Matcha is a type of green tea made from the leaves of the tea bush just the same as other types of tea. But matcha is quite different in a number of ways.
The main reason it is different from regular green or black teas is that it is not roasted and you drink the actual powdered leaves rather than an infusion where the tea leaves are removed.
This makes the flavour of matcha much stronger and richer than normal green tea and the caffeine content is also higher.
How is match powder made?
The process of making matcha powder begins even before the leaves are harvested. Before the leaves are picked, the bushes are shaded to protect them from sunlight for about 20 days. By doing this, the leaves take on a darker green colour and develop more chlorophyll and amino acids.
After harvesting, the leaves are laid out to dry and protected from strong heat so they do not oxidise.
When the leaves are dried out and crumble easily, they are ground between mill stones into the fine, bright green matcha powder that we know.
Is Matcha good for you?
Because you are drinking the whole plant leaves, it retains more of the nutrients they contain and many people believe that matcha tea has greater health benefits than other black or green tea.
In general drinking tea, especially green tea, is thought to have health benefits including helping digestion, relaxing the body and improving mental alertness and memory. This is because it contains antioxidants, polyphenols, amino acids such as theanine and of course the stimulant caffeine.
Matcha tea is thought to be even better because it contains higher levels of these compounds. Some studies have even shown that it can reduce stress and anxiety.
As with other studies about health foods and supplements, often the results are inconclusive and may not have the same effects for everyone. However, even without the promise of a healthier body, matcha tea is a relaxing and refreshing drink with a unique ‘umami’ taste that is enjoyed across east Asia.
Japanese tea ceremony
The ancient Japanese tea ceremony is centred around the highly ritualised preparation of matcha tea. It’s quite an experience to take part in the tea ceremony and you definitely need an interpreter to help you negotiate the correct procedure! Both the tea maker and the guests need to be fully versed on the various formal customs and traditions to make it through.
This video in Japanese shows you just how formal and structured the traditional tea ceremony is:
Matcha is surprisingly versatile and despite having ancient roots is widely used today in cooking and drinks.
You can drink matcha tea ‘straight’ made with hot, though not boiling, water (about 70C is right otherwise the tea will taste bitter) or you can use it in the classic matcha latte, a smooth creamy drink.
It’s also used to flavour pasta, meat, cakes, chocolate and as an ingredient in many other drinks and recipes.
My mini matcha shaker is a quick and easy way to prepare the matcha powder having to use a traditional whisk and the Japanese recipe booklet that goes with it has gorgeous photos and ideas for how to use it in your cooking.
Easy matcha latte recipe
Follow this simple recipe to prepare a delicious hot or cold matcha latte:
- Put 20ml of warm water in the mini matcha shaker.
- Add 1 teaspoon of matcha powder and 2 teaspoons of sugar (omit or reduce the sugar if you don’t have a sweet tooth!).
- Screw the lid on firmly and shake until the ingredients are mixed.
- Warm your milk in a pan or in the microwave and then use a whisk or milk frother to make it creamy and create some foam.
- Place the warmed milk into a large mug or cup.
- Pour in the matcha mix and use a spoon to stir it in.
- Top with some of the foam from the milk and a little sprinkle of matcha powder.
- If you prefer a cold drink, put cold milk in a glass with plenty of ice and then add your matcha mix, stirring gently.