“Everything in Texas has to be bigger, so we couldn’t just have a stand,” said Thinh Quach, one of the partners of Matcha Café Maiko, which opened on July 17 in Chinatown. This new cafe, in short, is a perfect study location for the busy college student who wants a moment away from campus.
Matcha Café Maiko originated in Hawaii, where the cafe opened its first stand. Quach, and his partner Tung Tran, are seasoned travelers. When they visited Hawaii, they were excited to see a Japanese-style matcha stand, which was called Matcha Café Maiko. They tried the soft serve matcha and fell in love. They then decided to bring the stand to Houston and add to the city’s already vibrant melting pot.
Matcha is a finely ground green tea leaf powder that originates from China but is very popular in Japan. At Quach and Tran’s cafe, matcha is served in multiple ways; there are traditionally brewed matcha and hojicha teas, as well as matcha soft-serve, parfaits, lattes, frappes, floats and other interesting concoctions. The top sellers are the matcha latte float and the Maiko special.
My first impressions of Matcha Café Maiko were that the location is quite cozy, that the workers are extremely friendly and that the space is geared toward college students.
When I asked Quach about how he and his partner designed the space, he explained that they had found the location first and fit the decor and space organization to the shop’s original architecture. The front section of the cafe is more open and designed to allow for casual conversation, whereas the back section is designed with the student in mind, as there are booths with copious numbers of pillows. This study area has a much more relaxed environment where friends can hang out, enjoy a nice matcha tea latte or be productive.
Quach said that he called on his own student experience to help him understand how to best design that space, and that he and his partner sat in every corner of the space to make sure it was perfect for its patrons. Overall, the cafe’s aesthetic mimics that of Japanese interior design and makes itself both comfortable and inviting.
I tried the matcha tea latte float, which is a blended vanilla and matcha soft serve that lies on top of an iced matcha latte. The soft serve was wonderful and light, and the sweetness of the vanilla complemented its smooth but bitter taste. As a caffeine junkie, I was pretty sure that I had finally met my perfect match. Not only was the soft serve full of sugar, the matcha has pretty high caffeine levels for a tea.
I also tried the iced matcha tea and the iced hojicha. Between the two, I preferred the matcha. I’ve sampled different renditions of the beverage at different coffee shops across Houston, and by far, this was the best matcha I have ever had. It was smooth and rich and didn’t have the same biting bitter flavor of other kinds of matcha teas I’ve tried. The matcha at Matcha Café Maiko is imported all the way from Japan, and it’s obvious from the taste that it is of a very high quality.
To top it off, the owners also serve as an example of local community members living out their passions. Quach and Tran were extremely appreciative of the local community’s support on opening day, when they ran out of product supplies and were completely sold out over an hour before closing. To them, it was important to keep the store authentic to its origins. For any college student, this is definitely a must-try.