Niko Neko Matcha describe themselves as a matcha lifestyle brand that delivers artisan matcha to the Malaysian market.
Their focus is on serving the purest matcha powder sourced from a tea farm in Japan using traditional methods to perfect and produce the finest quality of matcha.
Matcha leaves are harvested by hand and ground into a fine powder which can be used to make tea or baking purposes. The leaves are also shaded during the last few weeks of their growth to ensure higher nutritional content and a stronger green colour.
Co-founder Syun Hattori shared how their journey into perfecting artisan matcha started.
“It is nearly impossible to develop fine matcha in Malaysia due to a lot of reasons such as the climate, soil, and temperature. Therefore, 2 years ago, we travelled back to Kyoto, Japan, where matcha originated from, and visited various tea farms to find the one that suited our brand concept.”
“Out of the bunch, there was one particular tea farm that attracted us the most, where they were still practicing the traditional method of producing tea that was passed down through generations.”
They shared their intention of forming the Niko Neko brand and agreed to work together as their official tea farm partner, as they were very keen to support their effort in spreading the finest tea powder from Japan to Malaysia.
Being half-Japanese, Syun’s early years were spent with his grandfather and mother who used to prepare and serve matcha tea during special occasions for guests. He moved to Malaysia with his family during his teenage years and has settled down here since then.
His early exposure to Japanese tea made him want to contribute back to his home country by providing awareness of the Japanese tea culture to people in Malaysia.
He proposed the Matcha brand to Izzat Iskandar, a former collegemate who happened to be an avid tea enthusiast and they formed Niko Neko Matcha in 2015.
They chose focus on selling their offerings to cafés and bakery shops instead of going the usual route of just catering to customer demand.
“We have something in common with baristas: we always prioritise highest quality in what we serve and put out best effort in educating not only consumers but society as a whole about awareness on matcha.”
“This similarity sparked a relationship with our café partners and baristas. In fact, we are currently active in attending coffee classes and workshops organised by our barista friends for us to gain knowledge and understand more about coffee.”
He goes on to add that they not only want people to appreciate the tea, but the entire process that goes behind its processing, harvesting, and the toil of farmers and baristas that work hard to perfect the final creation before serving it.
They supply three types of matcha powder to their customers: Yuri, the Classic Matcha, Kiku, the Superior Matcha, and Ren, the Ceremonial Matcha.
Proven to be many baristas’ and patisseries’ first choice, the Yuri Matcha is perfect for those who are bakers and love mixing them with different beverages, such as lattes, smoothies, ice blended drinks, and all sorts of creative desserts and pastries.
Kiku Matcha is known as the Healer and has a perfect balance of both L-Theanine and Catechin. They help to supply your body with antioxidants and are said to have many other health benefits that would come in handy for practices such as yoga, fitness workouts, meditation, and other aspects relating to health.
Ren is their highest quality matcha and is the best choice for ceremonial occasions because it is the specific type that has been used in tea ceremonies in Japan with the rich taste of umami flavour.
The vibrant, richly pleasant taste is enough for you to get a taste of Japan’s tea-drinking culture.
“Artisan Matcha is very high in ‘Umami’ (brothy taste) so it is as if you were drinking broth, with extremely smooth texture with little to zero bitterness.”
“A common misconception regarding matcha is people think bitter matcha should be higher in quality, but it’s actually completely the opposite. Generally, commercial matcha is more bitter in taste and has rough texture as opposed to artisan matcha.”
“Meanwhile, artisan matcha is sweet, creamy and nutty compared to commercially-brewed, which has an unpleasant sharp and dusty smell. Thus, artisan matcha is always more expensive compared to commercial matcha due to these qualities.”
Perhaps this is why their prices might at first seem absurdly high, with 30g of their Ren Matcha going for RM129. Yuri Matcha would seem more affordable at RM69 for 80g, but there are other alternatives online for baking or making lattes at half the pricepoint for a similar quantity.
A quick search also brought us to matcha.my which also sells ceremonial matcha of 30g for RM75.
Editor’s Note: In a previous version of the article, the price for Yuri Matcha was stated incorrectly. It actually costs RM69.00 for 80g.
Syun replied that one can tell the freshness of their matcha by the striking green colour which indicate that the tea leaves contain high levels of chlorophyll and nutrition.
“Matcha is an honest tea; it can be differentiated through the appearance, taste profile, and fragrance. Most of the time, the more expensive it is, the better the quality.”
On the other hand, as the quality of matcha goes lower, the colour changes from green to yellow and even grey, if the leaves are not fresh and not harvested properly.
As matcha is extremely sensitive, they cannot keep it for too long as the freshness will decrease over time as soon as it is opened. Therefore, they recommend to consume it within 2 months of opening and always keep it away from light, heat and moisture.
“You can tell by the consistency in the taste of every batch of our matcha. In order to ensure the quality and its freshness, we do not overstock nor keep it for too long but instead increase the restocking rate to make sure all our matcha that goes to our customers are always in the freshest state from our tea farm.”
Their matcha is used for beverages and even incorporated into pastries such as truffles, cakes, and more. Each café’s creation differs, so you can visit as many (or all) if you want.
They currently supply to a hefty list of cafés within Klang Valley—many known for a combination of their Insta-worthiness and food—such as The Owls Café, Yellow Brick Road Café, Strangers at 47, and Dotty’s in TTDI.
The conspicuous green of their matcha tea certainly stands out; perhaps it will convince me to try and indulge in a little bit more colour than usual.
Feature Image Credit: Niko Neko Matcha