Japan or San Diego? Holy Matcha has matcha so good your tastebuds will think you’re on an exotic vacation.
San Diego’s first matcha cafe serves up your daily dose of tea, with a side of ritual and mindfulness to unwind and be present.
Founder, Geraldine Ridaura discovered her love of matcha when she realized coffee and her no longer got along. Her coffee-fueled all-nighters in college would lead to migraines and nausea, which ultimately led her to a doctor advising her to switch to tea.
“That was honestly depressing — I lived off of coffee,” remembers Ridaura. Determined to give tea a real try though, she set out to research every different type, looking for one that would provide an extra caffeine boost to tackle the day. When she found matcha she was immediately captivated by all its health benefits and its high caffeine content.
A short time later, her boyfriend’s Japanese roommate decided to get married in his hometown of Tokyo, and Ridarua was overjoyed — she would actually get to visit the motherland of the magical green plant that had become her new holy grail.
“I fell in love with the culture,” gushes Ridaura about her first trip to Japan. “The tea ceremony was the most amazing experience I have had in my life.”
Despite Ridarua returning home with a suitcase full of authentic Japanese matcha, she knew her beloved stash wouldn’t last forever.
Running out of matcha far too fast and annoyed that she wouldn’t be able to obtain a real cup of matcha at a local coffee shop, the idea hit her… Holy Matcha! Why not open her own?
“I told my parents I was going to quit my job and open a matcha cafe,” Ridaura remembers. “They looked at me like I was crazy… but looking back at it, if they hadn’t challenged me, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
With no cafe or barista experience, all Ridaura knew was she wanted to share her love for matcha with her San Diego community. She found a spot in North Park and painted the entire building baby pink.
“I love pink,” explains the entrepreneur. “Cafes in San Diego two years ago were all white, black, and wood — very neutral colors. I told myself ‘Don’t be subtle, stand out, be weird.’”
While Holy Matcha is dominating the Instagram game with its color aesthetic, the cafe in itself offers a much deeper experience beyond social media. You’re not just ordering a drink you saw on Instagram or taking a photo of the cute stencil dusted on top of your latte — you’re actually ordering a piece of Uji, Japan where the matcha is sourced from.
Holy Matcha’s drink menu offers a wide variety of dairy-free matcha lattes, snacks, and lemonades to tickle the taste buds, but its most popular item is the ceremonial matcha, which is matcha of such high quality the cafe kindly declines adding any adaptogens or milk so as to preserve the smooth and rich texture of the tea.
Each cup served, whether it’s a hot almond milk latte, an iced turmeric latte, or the ceremonial matcha, is prepared with a chasen (traditional matcha whisk) in a chawan (Japanese tea bowl).
“We pay attention to every detail in order to respect and share the beautiful, traditional Japanese culture,” explains Ridaura who lives for the process.
Today Ridaura visits Uji, Japan often to visit her matcha grower, who now has a section of his farm dedicated to growing the plant for Holy Matcha cafe only — which brings a smile to Ridaura’s face that you can hear in her words.
“Seeing people come through the door is what makes it all worth it,” she says with gratitude. “Not because of the money, but because I can watch them experience something I love so much. I am honored and blessed.”
Anna Guilford is a writer based in Long Beach.