In 2016, one of the most popular and enduring food trends was born: matcha! There was a time when you couldn’t walk a dozen steps in any direction and not see some form of food or drink that featured the distinctive green shade. It was literally everywhere, from fine-dining restaurants to your favorite local coffee shops. While most places served matcha in some form of drink or dessert, there were some adventurous souls who tried using the ingredient in savory dishes such as pasta or sandwiches.
These days, the craze for matcha has mellowed down a little bit, but that’s not to say that the demand has gone away! Most cafes and dessert spots have some form of matcha-based offering on their menu and their loyal customers will most likely riot if they disappear.
Here at CookingChew, we love our matcha cheesecake and matcha lattes, and we want to share the love with you guys! Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about matcha, but might have been too shy to ask your local barista.
First, a little history.
While the world was introduced to matcha fairly recently, did you know that it has actually been used in Japan since the 12th century? Matcha is one of the most popular ingredients used for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and its enduring popularity is due to its unique taste, its beautiful color, and a host of health benefits associated with the ingredient.
What is matcha?
The most important question: what exactly is matcha? Matcha is basically dried green tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a fine powder. The powder is traditionally mixed with hot water to produce a deep, rich, and satisfying tea. The process of growing, harvesting, and processing matcha is long and laborious, resulting in the steeper-than-usual price tag.
While matcha plants are now grown all over the world, the best varieties come from Japan, particularly from the Southern provinces of Kyushu, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Uji. The dark shade of the leaves comes from the high amount of chlorophyll levels, which are produced when the leaves are covered up to 20 days before harvest.
Health benefits of matcha
According to a study produced by the University of Colorado, matcha contains high levels of antioxidants, particularly the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This compound is known to have several health benefits, including increased bone strength, better brain function and memory, reduced blood pressure, and increased good cholesterol levels. Matcha is also known to have high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid that’s known for its calming and soothing properties.
There are also studies that suggest matcha can help athletes by reducing muscle soreness and boosting muscle recovery after a workout. If you need more reasons to grab a cup of hot matcha tea after a run, you can tell your friends that it will help you recover from fatigue and muscle soreness much faster!
What does matcha taste like?
Matcha has a distinct and intense flavor. It has a floral taste and a lingering sweet aftertaste. However, matcha enthusiasts insist that there is a difference in flavor depending on the quality of the matcha you use.
High-quality ceremonial grade match (the kind used exclusively in Japanese tea ceremonies) should be pure, floral, and intense, but should not have a bitter or astringent aftertaste. Culinary or food-grade matcha has a bitter, vegetal taste which makes it suited for baking or mixing with drinks since you will be using sweeteners and other flavoring agents.
What is matcha powder?
Authentic matcha powder is produced by drying, processing, and grinding the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Only the newest buds and top three leaves of plants grown in the shade are hand-picked and used for matcha production.
The leaves are steamed to halt the oxidation process and laid out to dry naturally. The stems and veins are removed, and only the remaining leaf material is finally ground in stone mills to produce the unique matcha powder.
How much caffeine in matcha?
Matcha contains significantly more caffeine compared to green tea, particularly due to the growing process (the period in the shade results in higher caffeine content in the leaves) and the fact that you are brewing the dried and ground leaves themselves, rather than steeping the leaves.
In a typical 8 oz. beverage, a matcha drink will contain around 25 to 70 mg of caffeine.
Is matcha good for you?
Yes, matcha is good for you…provided that you drink the matcha in pure tea form without any added sweeteners. You will be able to enjoy all the benefits of matcha tea even with just a single cup.
However, if you consume matcha in dessert or beverage form, you might not be getting the optimum amount of nutrients and antioxidants depending on the amount of matcha powder used. What’s more, many matcha-based drinks and desserts often have a lot of sugar or other forms of sweetener. Thus, if you are consuming matcha in any other form other than pure tea, you should consume it in moderation.
What is matcha green tea?
Matcha green tea is just a more popular term for matcha tea since matcha and green tea come from the same plant. However, matcha tea and green tea are not the same thing. Match is made from the ground leaves of the tea, while green tea can be in the form of whole or shredded leaves. Matcha is brewed straight in hot water, while green tea is usually steeped in bags like regular tea.
How Do I Brew the Perfect Cup of Matcha Tea at Home?
The million-dollar question. If you are lucky enough to be able to score pure and authentic ceremonial grade matcha powder, you should treat yourself to a cup of matcha tea. In order to taste the real matcha taste, you need to brew it properly!
Just like brewing the perfect cup of coffee, you need the right tools and proper brewing process to make a true cup of matcha tea.
Here’s how you do it in the traditional way:
Next, you need to focus on the individual ingredients. You must use filtered or spring water. Bright it to a boil and let cool for around 2 minutes.
While waiting, place ½ t. matcha powder in a small bowl. Add a splash of the hot water into the powder and mix with a bamboo whisk until you get a smooth paste. Add the remaining water and whisk vigorously until the matcha is fully dissolved and you have a creamy foam on top.
If you have matcha powder left over, you have to store it properly as matcha powder can quickly dry out! Put the powder in a small, airtight tin and keep away from direct sunlight. Store the tin in a dark and dry place.
Stored matcha powder can be kept up to around four weeks for optimum taste and freshness.
There you have it! Everything you want to know about matcha powder. It’s a dark green powder that creates a deep and rich tea. It’s healthy, delicious, and perfect for a soothing cup of tea after a long day.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!