If you’ve spent time at Dune Coffee, Cajé Coffee Roasters, Dart Coffee Co., or other trendy places around town, there’s a high likelihood you’ve seen folks sipping tall glasses of verdant matcha green tea. What you might not know is that the matcha is of exceptional quality, flown directly from the fields of Uji, Japan, by a longtime Santa Barbara family. Lauren Danson started Mizuba Tea Co. back in 2013, and she has been supplying our city with heritage Japanese teas ever since. We talked to her about what makes authentic matcha, how Mizuba came to be, and where to find it locally.
How did you get into the tea business?
I’ve been studying specialty tea since I was 11 years old (true story!). My mom would make me a cup of tea every morning before school. Not only did I love the tea itself, I also loved having that moment in the morning with my mom. Tea was so much more than just drinking a cozy beverage. Tea really is a medium of connection with whoever you share it with.
I learned I could drink the tastiest tea in the world, but I never enjoyed it as much by myself than I did sharing it with others. The experience of making friends over tea stayed with me all through high school, college, and now, eight-and-a-half years later, where I continue to enjoy sharing tea with my community professionally.
I fell in love with all kinds of tea, but in 2013 I had the opportunity to visit a friend who was living in Tokyo. I had been planning to pursue journalism as a career, but while in Japan I made a connection with a matcha producer in Uji—which happens to be the birthplace of matcha. (A good analogy is what Bordeaux is for wine in France.) After I came home, we struck up an email correspondence for six months. One day, he asked if I wanted to sell his tea in America and offered to send me samples of his matcha. We sell his teas to this day!
What makes Mizuba teas special? Where does the tea come from?
Mizuba Tea is a platform for tea farmers and producers to showcase their heritage matcha and loose-leaf Japanese teas. Not many people know this, but the tea industry in Japan has been declining for the past 15 years. Though it may seem “matcha” is on just about every menu in cafés across the nation, the reality is that genuine Japanese matcha only comprises about 2% of Japan’s current tea production. In the past 20 years, four out of every five tea farmers or producers in Japan have retired, abandoned their fields, or quit. Despite these statistics, we find hope in the tea makers who dedicate their lives to seeing Japanese tea traditions live on through exquisitely crafted, small-batch teas. Through the years we have seen a massive increase in support and are incredibly thankful there are awesome places in Santa Barbara that want to serve traditional matcha tea!
All Mizuba tea is non-GMO, certified radiation-free, and certified heavy metal–free, and we have a number of certified organic teas. Matcha must be from Japan, properly shade-grown, and stone-milled in order to truly be called matcha.
Our heritage matcha is most commonly found and served around town, but you can check out our special collection of organic loose leaf teas like single-cultivar sencha, gyokuro, genmaicha, and hojicha on our website.
What do you love about matcha?
I absolutely love how versatile it is! I personally always drink matcha made traditionally with a chasen whisk at home. Matcha is the only tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony (cha-no-yu). The process is very grounding, and I appreciate connecting with the tradition of matcha by using the chasen whisk. I also simply love the tea’s flavor and enjoy its health benefits.
But we also have had so much fun seeing all the specialty drinks and treats local chefs and baristas dream up. The Shop has the most refreshing Mizuba lemonade. Cajé has the jaw-dropping “Bella Rosa” (a Mizuba latte with pomegranate-juice ice cubes, strawberry-elderflower syrup, a sprinkle of beet powder, and rose petals!). Dune serves up a perfect Mizuba latte with oat milk and honey. Alessia Patisserie features Mizuba macarons, and if you are lucky enough to snag a Mizuba donut from KIN Bakeshop’s pop-up, it might be the dreamiest donut you’ve ever had. There are so many innovative Mizuba goodies around town it’s impossible to list them all! P.S. I also have to list Creaminal’s cotton candy affogato al Mizuba matcha—it’s an experience!
Is matcha hard to make at home?
Not at all. In fact, our tea farmers in Japan are so thrilled more and more people are enjoying quality matcha at home. Mizuba’s mission is to make outstanding teas more accessible. There are many ways to start making a #matchamoment a daily habit.
We have video guides on our website that detail how to make matcha with the chasen whisk, or by shaking it in your mason jar or thermos—or you can even make a latte in the blender. Handheld, battery-powered whisks are also popular. Our 40-gram tin is 20-30 servings, so it can last you a month.
Where can we pick up Mizuba Tea in town?
Sharing tea with all the amazing small businesses, cafés, chefs, and markets in town is my favorite part of running a local business. You can find Mizuba Tea Co. at:
Dune Coffee Roasters
Alessia Patisserie + Cafe
Cajé Coffee Roasters
Dart Coffee Co.
Hook & Press
Jessica Foster Confections—seasonal matcha truffles!
Santa Barbara Roasting Company
Hustle & Grind Coffee Company
Live Oak Cafe
Red Kettle Coffee in Summerland
Farmer and the Cook in Ojai
Prospect Coffee Roasters in Ventura
The Saloon in Ventura
Singing Sun Coffee in Ventura
Sponsored by Mizuba Tea Co.