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8 Places To Find Delicious And Healthy Matcha-Infused Food In Chicago

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Mar 28, 2016 3:53PM

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Camo doughnut and matcha latte at Sawada.

By Cate Huguelet

If you have a thing for Instagram beverage porn or you’ve thumbed a glossy food pub in the last year, you’ll know that matcha madness has swept the nation. The Kermit-hued ground tea powder, traditionally associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, has lately won legions of stateside fans for its antioxidant cred, as well as its purported ability to impart a chilled-out alertness—not to mention the fact that there’s just something pleasing about a drink as verdant as an Irish hillside. But while matcha has made its way into dishes around the country and even spawned dedicated cafes in New York and LA, the herbaceous powder hasn’t really gotten its day in the sun here in Chicago, until recently, when it began popping up on menus around town with increasing frequency.

These are the city’s 8 best takes on matcha, from hale and hearty oatmeal to a latte with a boozy twist.

Camo doughnut at Sawada

When Sawada - Brendan Sodikoff’s coffee geek paradise, lofted over Green Street Smoked Meats - launched in late 2015, Chicago foodies let out a collective squeal of delight over its military latte ($5.75), a mix of frothed matcha, espresso, bitter cocoa, and vanilla syrup, cleverly layered to channel woodland camouflage. It’s a killer drink, to be sure, but there’s another matcha treat here that’s just as worthy. The camo doughnut (2.25), made exclusively for Sawada by sister shop Doughnut Vault, comprises a classic crispy-tender old fashioned topped with a graphic trio of glazes: subtly grassy matcha, sweet chocolate, and salted caramel coffee. If it’s not quite the aesthetic equal of its latte counterpart, it’s a damned tasty snack.

Sawada Coffee is at 112 N Green St.

Matcha cheesecake at Izakaya Mita

Though it’s tempting to gorge yourself on skewers of smoky binchotan goodness at this Bucktown spot, do yourself a favor and save a little room for the matcha green tea cheesecake ($8). It’s a simple composition, olive drab in color, crustless, and embellished only with a whorl of whipped cream and a pair of spindly Pocky sticks. But the texture - dense, creamy, almost fudge-like - is dreamy, and it turns out that tangy-sweet cream cheese plays beautifully with matcha’s faint vegetal quality.

Izakaya Mita is at 1960 N. Damen Ave.

Matcha bar at Vosges

Matcha green tea bar at Vosges

Chicago’s haute chocolatier enlists the green stuff along with a dose of spirulina (a protein-rich powder derived from blue-green algae) in service of the Superdark Matcha Green Tea bar ($7.50), part of its line of so-called superfood chocolate. Whatever its health benefits, it’s a delicious confection, with a pleasant snap intensified by crunchy cacao nibs. Despite the marquee ingredients, don’t expect a Hulk-green hue; instead, deep, dark 72% chocolate makes for a deep, dark bar. But while intense cacao dominates the nose, matcha is very much present in the finish, lending the bar a note of brightness.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s boutiques are at 520 N. Michigan Ave. and 951 W. Armitage Ave.

Matcha latte potion at Cindy’s Rooftop

One of the most special rooms in town demands an equally special matcha latte; luckily, Cindy’s “Spirit Guide” Nandini Khaund is on it. She combines high-quality first flush matcha with honey and steamed almond milk for a latte ($8) that’s creamy and delicately sweet. It’s a lovely drink in its own right, but call for the “potion” version ($16), and Khaund will up the ante by mixing in Tanqueray Old Tom Gin and Lazzaroni Amaretto. The gin’s vibrant botanicals dance with the bright matcha, while the amaretto contributes a warming nuttiness that somehow seems perfectly suited to the gentle light that bathes the space in the afternoon.

Cindy’s is at 12 S. Michigan Ave.

Matcha oatmeal at Protein Bar.

Matcha oatmeal at Protein Bar

For its hearty matcha oatmeal ($3.99), Protein Bar blends a touch of tea powder into a base of firm steel-cut oats, quinoa, millet, flaxseed, amaranth, and almond milk, giving the grains a subtle green tint and an even subtler grassy note. The oatmeal’s finished with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt, acai puree, and a sprinkling of pepitas, making for a brekkie with a pleasant mixed palette of textures, temps, and tastes—creamy and crunchy, hot and cool, tart and sweet —and a feel-good low calorie profile. (A bowl weighs in at 270 calories.)

Multiple locations.

Matcha pecan smoothie at Owen + Alchemy

If you’re the type who says blech to green juice and delights in comforting flavors like cinnamon, dates, and pecans, this icy blended drink ($9), from Logan Square’s more-stylish-than-you juice “apothecary,” may be your smoothie spirit animal. Along with the aforementioned ingredients, it comprises ginger, cacao, raw hazelnut, raw local honey, and of course, matcha. The result is a lightly sweet, highly sippable drink that confirms matcha and nuts are an inspired pair.

Owen + Alchemy is at 2355 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Matcha sugar cookies at Sumi Robata Bar

Sumi Robata Bar’s lunchtime-only trio of sugar cookies ($3)- two matcha and one chocolate sea salt - scores points for presentation. They’re packed in cellophane go-bags tied with cheerful red ribbon, and the matcha cookies are a joyful shade of supersaturated green, with a swipe of icing to match and sides rolled prettily in sanding sugar. But these treats don’t rest on appearances. The sugar cookie label is in fact somewhat misleading, given that the texture isn’t chewy, but rather possesses a melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread-esque tenderness that suggests butter and lots of it. Taste one and you’ll be glad they come in multiples.

Sumi Robata Bar is at 702 N. Wells St.

Red bean matcha bubble tea at Vivi Bubble Tea

Taken straight up, the cool, creamy matcha milk tea ($3.95) at this State Street boba and fro-yo shop doesn’t pull its vegetal punches. Should you wish to temper its vaguely-bitter grassiness, consider the red bean version ($4.25), in which the milk tea base receives a generous scoop of adzuki beans (a common component of East Asian confectionery). The beans’ sweet nuttiness tames the matcha somewhat, while their heft takes the concoction from drink to snack-in-a-cup territory.

Vivi Bubble Tea is at 333 S State St.