If you’re looking for experts in caffeine consumption, you’d be worse off than turning to two recent college graduates. As students at New York University, Matthew Morton and Conrad Sandelman honed their skills. “I was a crunch time, all-nighter studier, five Red Bulls in a row, and then I’d be taking naps in the middle of the day,” says Morton. “So Conrad showed me matcha [tea], and after that we were on a journey through New York to try and find really good matcha.” Their quest was disappointing, though, as they found either high quality matcha, a type of green tea, in stuffy tea houses (“we had to drink it out of a bowl with both hands”), or cool spots with chalky offerings. So they set out to marry the two concepts.
“We were like okay, what do we do to make this fun, chill, accessible to everybody, and quick?” says Morton, a son of Hard Rock Café co-founder Peter Morton. A research trip to Kyoto and Uji last spring resulted in building a custom ceremonial-grade blend: “We wanted a really strong caffeine buzz because we felt we and New Yorkers as a whole want that extra kick and then we wanted something that had a really, really smooth flavor profile,” says Conrad.
When they signed the lease to a building on Broome Street (after graduating in 2015), Cha Cha Matcha was born. Opened in the beginning of June, the space is decorated in tropical pinks and greens, with light wood tables and a coffee-style bar. Vintage chacha-themed records decorate the walls (ocha means “tea” in Japanese). The menu includes straight matcha for the bold of heart, as well as matcha lattes, cappuccinos and lemonade. There’s also a concurrent coffee menu.
Morton and Sandelman teamed up with the Japanese dessert bar Chikalicious in the East Village, for baked goods – some matcha-infused, some not, like the vegan gluten-free banana bread – and frozen yogurt. The menu may expand, but for now, Cha Cha Matcha is already drawing the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Gigi Hadid and Paris Hilton, not to mention slews of fashiony downtown types. And even if you don’t spot a celeb while you’re there, the barista might draw their likeness in latte foam.
“We wanted to create a place that was free from the hustle and bustle of New York City that was warm and fun and bright,” says Morton. “Tea is too serious and coffee is way too serious too, so we want to serve a high quality, authentic product, but in a place where people can just have fun and relax.”
The hot pink awning out front, plus Instagram-worthy pink and green take-away cups.
Tribes Models wearing black, creative-types who work nearby.
VIPs Leonardo DiCaprio, Gigi Hadid, Paris Hilton
Drinks Matcha from $3.50 to $5, coffee from $2.50 to $4.
The Basics 373 Broome Street, Manhattan, New York. 310-880-0364. Monday to Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.