New York-based Cha Cha Matcha is moving into the ready-to-drink market with the launch of a four-SKU line of canned matcha teas.
The brand, which operates five matcha cafes split between New York and Los Angeles, is releasing the line today in 12 oz. slim cans available exclusively in its stores and on its website. Flavors include Green Tea, Ginger Turmeric, Half N Half Matcha Lemonade and Activated Charcoal. The product is sold in 8-packs ($29) and 24-packs ($82.65) online.
Matcha — whole green tea plants, pulverized into powder — has been consumed for centuries, but recent buzz in RTD has been driven by young brands. Backed by both private equity and a roster of celebrity investors, Brooklyn-based MatchaBar, created by brothers Max and Graham Fortgang, made the jump from on-premise service to ready-to-drink products in 2016 by launching a line of iced matcha teas; Hustle, a matcha-based energy drink, followed in 2018. Meanwhile, a slew of other brands have launched matcha-based line extensions in recent months, including Iconic Protein, Tempo Sparkling Tea and Zola.
Speaking with BevNET, co-founders Matthew Morton and Conrad Sandelman explained that a shared addiction to caffeinated products — energy drinks and coffee, respectively — drove the pair to seek a natural alternative, which they found in matcha. Opened in New York City in June 2016, Cha Cha Matcha offers a bridge between the traditional drink and the young urban consumer. At its cafes, the shop offers original, health-minded beverage creations, plus vegan snacks and pastries, that highlight matcha as an ingredient; think lavender CBD matcha, collagen blue algae lattes and mushroom toast. The cafes’ aesthetic — bright, soft, tropical, partly inspired by the Beverly Hills Hotel — is intended to be “the exact opposite” of the modern coffee bar, according to Morton.
“We really wanted to create a place that was uniquely New York but also a kind of escape from your New York life, and what’s more of an escape than palm trees?” he said.
Having established the Cha Cha brand and educated consumers about matcha at its cafes, the new product sees Morton and Sandelman returning to tackle the original problem of finding a natural, better-for-you replacement for grab-and-go energy. The pair spent two years developing a flavor profile for the base of matcha and water that could match that of a fresh drink prepared in-store. That flavor is now offered as the unsweetened, zero-calorie Green Tea SKU (with 65 mg of caffeine), while the rest of the lineup are positioned as iced teas with active functional ingredients, including ginger turmeric and activated charcoal, plus an “Arnold Palmer”-style blend of matcha and lemonade. The latter varieties include 85 mg of caffeine and 30, 35 and 25 calories respectively, and are sweetened with honey and monk fruit. More RTD adaptations of Cha Cha’s drink menu items are expected to follow later this year.
Post-launch, Cha Cha’s co-founders plan on taking a deliberate approach to retail expansion. Beyond a mid-September launch at Erewhon in Los Angeles, the brand will be going “door-to-door” to find new retail partners. In the meantime, Morton and Sandelman will focus on social media marketing, on-site activations and seeding the product to Cha Cha’s network of influencers. In that area, the company has found traction in particular with the fashion community, having collaborated with designer Virgil Abloh on a limited edition branded apparel line.
“Our goal is to deliver the full experience of Cha Cha anywhere in the world,” said Morton. “That ethos and that spirit is perfectly replicated every time into a can.”