Matcha cafe franchise expands to Calgary, Halifax and Montreal

A franchise that's riding the matcha green tea wave is hoping Calgary, Montreal and the Maritimes will be receptive markets for a product line many Asians have been enjoying for years.

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"I wanted to do something that wasn't saturated," Ken Wong told CBC News.

"Bubble tea is great, but there are a lot of bubble tea places."

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He's rolling the dice on Tsujiri's first Calgary franchise, on 16th Avenue N.E.

It's a mixture of drinks and desserts with matcha at the core. Matcha is a type of green tea leaf that is ground into a fine powder after being shade-grown for about a month.

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"Matcha goes through a drying process that's different from regular green tea. It goes straight to processing and sorting and into a stone mill that grinds it into a fine powder. This allows it to keep a lot of the nutritional value," Wong said.

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"When you drink matcha, you consume the entire leaf and you get all the nutrients."

Tsujiri started in Japan 160 years ago. There's a statue of the founder, Riemon Tsuji, in Kyoto, honouring his contribution to the tea industry in Japan.

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Ontario and B.C. stores seem to tap into a market, Wong said, which led to a downtown Edmonton location.

"People tend to be more healthy with their diet choices these days. Green tea and matcha is popular among young people and older people. Asian people especially, they really love green tea."

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Wong says many people believe there are significant health benefits.

"It has a lot of antioxidants. It has caffeine, but people find it's a more slow burning effect," he said.

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"It's different from other teas, it's got a nice, earthy flavour to it. It's not so sweet. In the West, we are used to more sweet tasting teas, treats, drinks. So it's a nice change of pace. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but the more you drink it, the more you like it. It's got a strong flavour."

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The Calgary location will offer a variety of teas, lattes and drinks as well as ice creams variations, pastries and lots of other sweeter stuff.

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