Matcha is taking the world by storm! A quick Pinterest or Instagram search will inundate you with a mass of emerald coloured dishes and drink delights that will have you green with envy. Don’t be mistaken though, this isn’t some newly discovered super food. According to the history books it was the 8th century Zen priest Eisai, who brought the powder to the public’s attention, and introduced the tea to Japan, stating that matcha is “the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete”.
Ok before we go into all the different ways Matcha can be used we need to take a look at how it actually is made.
The preparation of starts several weeks before harvest and can last up to 20 days, when their bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, and without getting too complicated stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turning the leaves a darker shade of green, and causing the production of amino acids, and in particular theanine. The leaves are then hand selected, steamed briefly to stop fermentation, then dried and aged in cold storage, which deepens the flavour. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder.
Right, so what can it be used in? Matcha literally means ‘powdered tea’, so it’s probably best to start there. When you order traditional green tea, components from the leaves get infused into the hot water, and then the leaves are discarded. With Matcha, you drink the actual leaves, which have been finely powdered and made into a solution, traditionally by mixing about a teaspoon of Matcha powder with a third cup of hot water (heated to less than a boil), which is then whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths.
Now because you’re consuming whole leaves in Matcha, you can get up to three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, and about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee. This is not nessesarily a bad thing though as regular drinkers of Matcha state that compared to the caffeine buzz from coffee, Matcha creates an ‘alert calm’ due to a natural substance it contains called l-theanine, which induces relaxation but without drowsiness you can get from coffee. And also unlike coffee once it wares off there are no usual come downs or crashes.
Two things to note with the tea though is that due to the high levels of caffeine people usually only have 1 cup per day, and quite often more than 5 hours before going to sleep, and it is also not recommended for children.
As well as tea, Matcha can also used for the making of lattes, iced drinks, milkshakes, and smoothies. You can also find a number of cafes that have introduced lattes and iced drinks using Matcha powder into their menus, and it has also been incorporated into alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs and even Matcha green tea beers.
Matcha however isn’t just confined to drink making. It is becoming more and more of a stellar food ingredient. Everything from muffins, brownies and puddings, to Matcha soup, stir frys, and even Matcha guacamole. There seems to be a new recipe popping up every day. In fact yesterday we posted a recipe of our own for Matcha Green Tea & White Chocolate Cake.
We’ve also stumbled upon this website that shows the variety and versatility of Matcha, as well as providing links to the recipes for the images shown.
As for the health benefits of Matcha, apart from those already mentioned, because Matcha is made from high-quality tea, and the whole leaves are ingested, it’s a more potent source of nutrients than regular green tea. In addition to providing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, Matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood sugar regulation, blood pressure reduction, and anti-aging. Another polyphenol in Matcha called EGCG has been shown in research to boost metabolism, and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells. Quite impressive.