When Starbucks started selling its green tea matcha frappucino, I became an instant fan. Combined with cow milk, soy milk or almond milk, blended or on the rocks, it makes for a delicious refreshment on hot summer days. To avoid the sweet syrup Starbucks adds to its frappucinos, I started buying the matcha powder in my local health food store. Next I started experimenting with matcha in my daily cooking. You’d be surprised what you can do with matcha in your kitchen.
Unknown to a wider audience, it helps of course that Starbucks is selling it. I hate their coffee but have to admit not everything Starbucks is bad.
The History & Origins of Matcha
Matcha is green tea from Japan, but its history already starts in China. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it was popular to make powdered tea from steamed and dried tea leaves. The tea powder and hot water were whipped together. Zen Buddhists from Japan came into contact with matcha during their travels through China. Then the Buddhists developed their own traditions and production methods.
The tea plants used for matcha have been placed in the shade about 3 weeks before harvesting. Mats or tarps are usually used to cover. Because the plant is placed in the shade, the Camellia sinensis produces more L-Theanine and caffeine.
The combination of both substances is said to be responsible for the soothing feeling experienced by matcha drinkers. Matcha is a powdered tea and is therefore consumed differently than tea with loose leaves or tea bags. The powder is quickly dissolved in a liquid such as water or milk. Matcha often returns in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. A lot of attention is then paid to the preparation, serving and drinking of the tea.
The powder is whipped with water from 60 to 70 ° C to a foamy green liquid. Depending on the quality of the tea, this liquid is thicker or more flowing, but whipping for longer than 30 seconds makes the drink too bitter. It is an exclusive drink, with a bitter taste and particularly rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It also, like many tea varieties, contains caffeine. Today matcha is also often used as a seasoning for soba noodles, ice cream, matcha lattes and many other products and variants.
The Health Benefits of Matcha
Considered one of the top super foods known today, the list of Matcha’s health benefits is endless.
- It contains over 6 times the antioxidants in goji berries, 7 times the antioxidants in dark chocolate, 17 times more than in blueberries and 60 time the antioxidants found in spinach. That’s quite an impressive list !
- It contains 137 times more EGCG, an antioxidant also found in regular green tea. EGCG is part of the antioxidant family known as catechins. Catechins are attributed to improve heart’s health, metabolism and aging.Due to its energizing and anti-inflammatory effects, matcha helps to improve physical performance.The high concentration of antioxidants found in matcha helps to protect the immune system against free radicals, and as such help to prevent cancer.Matcha has been found to raise metabolism and can help when wanting to loose weight.
Due to the high level of L-theanine, – an amino acid which stimulates relaxation, – matcha helps to fight anxiety.
With 35 milligrams of caffeine per teaspoon, it contains 1/3 less than a cup of regular coffee.
Due to the extremely high concentration of chlorophyll in matcha, it will help to get clear skin, blood and heart protection and prevent joint inflammation
- pictured above : PURECHIMP : organic matcha. 5% of our profits go to charity – Packaged in recyclable glass
Shopping for Matcha
Shopping for matcha these days comes easy. Basically every health food store carries it. Make sure you buy organic.
Before you can buy Matcha, you have to decide what you’re going to use it for. Will you be drinking it in its traditional tea form? Or will you be adding Matcha into some of your favorite recipes?
The reason why you have to first know what you’ll be using Matcha for is because there are different grades of Matcha green tea powder. Each grade is determined based on its color, texture and quality, and each also has different uses.
The two main Matcha tea grades are ceremonial and culinary, but culinary is further divided into 5 grades: premium, cafe, ingredient, kitchen and classic.
CEREMONIAL GRADE MATCHA
Ceremonial grade has one purpose and that is drinking only. With its vibrant green color, fine texture, naturally sweet flavor and a pure taste, this grade, in powder and tea form, often smells like freshly cut grass, but it should never feel gritty.
CULINARY GRADE MATCHA
Meant to be used for baking and cooking, because of its strong and slightly bitter taste it is intended to be combined with other ingredients used in food and beverage recipes. Culinary grade’s mildly astringent flavor is what allows it to mix well with various smoothies and other milk-based drinks.
- Premium: Premium grade is considered an everyday use Matcha that pairs well with blended drinks.
- Cafe: Cafe grade has a very robust flavor, making it the perfect grade for baking and cooking.
- Ingredient: Ingredient grade is mixed with older tea leaves—that have stronger flavors—and also help give it more of a thicker consistency, which is why it’s ideal for using in recipes that contain dairy products.
- Kitchen: Kitchen grade is produced with the least amount of delicate leaves, isn’t as fine as other Matcha powder types, is a darker green and is very bitter, all of which make this grade great for large-scale brewing or trying with new recipes.
- Classic: Classic grade is perhaps the most commonly available of the grades, and it has a strong flavor, allowing it to be used with numerous food and beverage recipes.
Japanese Organic Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder comes in handy sealable bags and serves 15 portions.
This true, authentic Japanese matcha is 100% USDA certified organic and is still in extremely scarce supply. Less than 1% of Japanese tea farms are certified!
Even though not everyone seems to like this product, it is widely acclaimed by most customers who bought it.
“1) it dissolves instantly and won’t start to clump again after few hours in your backpack if you make your matcha ahead and plan to heat it at work or school.
2) does not have a bitter taste that too many matcha have (aftertaste) so you DON’T have to add sugar or cream to make it enjoyable. This is perfect for matcha latte under 50 calories. I make big mugs that contain only 40 calories.
3) you need less to obtain the desired taste
4) mix better in vegan milks than other brand I tried (ex. Yupik brand you can buy at Costco, even though I LOVE Yupik brand…)
5) Can cover the awful taste of collagen powder supplement if you are into it.
6) Crazy shelf life. I mean, I bought it a year ago, forgot about it until recently.
7) Makes a wonderful froth”
Cooking with Matcha
Cooking with matcha goes as far as creativity takes you. Sold in powder, it can be easily mixed into your recipe to add color, flavor and all of matcha’s health benefits.
Pinterest is a great source for ideas and I have picked one of my favorite recipes for you.
Matcha Chocolate Custard Tart ( source : cupofmatcha.com)
This tart is a most light and refreshing way to end a meal. The airy mousse-like matcha filling melts in your mouth and plays off the crisp dark chocolate crust beautifully. Be sure to use gluten free rolled oats and oat flour if you are allergic to gluten. Like most vegan and gluten free desserts this tart is best served the days it’s made. You can press the crust ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 2 days before baking.
¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon oat flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup almond meal
¼ cup brown rice flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons melted extra virgin coconut oil, plus more for oiling pan
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole raw cashews, soaked 2 to 6 hours
1 ½ cups dried unsweetened shredded coconut
3 cups water
5 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably grade A
4 teaspoons agar flakes
3 ½ teaspoons matcha tea, plus more to dust.
Books & More Books & Cookbooks
This is a tough one because there are so many eye pleasing & teasing matcha cookbooks out there.
From a simple matcha latte, to ice cream, infused salt, smoothie bowls, tea loaves and homemade beauty recipes, The Matcha Cookbook explores the history, health benefits and 50 delicious recipes using this super healthy ingredient.
Explore more on Kindle to start cooking with matcha right away.