Matcha Mood opened this fall on Congress Street in Portland. Photo by Megan Gray.

When I was a college student, I drank six cups of coffee nearly every day. I chugged it in class, while staying up all night to write a last-minute essay and during shifts as an editor at my student newspaper.

Maybe I drank my lifetime capacity of coffee in those four years, but today, I often prefer tea. Still, I had never had matcha until I recently stepped into Matcha Mood on Congress Street in Portland. Two sisters recently opened the city’s first café dedicated entirely to matcha, and it seemed like the right place to get my first cup.

Matcha originated in Japan and is made by grinding whole green tea leaves into a fine powder, which is often added to drinks or desserts. The new café is adorable in shades of pink and green, including the tiny Christmas trees scattered through the store for the holiday season. Everything has a soft pink glow from a neon sign that reads, “In the mood for matcha.” I definitely was.

I had a couple minutes to scan the menu while I waited for another customer to get a drink. I had a number of hot and cold options, including a pumpkin spice latte with matcha and an iced matcha yuzu lemonade. I decided to keep my order straightforward for my first visit and chose a hot matcha latte ($6.25). Matcha Mood also sells various flavors of “croffle,” a hybrid of a croissant and a waffle first popularized in South Korea.

Matcha Mood is small and adorable, decorated in shades of pink and green. Photo by Megan Gray.

Perhaps inspired by the color scheme, I ordered a croffle with strawberries and cream ($6.50). The menu included a savory option (ham and cheese) and other sweet options (including one topped with homemade matcha white chocolate cream). I couldn’t resist the last piece of coconut cake in the refrigerator ($10) and bought it with a stern promise to myself to save it for after dinner.

I had a couple minutes to browse before my latte was ready, so I perused the shelves of pink and green mugs, hair clips and candles. For newbies like me, a sign explained the benefits of matcha. It promised an energy boost without the jitters of coffee due to a combination of caffeine and calming amino acids.

My drink was ready in no time. The flavor was bright and not too bitter, a little grassy but also sweet. The poster had me leaning, but my first sips knocked me off the fence into fandom. My croffle, both airy and buttery, came out of the kitchen just a couple minutes later. I claimed one of the high-top stools at the window and watched the Congress Street traffic while I enjoyed my treats (including the tiniest taste of the coconut cake, which was also pillowy and delicious).

I’m sure there are things I miss about being a 20-year-old college student, but in that moment, I was pretty happy to be 32, with my coffee addiction far behind me.

A piece of coconut cake, a croffle with strawberries and cream, and a matcha latte at Matcha Mood on Congress Street in Portland. Photo by Megan Gray.

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