I’ve been getting asked about matcha a whole lot lately, and supposedly many dedicated coffee lovers are ditching java in favor of matcha!
The greenness adds to its visual appeal, and unique flavor makes it the current darling of the tea world. Recently, it has been promoted by the health and beauty sectors because the green tea leaves are believed to be high in antioxidants. Common steeped green tea has the reputation of being healthy because the leaves contain antioxidants; however, when preparing green tea traditionally, water can only extract a small amount of the leaves’ nutritional properties. In the case of matcha, one consumes the entire leaf, making it even more healthful. It has to be mentioned that matcha contains caffeine. You may get three times as much caffeine as is in a cup of steeped tea, which is about the same amount as in a cup of brewed coffee. Many matcha devotees say that compared to the caffeine buzz from coffee, matcha creates an alertness and mental clarity. Scientists say that this is caused by a natural substance called theanine, which induces relaxation without drowsiness.
The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before the harvest and can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down the growth and turns the leaves a darker shade of green, which causes the production of amino acids, in particular that theanine. Only the finest tea buds are handpicked and then dried. Later, the leaves are stone-ground into a powder.
Because of the tealeaves have to be handpicked to produce matcha, the tea has a steep price tag when compared to other tea.
In America, matcha is consumed in a causal way. In the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, it is a ritual emphasizing the notion of mindfulness. The idea is that every encounter is unique and can never be reproduced. It means that each particular occasion and experience, each cup of matcha, can never be replicated and hence should be treasured.
- Using the chashaku, sift a teaspoon of matcha powder into a chawan (bowl).
- Gently pour-in three ounces of 175°F hot water.
- With a bamboo whisk, aka chasen, whisk the water and matcha rapidly in a zig-zag
motion until frothy. The result is a hot and frothy beverage. It should have only small bubbles on the surface, if at all.
Matcha is grassy with a gentle sweetness and sometimes with a hint of bitterness. The flavor of matcha depends on the quality of powder used and the region from which it comes. There are clear distinctions between good and bad matcha quality. Not so good matcha tastes unpleasantly bitter. It can oxidize when exposed to prolonged exposure to oxygen. Usually, bad matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish-green color. Matcha is best kept in an airtight dark container. I keep mine in the refrigerator for a longer period.
Culinary matcha uses:
The naturally sweet, grassy notes adapt excellently to food and drink preparation. Some time ago, I was first introduced to it through a Japanese kitchen friend. Indeed, there's no shortage of creative uses for the powder. It can be infused into cocktails or whipped into lattes; in fact, Starbucks has made good use of it already in one of its latte concoctions. It is often dusted atop savory dishes and mixed into any number of sweets, from cakes to doughnuts and macaroons.
A simple way to enjoy matcha is the following chia puddingd.
Matcha Chia Seed Pudding
3 cups almond milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon matcha (food grade)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1) Combine all ingredients and stir with a whisk. Refrigerate the mixture for 15 minutes.
2) Mix mixture with the whisk and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Chefs note: You can keep the matcha chia pudding for up to three days in the refrigerator.