Matcha, the finely ground powdered green tea that originated in China, has been around for more than a millennium. But it has only become popular in the United States in the past couple of years, and has been touted for its health benefits—which means, if you look around, that it has probably been corrupted in one way or another. Enter instant matcha packets, from the matcha company Panatea (which, presumably, rhymes with manatee), set to be released October 4. Made from a combination of “ceremonial grade matcha” and “soluble fiber,” you can now pre-order a 10-pack canister of the stuff at the discounted price of $16.99; each packet makes one drink. Alternatively, a 30-packet canister is now going for $33.99, as is a monthly subscription, in case you absolutely know you want to drink instant matcha all the time.
The instant powder, which, according to Panatea, can be used in hot or cold water, requires no whisk (though you do need to stir it), a staple of matcha preparation and, frankly, one of the most charming things about it. The whisk, typically bamboo, is used to ensure no clumps of powder remain in the drink, and to make it pleasingly frothy.
If you watch the preparation video for instant matcha on Panatea’s website, it presents the drink as a kind of pick-me-up like coffee (though who drinks instant coffee anymore?), meant to be consumed on the go. A little tagline appears at the end, reading: “So matcha to do, so little time.” It's cute, but it seems to contradict the spirit of matcha, which, if you’re going to make in a proper and traditional way, requires some love and attention, as a slew of YouTube tutorials make clear.
It isn’t that matcha takes a long time to prepare—only a couple of minutes; it’s basically instant already—and I don’t mean to idealize it. But the packets begin to seem perverse when you consider that matcha is meant to be consumed from a special bowl in just a few satisfying sips. The packets, Panatea suggests, can fill a water bottle. But that is, of course, what happens when Americans get their hands on something new. They make it yooge.