Recently, I started looking for a replacement for coffee that would keep me up and running and was a little healthier as well. Through my research I came across green teas (which I’ve always loved) and in particular one caught my attention called “Matcha”.
As I was going through several different publications, I noticed the different shades of green colour associated with matcha tea. At first I thought it was mainly due to editing of photos, but the more knowledge I gained about matcha the more I realised there is a different influence.
I am aware that tea has a long history and goes hand by hand with Buddhism and it surprised me when I learned that Matcha dates back to 12th Century China. It was a Buddhist monk, Zen master Eisai who introduced green tea to Japan upon arrival in Kyoto, where he settled. It was there he planted the tea seeds that he brought back with him. As Eisai expanded his teaching of traditional Buddhism he also expanded the properties of green tea, by grinding tea leaves into a fine powder that we all know as matcha. Eisai introduced the properties of matcha tea into his teaching by establishing the tea ritual. This practice is still a huge part of Zen lifestyle that has continued for more than eight centuries.
History of tea is colourful and we could discuss that for several hours, however for now let’s look at the categorisation of matcha tea as well as production and how to enjoy it.
Matcha tea is typically categorised by region – Uji, Nishio, Fuji, Mie, Fukuoka and Kagoshima. Uji Matcha is considered to be the finest in its category for the region: hilly terrain, high quality soil, mild temperatures and frequent mist. But there is more to it. The tea must be grown and processed in Japan and matcha tea must be produced from tencha (powdered tea) leaves. Tencha leaves fall under the umbrella of gyokuro (green) tea.
Have you ever wondered how matcha tea is made? Well, tencha tea is grown under the shade of cloth for 20 – 30 days before harvesting. This process protects the green tea leaves from light and forces the tea develop more chlorophyll, amino acids and gives the leaves a vibrant green colour. The fresh tea leaves are hand harvested and air dried, steamed and from here you either create gyokuro tea or directly grind the tea leaves and create matcha tea.
It is likely that you are very familiar with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony where only the highest great tea powder, matcha, is poured over by hot water and then whisked by a bamboo whisk to dissolve the tea and immediately drunk for its great health properties and unique flavor. This is not the end of culinary use for matcha tea. It is also commonly used in pastries, as a seasoning for dishes or salads as well as made into lattes. Interesting right?
I got so excited about the different uses that i decided to explore the options for beverages. I have a huge respect for the original serve, however by now you all know that I love flavours and love to see what I can do with it! Check out this creation – a refreshing smoothie, great for breakfast!
Matcha & Strawberry Smoothie
6 frozen strawberries
1/2 Coffee spoon of good quality matcha
30 gm Cashew nuts
300 gm Still water
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 second to combine all ingredients.
- Add honey or extra water if not to sweet or too thick. Adjust to your preference.
On a side note, I also love G&Ts and I saw the potential there and decided to do an infusion and made my own “Matcha Gin.” After many attempts we found what we were looking for and the diversity of fruity, refreshing and savour cocktail that we can make is amazing. So if you are thirsty, come and visit us our bar IB HQ in Singapore.
Bartender/’s note: Matcha has amazing green, fruity and savory notes. Try it in your classic martini.