Introduced to Japan from China in the 12th century, matcha tea became a key item at Zen monasteries. The highest grade matcha is still used at tea ceremonies in the country and thanks to the powder's health benefits it's now gaining a foothold in coffee shops and restaurants across the globe. But there are more ways to enjoy this delicacy than simply supping from your eco cup, reveals Richard Dunnett...
Matcha green tea
Matcha and green tea are derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant but the process in which the leaves are grown and harvested differs. Matcha is a fine powder produced by grinding the whole leaf, whereas green tea leaves are steeped and discarded. The main area of matcha cultivation in Japan is Uji close to Kyoto. While some matcha is harvested twice a year, the best is harvested by hand once a year, usually in May. The vivid colour may take some getting used to but along with the rich aroma, it's estimated that you get three times as many antioxidants in matcha than green tea. Serve with wagashi - a traditional Japanese confection.
Try it here: https://tsujiri.co.uk
Swap your morning coffee for a matcha latte and get the caffeine hit you crave without the shakes. It can be served hot or iced and while any milk works, almond milk has become a favourite with the matcha converted. The matcha powder is mixed with hot water until the matcha becomes paste-like. For homemade matcha lattes the secret is to make the tea first before adding the hot milk and finish it off with foam. It's even gaining a following among avid coffee drinkers who want an afternoon hit without the jitters. Many swear by its ability to provide quicker and clearer thinking.
Try it here: http://www.tombocafe.com
Try the recipe here: https://detoxinista.com/matcha-latte/
Powerful antioxidants called catechins contained within matcha have been shown to boost metabolism. For a sweet treat on the go, matcha truffles are packed with superfoods. Recipes vary but dark chocolate, date and almond filled bonbons are delicious especially with a hint of vanilla, honey and coconut. Served chilled these delicious sweets can be topped with hemp seeds, chia or coconut flakes.
Try the recipe here: candicekumai.com/matcha-truffles
Matcha protein smoothie shake
An excellent addition to a post-work out protein shake, matcha contains the amino acid L-theanine, which can help our bodies function and relieve stress. A tablespoon of matcha green tea powder and a scoop of protein added to almond milk may help promote the repair of torn muscles after a heavy weights session. Add a tablespoon of flaxseed for heart-healthy Omega 3 good fats.
Try the recipe here: https://freshlyzested.com/matcha-protein-smoothie/
Matcha raw chocolate
The raw chocolate movement shows no sign of slowing – after all, who doesn't like a sweet treat containing flavonoids benefiting blood flow? Combined with matcha it makes for an inquisitive, delightful and antioxidant-packed treat popular with vegans or those following a gluten free diet. Popular ingredients include organic cold processed raw cacao butter, organic vanilla bean and a pinch of sea salt while cashew and coconut can also be key additions giving a delicate and creamy texture.
Buy it here: cococaravan.co.uk/rawchocolateshop
The popcorn scene has moved on somewhat since the days of sweet or salted. The near-duopoly was broken with such experimental flavours as blue cheese with walnut. Now matcha is gaining ground, whether as simple snack to keep hunger at bay or for the home cinema experience. Keep it healthy by insisting its cooked in coconut oil or indulge by pairing it with white or dark chocolate or caramel. Others swear by using ghee or clarified butter as the secret ingredient to stop sogginess.
Try the recipe here: https://mymatchalife.com/matcha-popcorn/
With a similar texture to curry powder it's no surprise that matcha has been finding new audiences. Look past the green sauce and this savoury dish has a similar consistency to Japanese curries. It can thank its vivid colour on high levels of chlorophyll which is claimed to be a powerful detoxifier of blood. The smell is more akin to green tea but it has won plaudits when paired with fried chicken for that all-important cheat meal.