I’m so excited to share today’s post with you guys. I am such a sucker for a good matcha latte and I think it’s so important for my readers and followers to know the best spots (especially when traveling) to get one. So many coffee shops these days sneak sugar into pretty much every beverage they can which drives me up the wall and around the corner. Truly. That’s why I wanted to put together this guide – so you can find the best matcha lattes in Chicago that aren’t overly sweet and a rich dark green like how a good matcha latte should be. Of course some of these may be a tad sweet due to the certain milk they use so always ask! All of the shops where I can get Oatly oat milk with my matcha, the oat milk is naturally sweet but has no added sugars.
To begin, for those who are unfamiliar with matcha, it’s a traditional Japanese green tea that is sold in a fine ground powder that has a delicate taste and fine texture (often must be sifted and whisked before consumed). Some often say it tastes like grass which is why many coffee shops and tea bars sweeten it but personally I love it more bitter. However, I also don’t like drinking grass (who would?) so finding a nice mix of slightly naturally sweet and bitter is key!
I love matcha as a coffee alternative because it has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Roughly about 1/2 tsp has between 30-35mg of caffeine. I will preface this in saying I’ve had 2 matchas in 1 day before and I do feel the effects of the caffeine more so when I have it on an empty stomach or in the middle of the day but nowhere near anything like the buzz and rush espresso/cold brew gives me. But of course everyone is different 🙂
Now for the differences of matcha and what to look for… If you take a look closely at matcha you’ll see some are lighter in color (looking like mint chip ice cream sans the chips), while others are a bit darker (literally they look like grass). There’s a huge difference in which you’re buying whether at home or out – you’ll taste the difference. ceremonial vs. culinary. Ceremonial should be just matcha powder itself and water to truly enjoy it as it was meant to be consumed – simple and with no additives like sweeteners or milks – similar to drinking a plain old cup of tea. Culinary is used for just that – best blended into baked goods, smoothies, pancakes, truly whatever your heart desires. Ceremonial is usually darker in color whereas culinary is lighter. In addition, they both have slightly different tastes. To be honest, I like adding ceremonial into my matcha lattes rather than drinking it with hot water because I love how strong the taste is when paired with a nut milk – however it definitely is an acquired taste. Someone else might want culinary for the simple, lighter taste. Somme of my favorite brands of matcha are Ippodo Tea, Matchaeologist and Art of Tea. I also love Vital Proteins’ Matcha Collagen which I’ve chatted about in this blog post (how I went 8 weeks without coffee) as itprovides a creamy matcha latte.
Now that you know a little bit more about matcha itself, you’ll know that a) it’s an acquired taste b) it’s honestly hard to find out in coffee shops because good quality matcha is EXPENSIVE c) it’s not even served at all coffee shops (hens why I have this handy post for ya!) and lastly d) it really depends what you blend/mix with it for the best flavor/taste (in my opinion).
Within the last year I pretty much turned from a coffee snob to someone who is on the hunt for the best matcha in the city – preferrably unsweetened and dark in color – but through tons of coffee shop visits, I think I’ve finally mastered the top 10 spots I recommend grabbing this green frothy goodness from in Chicago. If you guys like this guide, please let me know your thoughts on social + if I should do more similar to this on any other foods/drinks/etc in the city/elsewhere. I freakin’ love making these and leading people in (what I hope to be) the right direction!
Without further adieu, these are my spots from favorite to least favorite (keep in mind I like them all but you know.. someone’s gotta pick favorites). Also, keep in mind everywhere I go I say “unsweetened please!” because you can’t trust anyone anymore, ha 🙂
My Top Picks for an Unsweetened Matcha in Chicago
- CC Ferns (Humboldt Park) – There is something so magical about this place to me. I can’t quite really place what it is, maybe it’s because it’s dark and moody and so perfect when it’s absolutely dead (which is rare so come early if you want a seat) and their drinks are served in massive brown mugs but it’s so cozy. The first time I went here was on a date for coffee and I had the guy drive us because it was so far… truly I think I’ve been here maybe 3-4x because of the distance alone. It’s in the Humboldt Park area which is just honestly far out unless you have a car but it’s the cutest and I freaking love it. They have coffee drinks, serve macadamia nut milk for their dairy-free option and their matcha isn’t sweet AT ALL plus it’s the brightest richest color of green I’ve laid my eyes on. You must get it!
2. Amazon Bookstore (on Southport in Lakeview) – I found this gem when I lived a block away over a year ago. It became one of the few places I would go where the workers actually memorized my order and knew me by name, even if I walked by the window. So sweet! It’s one of my favorites as they brew Stumptown Coffee, sell Rishi tea and make matcha lattes unsweetened. It was also one of the first coffee shops I discovered near me that sold Oatly’s oat milk! I used to go in every morning at 6am because it was a 5 minute walk from my apartment or I’d go after Soulcycle. It’s one of those coffee shops that gives me such good memories even though it’s 20% coffee shop and 80% Amazon book store. Grab a matcha, grab a book and enjoy!
3. Heritage Bicycles (locations in River North, Uptown, and Lakeview) – Another one of my favorite coffee shops that seems to always be packed no matter where or when you go, however all of their locations are so photogenic and cozy in their own way. I’ve actually done a photoshoot before at the Lakeview location which is such a cozy spot to meet a friend! Think white walls and wooden tables, decked out with bicycles everywhere. Fun fact Heritage is half coffee shop, half bike shop. You can’t go wrong with any items here but I love their matcha (with oatly!), iced teas and their Lakeview location even has food to order.
4. Sawada Coffee (West Loop) – I think this was the first place I ever had a matcha at in the city. If you know… you know. It’s the first U.S. coffee shop from the “latte art expert” Hiroshi Sawada (they actually sell a book of his in the shop!) and it has ALL the vibes. Tourists always go here and it’s basically begging you to take a photo of it. I always tell my friends to go here and to The Allis (the restaurant on the main floor of the Soho House across the street) if you’re spending a Saturday in the city. I always get their matcha latte with macadamia nut milk but definitely ask for it unsweetened as if not, they add syrup to it! Also their militairy latte I’ve heard is quite amazing but I still have yet to try it. It’s cocoa powder, espresso AND matcha. It’s beautiful. P.s. they used to have a second shop called Sawada Matcha but it closed at the end of 2018 – super bummed because it was so freakin’ cute!
5. Intelligentsia Coffee (the Loop, Old Town and Logan Square) – Pretty sure this was the first place I ever tried oat milk and also one of my favorite spots just because there is one everywhere you look in Chicago in pretty much every neighborhood, too. I like the one in Old Town because if you’re hungry it’s connected to a Plum Market (one of my favorite grocery stores in Chicago). They’re matcha is roughly $7 so watch out price wise and make sure you say unsweetened but it’s delicious! They use Rishi tea, sell Oatly in their fridge and Big Spoon Roasters nut butter bars. I think the Logan Square one is the most photogenic and if you’re ever roaming around the Art Institute of Chicago, the loop location is very close by.
6. Colectivo (Lincoln Park and Wicker Park) — This place sort of reminds me of if Bruegger’s Bagels on the east coast and Starbucks had a child. They have tons of pastries, sandwiches, salads, drinks, specials… truly everything you can think of. Every time I go there I’m high-key very overwhelmed but it’s the ideal place to study and an even better place to grab a matcha. I ask for their 12oz matcha iced with oat milk. They don’t use oatly, pretty sure they use Pacific (which isn’t my favorite brand as I believe it had added sugar) but it’s a fairly good matcha and it’s just a good spot to go with friends.
7. Fairgrounds Coffee (Wicker Park and the Loop are the ones I’ve been to, they have 4 others including one in Minneapolis!) – I love this spot for how many options they have. Very similar to Colectivo in the sense you look at the menu and you’re instantly overwhelmed but in a good way. They offer breakfast and lunch options including a roasted vegetable sandiwch with hummus (YES) and huevos rancheros breakfast tacos, among other tasty options. Hands down their “brew” bar is the best part though. They have a rotating selection of coffee from around the country and it’s always rotating! I love when you go into a coffee shop like this and can expect something different every time. As for their matcha: they have Rishi Organic, Rishi Ceremonial Grade Organic and Rishi Shiro No Kotobuki Imperial Grade. You can get the matcha as a cortado, cappuccino, americano or latte, too. Oh and as for the milks? They offer Oatly, coconut, and almond milk. I think I may be missing one but DAMN, the list goes on and on! I wish I was a chocolate person too because they have a “Vosges Coconut Charcoal Elixir” that’s charcoal, 100% cacao, coconut puree and coconut water. I die!!! P.s. the Wicker Park location is always packed to the brim and has minimal seating.
8. Dollop Coffee (River North, Streeterville and the Loop) – Hands down one of my favorite coffee shops because it isn’t millennial or photogenic per say but just a solid coffee shop with PLENTY of tables and a lot of work space to get shit done. They have multiple locations but my favorites are the River North one (they sell Siggi’s yogurt and delicious pastries!) and Streeterville (large open and inviting space). I’ve gotten their oat milk latte which I love but they’re matcha is decent as well. If you’re also a tea girl like myself, get their peppermint tea iced! So refreshing.
9. Oromo Cafe (Lincoln Square) – I discovered Oromo when I went to Loyola (maybe my senior year) and I was literally shouting from the rooftops YESSS! It’s the closest thing to something you’d find in LA or NY that we have in Chicago because all of their drinks are so extremely creative. They sell small plates, salads, sandwiches, have a ton of organic, gluten-free baked goods and even raw balls/bites. Their menu clearly labels what is 100% organic (like their almond, pecan AND pistachio milks — straight up swooning over here), they have “blended” beverages that take Starbucks fraps to the next level. Their “pistachio + matcha” blended drink is homemade pistachio milk, matcha, frozen banana, spirulina and hemp hearts… I mean??? Hello! They also have golden milk served with espresso and the tastiest pecan milk. Ok I think you get the point now this place is straight magic.
10. Hi Vibe Juicery (River North) – When I used to work at my previous job, Hi Vibe’s location was so close I’d go there before and after work to get iced matchas or acai bowls in the summer when my office was 100º. No joke! I absolutely love their juices and smoothies especially how many additions/modifications you can make. They’ve got keto coffee, paleo coffee, matcha and chagas. For those unfamiliar with chaga, it’s an adaptogen that tastes super similar to coffee/chocolate so when added to nut milks it is the frothiest, dreamiest situation ever. You guys have to just google their menu to see all of the amazing goodness it has to offer but definitely get their Mint Matcha Chip (ask for no maple) or Chocolate Shaman smoothie (I sub the hemp protein for collagen protein, no date and no coconut butter). I had the chocolate shaman 3 days in a row when I got my wisdom teeth out last summer. No regrets! As for their matcha, I usually do a custom matcha with collagen protein, coconut cream and maca. Delish.
P.s. Just to throw it out there since so many of you ask – La Colombe is hands down my favorite coffee shop in the city (I know that is not matcha related) but a lot of you ask IF they have matcha lattes and no they sadly do not. If you ask for matcha they will give you green tea… not the same, ha! Just as a tip 🙂
Other spots I’ve been meaning to try their matcha:
–Loba Pastry Café (Lakeview) — so many unique pastries and right underneath the Paulina brown line!
–Metropolis Coffee (Edgewater) — I used to go here all the time when I was at Loyola and they have hemp milk!
–Café Integral (River North) — such a cute space and supposedly they have delicious matcha and an amazing food menu!
I hope you guys enjoyed this and let me know if you visit any of the above spots!
All photos taken by Sam Parquette