by Cassandra Vincent
Even though it has been in existence for hundreds of years in Japan, Matcha was a kind of ‘break out’ trend in the West a few years back but the explosion has not slowed down. I am seeing Matcha in all sorts of products including lattes, ice cream, chocolate, coating nuts, in facial products, RTDs, cocktails and on and on. If I see an ad for Matcha underwear with the tag line “absorb it through your butt!” then perhaps it will have gone too far. But who knows, innovation takes wonderful and absurd turns and there are consumers who love them (remember spray tea in a can? ).
The first time I experienced Matcha was in a latte in NYC. It was the most jazzed day from a tea kick that I had ever had to that point but with an amazing sense of calm.
Ma=powdered & Cha=tea
With Matcha you ingest the whole leaf. To add to this already intense idea, Matcha is shade grown resulting in fewer leaves with more concentrated flavor. The plants make more chlorophyll to compensate which results in the seriously deep green colour. This shading also increases the amount of the amino acid L-theanine which is the component that gives the chilled out feeling that balances out the caffeinated effects of the tea and the umami flavor it is known to have by degrees.
If you’ve never had Matcha before you may want to try it in latte or food form first. After all the kick in the pants feeling is great but not so the kick in the stomach. Matcha is intense, and similar to too much juiced kale or beets it can be an uncomfortable experience if too much is ingested too fast without a ‘buffer’ of sorts. That said, cow’s milk will not reduce the caffeine effects of Matcha but it has been found to inhibit antioxidant absorption (ha, so very Khaleesi “it has been found” reminds me of “It is known”). You can use coconut, almond, hemp milk, etc. if that is a concern. Also, make sure to store Matcha in an airtight container, with the air pressed out of it, in the fridge for a longer life as it does more than lose its character – it becomes a gross bitter beast. Aim to consume it within a year or by the date the seller indicates.
There is so much Matcha out there now it can be a challenge to know where to begin. It comes in different grades even. There is some Matcha that is intended for cooking but not for drinking, for example. ‘Ceremonial’ Matcha is the term used to generally indicate drinking Matcha. My feeling is this: if I am ingesting the whole leaf I am more interested in an organic and well-sourced product.
For today’s post we are using Tora Matcha – there is a tiger on the package which is very fitting because you can feel like a tiger after having some Matcha goodness. This is an organic Matcha from Kirishima City, Japan in Kagoshima prefecture. It is USDA and HOAS certified (Hyogo Prefectural Organic Agriculture Society- Japan). There are no GMOs, pesticides or additives.
First I tried it straight up in a hot preparation. Now Matcha can be adjusted like all loose tea – you use more or less per volume of water as suits you. If you are new to Matcha you may want to try it weaker and increase until you hit that sweet spot for you. I used 1 tsp. to 6 oz. of water at about 170 F – yeah Matcha won’t like boiling water. There is the option of sifting the Matcha into the bowl or cup first, but I admit I did not do this (you may wish to if your Matcha has clumped up a bit while being stored in the fridge). I added a little water and stirred to make a paste before adding the remainder of the water. This helps reduce clumping. The use of a Matcha whisk, also called a chasen, is also helpful to eliminate clumping and create a frothy layer on top. The tines (like on a fork) are made of bamboo, are thin, in a circle and close together. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have a chasen though. If you decide to use a blender or cook with the Matcha it won’t matter. You can also use a wire whisk in a pinch.
I found this Matcha to be deep in flavor and smooth. It was less sweet than some I have had but more meaty or umami than others. It is a good dark green as you can see too.
For a more intense experience, I did the 1 tsp. to 2 oz. water hardcore version. No hair has yet popped out on my chest, but stay tuned. The umami aspect was heightened in this more concentrated preparation and I liked that. It coated the tongue in a satisfying way. Matcha can be used either savory or sweet and this strikes me as a Matcha that may excel in savory uses especially.
I started making a morning smoothie just based on what I had on hand one day: banana, avocado, spinach and pineapple in coconut water (or water with coconut flakes or just water with a splash of the pineapple juice). I now crave it. I thought the Matcha might play well with the other ingredients and I was right. It was fantastic! Here is what I used if you want to give it a go:
Throw it all in the blender and mix till smooth.
Another day I added a tsp. of Matcha to my oatmeal along with chia seeds, butter, cocoa and raw honey. It was an excellent food and caffeine mix that tasted far more interesting than plain oatmeal with a banana in it.
I have plans to explore more Matcha uses down the road. Can’t do too many in one day or I might not sleep for a week! This intense tea is a whole world in itself. Thanks to Tora Tea for reaching out to us and providing the Matcha for this tea adventure.
Connect with other tea fans on Facebook and Twitter and share how you have explored the uniqueness of Matcha!
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