Matcha powder can be added to hot drinks and to foods as well, making it a very versatile ingredient.
Matcha powder is an integral part of delectable Japanese treats
Matcha has gained global popularity, and become a staple ingredient in many international menus - from café drinks to homemade desserts, including ice-creams, cakes, brownies, and more.
Creating this type of tea powder is a lengthy process and requires a lot of care and attention by the planter. First and foremost, matcha is typically made in Japan. Although you can find various brands made in other regions, the best-tasting matcha is sourced from Japanese soil.
Japanese matcha tea is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. These leaves are grown in the shade, away from sunlight. Keeping them in the shade promotes the growth of chlorophyll (giving the leaves that bright green colour), and the production of amino acids. Once the plants are ready to be harvested, they are hand-picked and rolled, before being dried out.
These leaves are known as tencha leaves that fall under the umbrella of gyokuro. They are then deveined, destemmed and ground to a fine, bright powder known as matcha. Grinding, too, is a slow process, in order to prevent the stones from getting too warm.
High-quality matcha is sweet and has a deep flavour, compared to coarser grades of matcha that are harvested later. The best time to harvest its plant is during the spring or summer.
Though tea is a Chinese invention, Japanese Buddhist scholars were responsible for bringing their seeds to Japan, making green tea and popularising it amongst Japanese royalty. A Buddhist monk brought tea leaves to Japan in the 11th century, along with specific methods of preparing powdered green tea.
The monk planted these seeds on temple grounds in Kyoto; during this era, the leaves produced were in limited quantity, and it was seen as a luxury item. Soon after the monk's return, Zen Buddhists developed a new method for cultivating and consuming the green tea plant, eventually resulting in a formal tea ceremony known as the 'Japanese Tea Ceremony'.
Though there is a difference between ceremonial and culinary matcha, there is no regulation in place, so the matcha sourced depends on the quality and reliability of the company.
There are a number of health benefits for matcha - consuming matcha means you have the entire leaf, and not just the brewed water. This process ensures higher levels of antioxidants, with a stronger caffeine punch than tea, but not as caffeinated as coffee, making it the ideal early morning drink.
Studies have shown that drinking matcha can help reduce anxiety levels, and maintain calmness and tranquillity. Drinking matcha can help calm you down while the caffeine in the powder provides energy, so you feel refreshed and awake. It also has higher amounts of chlorophyll, which is proven to be beneficial to your immune system.
The bright colour, too, graces all drinks and food with a fun shade of green. The flavour is light and mildly bitter, making it the perfect companion for dessert dishes and ice cream flavours. In this case, matcha helps combine aesthetic appeal and flavour into one delightful package.
As it is a powder, matcha can be added to virtually any dish to add a fun flavour.
Matcha tea cookies, ice cream, brownies, shakes, and more have become popular across the globe. One traditional Japanese confectionary is wagashi, which goes well with matcha. The sweet is made with rice, flour, and red bean paste, and with fruits for a natural sweetness. The sweet fruits help complement the slight bitterness of the matcha, making it a palette-pleasing dessert.
For a nice cup of matcha tea, you will need a small mixing bowl, a teaspoon of matcha, and a wire whisk or an electric hand whisk. Take a teaspoonful of matcha powder into the bowl, add ¼ cup of hot water, and whisk until the tea is frothy.
For those with a taste for icy drinks, an iced matcha latte is the perfect drink. Fill a glass with ice, add a cup of water and about one teaspoon of matcha powder. Shake the glass till the ice breaks up, add milk and a dash of maple syrup to sweeten, and enjoy!