will return to the market on 10th and Grove to sling matcha on Saturdays come spring. They also hope to sell their own branded label of ceremonial grade matcha powder, sourced from a Japanese producer, and continue educating the Boise community on the benefits of drinking matcha.


Matcha 101:

Step One: Gather equipment

  • Matcha bowl or cup
  • Whisk
  • One teaspoon or a bamboo spoon (chashaku)
  • Fine mesh tea strainer
  • Hot water

Step Two: Scoop one teaspoon or two scoops of the chashaku into the mesh strainer and sift. Make sure there are no lumps!

Step Three: Pour your desired amount of boiling water into the cup of matcha powder. Eight to twelve ounces are recommended for a nice, even flavor.

Step Four: Whisk until frothed and sweeten to taste.

This article appears in the Winter 2017 Issue of Territory Magazine.