So, there is a lot of hype about matcha, lately. Personally, I totally get it. I love matcha. My kids love matcha. We make matcha cheesecake, matcha protein balls and matcha icecream. Yum. But matcha is not for everyone. The flavour is a unique blend of bitter and umami. Not for the faint of heart. So, what is matcha, and why is everyone drinking and eating it???
Matcha is powdered green tea. The entire leaf is ground into the tea that the Japanese use for tea ceremony. As the entire leaf is used the nutritional benefits are increased. Green tea is high in antioxidants, polyphenols, in particular, which are heart and cancer protecting, as well as blood pressure reducing and anti-aging (who doesn’t want some of that??). It contains caffeine (about the same as a brewed coffee) and l-theanine, which is a relaxant, so a great combination for calm alertness.
The quality of matcha you can buy varies, extremely. Some matcha is heavily sweetened with sugar. I don’t like the sweetened varieties. Apart from the fact that I don’t think we need any more sugar in our lives…. it kind of destroys the flavour. (I will say that I make exception on a warm day in Tokyo, for a matcha frappaccino from Starbucks. Mmmm… sooo good). Also, depending on where the matcha is grown, it may have heavy traces of lead. Choose your matcha carefully.
Historically, Japanese Zen monks bought tea from China and planted it around the monasteries in the Uji region, near Kyoto, somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries. Eisai, a monk who is generally considered to have popularised matcha, by writing a book about it’s health benefits, called Kissa Yojoki (Tea Good for Health) in 1211 traveled to China and returned with the method and tea ceremony etiquette in 1191. While powdered tea became unpopular in China, it has remained popular in Japan, and an important part of the culture. 茶道ーちゃどうーChadō, tea ceremony, is an important ritual in Japanese culture. It requires much training and understanding, and has a Zen meditation aspect, also.
Matcha is now enjoying a world wide surge of popularity, and in Japan you can buy almost anything in matcha flavour. I am a big fan of matcha soft serve, matcha Kit-Kat, and matcha mochi. Even in Australia it is becoming more common to see matcha lattes on cafe menus, and even matcha icecream in the supermarket.
I thought I would also share my recipe for matcha baked cheese cake. It is very yummy, not too sweet and very easy to make.
Matcha Baked Ricotta Cheese Cake
4 eggs- seperated
2 tablespoons matcha powder (good quality)
(I sometimes add some yuzu juice… its really yummy)
Blend egg yolks and remaining ingredients. Whisk egg whites until very stiff. Fold the mix into the whites. Pour into a lined 20cm cake tin. Bake in a warm (170 C) oven for around 40 minutes. OISHII!!!!
You can read about my experience at a Kyoto tea house here.