Midori Matcha Cafe: A Twist on the Traditional
There is any number of hidden shops tucked around corners, up escalators, and in the alleys of Little Tokyo. Wandering through the compact, historical, nearly unknowable pocket of Downtown Los Angeles leads to constant surprises. One day you may stumble into Fugetsu-Do with its traditional and unexpected confections and mochi, another day you may find yourself in Anzen Hardware perusing imported Japanese scissors and kitchenware. And if you find yourself thirsty, wandering along Astronaut E S Onizuka Street, you should walk under the lime green umbrellas and into Midori Matcha. The tea cafe holds space in a modern grey complex with curry houses, sandwich shops, and a Japanese market on the ground floor.
Midori Matcha’s green neon sign and umbrellas stand out from the grey concrete facade of the complex and the grey stone floor of the plaza outside. It catches the eye and draws you into an unexpectedly warm cafe where, much like the neon sign outside, nearly everything on the menu is bright green. A bamboo bar lines the glass wall on one side of the cafe with plants tucked around poles and hanging from the ceiling. But what you will most likely notice first when you walk through the door is the smiling tea master standing behind the counter, sandwiched between matcha colored pastries from Pichoun and a matcha tea station.
The menu hangs against the wall behind the counter offering traditional ceremonial matcha as well as more inventive options like iced watermelon matcha or soft-served matcha ice cream swirled with black sesame ice cream. Their goal is to keep everything simple and high quality. Nearly every ingredient in the space is organic, and sweeteners are used sparingly. The soft serve is made with only eight ingredients, staying in line with the owner’s goal to do everything with quality ingredients. “We do less things, but we do those things well,” Dmitry, the owner, says.
The space feels warm and made by hand, and the staff is kind and unpretentious. The matcha is traditional, made in a ceramic bowl and a bamboo whisk much like you would find in a tea house in Japan. While many cafes around the city make matcha with a blender or steel whisk, Midori uses a fine powdered matcha, pours it into a ceramic bowl, adds hot water, and whisks vigorously with a bamboo whisk until all the matcha is incorporated into the water and small, consistent bubbles lie on top.
The owner, Dmitry, spends time in Japan sourcing matcha tea blends specifically made for Midori Matcha. “What’s fascinating about matcha is that you can go to Japan, visit a tea master, taste a variety of matcha, and they will all taste unique,” Dmytry says. It’s that uniqueness and quality that Dmitry fell in love with and pushed him to open Midori Matcha. “We are an American company, but we want to respect matcha for what it is and for its Japanese heritage.”
Written by Kort Havens | Photography by Kort Havens