Plain Tiger Spotlight: Matcha Union

There’s more to it than just a cup of tea

By Renee Fortune

In 2015, Gwenyth Paltrow posted about trying a cup of matcha tea at a local coffee shop. A few curious minds cottoned onto the idea and decided to try it for themselves. After discovering the powerful properties of matcha, celebrities like Justin Bieber and Zandaya soon joined the club. It wasn’t long before matcha went mainstream and what began as a trend became a lifestyle practice. 

A little bit of history

But, while matcha may seem like a modern-world invention, its history goes way back to 1191. The first matcha green tea seeds are believed to have been introduced to Japan by a Zen monk, Myoan Eisai, who began cultivating the tea in the garden of a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Eisai found that consuming the tea aided his meditation practice and produced a state of ‘calm alertness.’ Many Zen monks followed his lead, claiming that matcha was a means of attaining enlightenment and making regular offerings of the tea at temples. These were the earliest origins of the Japanese tea ceremony or chado – an intricate ritual that embodies the search for inner peace, tranquility and harmony.

Today, if you’re fortunate enough to visit Japan and experience a traditional tea ceremony, you’ll understand how each tool and technique comes together in a ritual that celebrates the beauty of the simple things and the immense value of mindfulness.

Ours is a fast-paced world. It’s a world in which we find ourselves caught up in an infinitely interconnected reality and yet at times, it seems we’re more disconnected as humans than we’ve ever been. The need to reconnect with each other and the world around us, to rediscover the things that really matter and to find a sense of calm in the midst of what can be a very chaotic existence, was what motivated Louisa Birkhahn to found Matcha Union.

In search of inner transformation

After graduating from business school, Louisa moved to Shanghai, where she launched her first venture – an all-day dining cafe called ‘Tartine.’ The cafe marked her foray into the world of business. It was also the beginning of her own personal journey with the traditionally Japanese brand of wellness. It was here that she discovered matcha tea and witnessed first-hand how consuming a tea that – quite literally – diffuses the power of nature in a cup, could be life-changing. Upon moving back to the UK, she was keen to start again, and build a brand that could extend beyond the four walls of a cafe. Her vision as an entrepreneur was to find a way to introduce matcha to the world and to empower others to find “their groove,” and live in harmony with people and the planet. In matcha tea, Louisa found the greenest, most effective and holistically healthy alternative to coffee – a way to get the morning boost you need to get going, but with a firm grounding in inner calm. This was the story of how her brand, Matcha Union came into being. As she explains; 

“Now, more than ever, a brand like Matcha Union is resonating deeply with consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have prompted a collective reflection on our health and wellbeing, emphasising the importance of small yet meaningful lifestyle adjustments. We are increasingly recognising the significance of moments of self-care in our hectic schedules. Enjoying a cup of antioxidant-rich matcha is not just about savouring a warming drink; it's a holistic ritual that allows for a pause, a moment of tranquility amidst the noise of our daily lives.”

Matcha Union: about the brand

There’s so much to love about Matcha Union. But we’ll start with how it’s packaged. Now we know they say to never judge a book by its cover, but when you see a Matcha Union product, we can’t help thinking it’s a book everyone will want to read. 

The brand’s design ethos, as Louisa explains, is a “contemporary interpretation of tradition, combining minimalist elegance with the rich, cultural heritage of matcha.” The brand’s pastel colourway leans towards everything serene, drawing inspiration from what you’d see if you visited Japanese tea houses and gardens. Two colours play in a gradient that echoes the natural colourings of sakura blossoms and bamboo, alongside shades that reflect the organic aesthetic of stone and water. These colour choices, combined with clean lines, balanced proportions and the strategic use of space, symbolises mental clarity and harmony – everything you’ll unlock with a cup or two of matcha. 

What’s in the box?

Inside the box, is a whole different experience. In the Ritual Set, you’ll get everything you need to have your own Japanese-inspired tea ceremony in the comfort of your own home, office, garden or wherever you find yourself in a moment of much-needed solitude. Harvested in Uji, Kyoto, the birthplace of matcha, the Ceremonial Grade Matcha is loaded with antioxidants, which gives it its trademark, vibrant, green colour and its signature blend of earthy flavours with sweet undertones. The tea comes as a fine powder, ground from organic, shade-grown tea leaves. Those who drink a cup of matcha have reported feeling energised and mentally focused, The tea has also been found to boost metabolic function, amongst other key benefits. In the box you’ll also find a traditional, Japanese tool called a chasen, made from a single piece of bamboo. Its 100 prongs allows you to create the best mix of matcha powder, water and air to create drinks with a light, frothy consistency, a smooth texture and sweet aroma. Unbox it and you’ll also find a stainless steel tea scoop, used to transfer matcha from its container into a tea bowl. This tea scoop is Matcha Union’s modern version of the traditional chashaku, giving you the best scoop of matcha every time. 

An earth-first philosophy

You’ll also be delighted to learn that Matcha Union is a sustainable brand, though and through. As Louisa puts it: “Sustainability lies at the heart of our ethos. We specialise in premium and ceremonial grade matcha, sustainably sourced directly from farms in Japan, ensuring a 'farm to cup' journey that respects our planet. 

Our deep commitment extends beyond product quality to nurturing lasting relationships with our customers and partners. We pledge to continually improve through transparent communication, active listening, and learning. Our dedication to sourcing and utilizing ingredients in the most natural and sustainable ways possible is a testament to our shared values of quality and sustainability. 

We firmly believe that our commitment goes beyond offering a product; we aim to make a positive, lasting impact on the world, safeguarding a healthier planet for future generations. Matcha Union is more than just about matcha. It's about fostering a union between quality, wellness, and sustainability.” 

So there you have it – inner peace in a box, ready to serve and enjoy with someone special. It’s about forming a union, making connections, bonding with friends and living in communion with your surroundings. Savour it. Because in a world moving at breakneck speed, we could all use some inspiration to slow down, take a sip and unearth our own sense of serenity.
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