For Australian couple Sarah Holloway and Nic Davidson, never in a million years would they think that their passion for green tea would turn out to become a full-fledged business that will garner a wide fan base across the globe. The Melbourne-based pair are the brains behind Matcha Maiden, purveyors of matcha powder that have taken Instagram by storm with their green tea blend that customers incorporate in a plethora of mouth-watering recipes (read: matcha mango cheesecake and matcha panacotta with lychee anyone?)
We had a chat with the inspiring couple on how the idea behind Matcha Maiden come about, along with what you really need to know about green tea.
Image: Matcha Maiden
1. Tell us more about how and why Matcha Maiden was created.
We’re a couple from Melbourne who decided to start a little “side project” which unexpectedly turned into a beautiful flourishing matcha family! Our two main businesses are Matcha Maiden and, more recently, Matcha Mylkbar (the crazy, exciting specialty matcha and plant-based café with all the rainbow lattes, green burgers and vegan eggs). Both are based in Melbourne but Matcha Maiden in particular is a global business now.
I started my working life in a very different context as a corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer at an international law firm. Nic was already in the entrepreneurial world with several businesses under his belt, including his own full-service creative and digital agency and an enterprise software development tech company, but he had never ventured into food, hospitality or retail before. We are both quite passionate about health, fitness and wellbeing and I was particularly finding this hard to reconcile with the long hours and lifestyle in the legal profession. So we started Matcha Maiden as a creative outlet and a way to spend more time together never expecting to end up where we are today!
We discovered matcha on several of our overseas adventures – firstly in its traditional context in Japan and later in the USA in the health food arena. When we got home, we were surprised to find that Australia was a little bit late to the matcha party despite its very strong health food market. We were unable to find a product that was at once organic, reasonably priced and well branded – everything was either too expensive and not very palatable or too cheap and not very high quality.
So we decided to find our own middle ground blend and started Matcha Maiden when we were only able to find it in bulk and realised we had to do something with the leftovers!
2. Tell us about your journey in search of the perfect matcha.
Since the home of matcha is in Japan, we wanted to make sure our matcha was from Japan and not from China or other areas of Asia where the same expertise hasn’t developed and the soil is not necessarily as pure. We taste tested over 50 different kinds to pick one that struck the perfect balance – we wanted it to be appealing to the broadest audience since it was relatively new when we started and we were introducing it to people who may have never tried it before. But we also wanted to showcase its beautiful flavour so we chose one that has a distinct taste but isn’t too overpowering or bitter (like some of the more die-hard versions can be). We also wanted to pitch to a health food market so it had to be organic certified as well.
3. What is the difference between matcha and other forms of green tea and what sort of ‘grades’ are there within the matcha family?
Matcha is grown differently from other forms of green tea – it is uniquely kept under shade in the last month before harvesting to increase chlorophyll levels and develop its distinctive flavour. Sencha is fully grown in the sun and genmaicha is sencha mixed with roasted brown rice. Hojicha is pan-fried instead of steamed and has lower levels of caffeine than other teas.
Traditionally there are two grades of matcha – ceremonial grade and ingredient grade. We found that ceremonial was often too overbearing in flavour and requires a whisk to prepare (as well as being too expensive for every day use) whereas ingredient grade is not generally consumed as a tea and is lower quality or often mixed with sweeteners or other fillers. Our aim was to introduce a middle ground between these two traditional “grades” so ours is premium quality, organic certified and tastes beautiful as a plain tea but isn’t hand picked bumping the price up to a “special occasion” level.
4. Tell us more about your limited edition range of products.
The limited edition products are part of The Collaboratory which we started this year – basically we wanted to continue to show the versatility of matcha and bring out a whole range of different products in collaboration with other companies we love and align with. We chose a different partner each month and created a matcha based product that was available for that month only. We have only been able to grow through collaborating and it continues to be one of our favourite ways to work. So we thought why not combine that with matcha madness! We had a face mask, savoury seasoning, pre workout mix, bliss ball mix, all sorts of things!
5. Are you planning to expand Matcha Maiden to include other forms of green tea or products?
We have already spent this year working on The Collaboratory bringing out a new product showcasing different matcha recipe ideas each month. We’ve had SO much fun! There’s been a loaf mix, face mask, savoury seasoning, chocolate… Next year, we hope to bring on the more popular ones as permanent store items so stay tuned!
6. What are the biggest benefits of drinking Matcha?
Matcha’s stand out feature is it’s high antioxidant content. It has up to 137 x the antioxidants of regular green tea and 10 x the overall nutritional content. Based on the Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity (ORAC) test, matcha has 1300 units of antioxidants per gram. Compared to pomegranates and blueberries, which are well known for their antioxidant properties, Matcha has nearly 14 x the antioxidants!!! It’s also great for energy, immunity, metabolism and overall wellbeing. The benefits of green tea are well documented and matcha, being more concentrated, is even better!
Image: Matcha Maiden
7. What’s the most unique way you’ve ever seen anyone using your matcha?
In a green matcha curry!
8. Can pregnant women drink matcha?
Matcha has caffeine in it but less so than coffee. It also has a unique amino acid called L-theanine which ensures a slower release of caffeine to the bloodstream so you don’t get the “jitters” or crash associated with coffee. This is why many caffeine-sensitive people can tolerate matcha but not other caffeinated beverages. Pregnant women can definitely drink matcha, but like many things during pregnancy (and life generally) it all comes down to personal preference. If you’re a big coffee drinker and have a high caffeine tolerance, you can obviously drink more but if you’re caffeine sensitive then it wouldn’t be advised.
9. What are the challenges of running your business that sells a niche product?
It is a niche product but it’s also incredibly versatile, so we are still continuing to come up with new ways to use it. But sometimes it can be challenging to be limited to one product – the main thing is to just keep innovating and building your community around your product so you can grow beyond just matcha i.e. into mixed blends, or into a physical venue like we have with Matcha Mylkbar!
10. What’s next for Matcha Maiden?
We’ve since grown Matcha Maiden into a global matcha family of over 80,000 followers and 1000 stockists around the world. I left my job after we locked in our first big USA contract with Urban Outfitters. Nic has continued to grow his other businesses as well, but I now work solely on Matcha Maiden and Matcha Mylkbar. So we have a very bright green future ahead! We’re also working on some very exciting 2017 plans now, you’ll have to stay tuned!
10. Tell us what your perfect weekend is like.
I love lazy weekends with a good book, trashy TV show, PJs, take away and our dog!
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Image: Matcha Maiden
- Matcha Maiden A Little Lychee Love, AUD24.95, + Add To Wishlist
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