More and more people are falling in love with matcha, a specially grown and processed green tea powder that originated from Japan. In fact, there is an exponential growth in the popularity of matcha-based beverages and foodstuffs over the last decade, particularly in major metropolises around the world. It is not only due to its delightful blend of subtle sweetness and umami, a Japanese term that describes a pleasant savory flavor, but also its many health benefits.
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Matcha-lovers find their fondness for the product reciprocated with its ‘feel-good’ effect. It is mainly because of the powder’s high L-theanine content, an amino acid that releases healthy doses of dopamine and serotonin in the amygdala, the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that induces brainwaves related to positive feelings such as love, elation, serenity, gratification and inspiration, while serotonin mainly helps in improving mood and energy levels, regulating sleep, and enhancing cognitive ability.
Moreover, matcha can be enjoyed in many different ways. You can relish its wonderful taste as a drink or as a dessert component, hot or cold, on the savory side or the sweet, and more. Here are a few delightful ways to take pleasure in the delicious and nutritious “green stuff”:
The Japanese Way
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Before matcha made its way to the global mainstream market, it was both a staple beverage and a ceremonial potion in Japan since the turn of the 13th century. It was even used by the ancient shoguns and samurais as a pre and post-battle tonic. The traditional preparation merely involves diluting a small amount of powder in recently boiled water. A glazed stone bowl and a bamboo whisk are customarily used in the process; however, you are free to use a glass or plastic cup and a stainless or plastic beater to prepare your drink at home.
There are actually two types of drinks made in this manner, the usucha and the koicha. The former is for everyday drinking and normally has a ratio of about half a teaspoon of matcha for every 8-oz. cup of water. The latter mixture on the other hand, requires more powder and is almost as thick as gravy when done. Moreover, koicha is most commonly used for rite purposes and is solely made with ceremonial grade matcha, the finest quality stone-milled powder made exclusively from the supplest buds found at the end of shade-grown green tea stalks.
The Modern Café Way
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The Matcha Latte was probably created to make the vegetal quality of the chlorophyll-rich green tea powder more palatable to the Westerners’ taste buds. Its most basic preparation involves substituting the customary plain hot water base with steamed dairy products such as cream or milk (whole, non-fat, skimmed, etc.) to make the drink pleasantly sweeter and creamier. A frothing gadget may also be used to whisk the matcha and the liquid together for a foamier texture. Sweeteners such as honey, sugar, cinnamon powder, or syrup may also be added to the mixture.
Besides being loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, and various natural vitamins, matcha also contains a good dose of caffeine which makes it a great substitute for coffee. In fact, a lot of people have already made the shift, and most, if not all, attest to reaping the alimental benefits of their decision. Many even wrote glowing testimonials in their social media accounts or even in print publications. Even well established coffeehouse chains such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Co. have joined the trend by including their own matcha-based concoctions in their product line.
Chilled and ice-blended versions of Matcha Latte, some using other innovative bases or mixers such as coconut water, soymilk, and more, have also made it to the mainstream market in the past few years. There are also several matcha-infused alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, smoothies, and other drink preparations currently offered in various bars, restaurants, and cafes in the world. With an astounding array of blends available in the market, it is safe to say that you will stumble upon, or create one that will become your favorite for years to come, at one time or another.
The Gastronomy Way
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Matcha’s natural umami flavor, pulverized form, and vibrant green color make it a versatile ingredient or garnish for desserts or even savory dishes. You can now find it in ice creams, smoothies, candies, cakes, pies, noodles, breads, and even in some meat recipes. In fact, even giant food conglomerates like Nestle and McDonald’s used the green stuff on at least one of their branded products such as Kitkat and McFlurry Sundae respectively.
You can find a lot of matcha-based foodstuffs now in various restaurants, supermarkets, pastry shops and confectioneries within your neighborhood. There are also a lot of great recipes that are available online or in cookbooks that you can try at home if you have the proper equipment and ingredients including good quality matcha powder within your reach. We will be featuring those kinds of recipes on this site from time to time along with fresh information about various matcha-focused products.
At the meantime, here are a few tips in spotting good quality matcha: