When Kip and Tiffanie Home moved into their Japanese-style house in Fairfield, they had no idea it would lead them to a complete change in lifestyle.
“It has a tatami room and an inner courtyard with a koi pond,” said Kip. “A friend brought us a tin of matcha and a whisk as a housewarming present. We tried it and I didn’t like it at first, then we learned how to make it properly and I kind of got into a, ‘how come I’m feeling so good?’ kind of a thing so I started exploring matcha.”
His exploration led him to JagaSilk in Victoria, a tea shop which also imports matcha from a grower in Japan.
“Then it struck me that you could not get matcha just anywhere and I thought, ‘is there a business in that?’” he said.
Tiffanie is a Montessori teacher and Kip a hedge fund administrator, but they put it all on the back burner to open Just Matcha in Oak Bay last October.
“Honestly I didn’t do a lot of market research,” said Kip. “Everybody I’d give it to, to try, enjoyed it and I basically thought, ‘it can’t just be us – and if it is, I guess I’ll go down with the ship.’”
Matcha is a shade-grown green tea that is destemmed, deveined and ground into a fine powder for consumption. The growing process includes covering the plants with bamboo mats or tarps to reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the plants. This increases the chlorophyll content and turns the leaves dark, giving matcha a distinct brilliant green colour.
It is primarily used in Japanese tea ceremonies, but evidence of its health benefits, primarily as an antioxidant, have brought it into common usage.
“I was a big coffee drinker. I would have two or three a day and I was having double espressos. It took me under a month from drinking no matcha, to this is all I drink,” he said. “I love this stuff. It’s life changing, not only do I love it. It’s good for me.”
Matcha is reported to have a higher potency of catechins, chlorophyll and antioxidants than other green teas. By weight, matcha contains several dozen times more antioxidants than blueberries, pomegranates or spinach.
“I noticed right away that I’m in a better mood and over the longterm – over a year – I noticed that I’m less creaky. (My joints) don’t hurt as much and I have fewer stomach issues.”
Many of his customers enjoy the health benefits as well.
“I drink it for my health. For the way it makes me feel,” said customer Nancy Prescott. “It makes me feel energized and relaxed at the same time. I drink much less coffee now and matcha has none of the side effects that sometimes coffee has. It gives you a calming energy I find very nourishing.”
Kip has nothing against coffee, but he feels many people are looking for healthier alternatives.
“If you’re in your mid-40s and you’re looking at the latter half of the game, you want to improve your lifestyle, improve your happiness,” he said.
Many customers are in their 60s and 70s who have heard matcha is beneficial to health and some come in to buy his matcha related products such as matcha coated almonds and pecans made at The Little Cakery in Victoria. They also carry Pottery by Laurie, made specially for serving matcha.
“All kinds of people are matcha lovers,” said Kip. “So far sales are up every month. … We’re very happy here.
“It’s not Starbucks, people aren’t lining up and beating my door down to get in every morning – but we’re loving it. It’s not without its challenges, the least of which is I haven’t been paid in quite a while,” he said with a chuckle. “But dealing with the client side, chatting to people, there is a lot of personal goodwill associated with it – that’s a nice up for me.”
Just Matcha is located at 2021 Oak Bay Ave.