Hello, young Padawan
Today we’re going to talk about tea, but not just any tea. The star of green teas, the one that is both adored and hated since of its possible bitterness because often poorly prepared or of poor quality, the one and only matcha tea. A great tea of exceptional quality, invigorating, and riddled with antioxidants to recover from Christmas Eve. What else can we do best?!
Before investing in it, I recommend that you taste it first in a tea room to see if you like matcha, because it is a particular tea, a little different in the taste and a little more expensive than the others, even if a box of matcha lasts longer than a regular tin of tea. Ready? Let’s go.
What is matcha?
Matcha is a very high-quality type of green tea that contains more caffeine and antioxidants than regular tea.
Both from the Camellia sinensis plant, native to China, matcha is not grown exactly like classic green tea. Matcha tea plants are covered about 20 to 30 days before harvest to protect them from sunlight. Lack of light causes chlorophyll levels to increase, making the leaves darker and stimulating amino acids’ production.
After harvesting, the stems and veins are removed from the leaves. They are then ground into a fine powder called matcha.
Since the leaf powder is fully ingested, versus infused, matcha is even richer in certain elements than regular green tea, including caffeine and antioxidants. One cup of matcha (1g), which is half a teaspoon of powder, contains about 35 mg of caffeine, which is slightly more than a cup of regular green tea.
The benefits of matcha tea
Matcha tea has an incomparable nutritional value to some other teas by its content of essential trace elements for our metabolism, namely calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and fluoride. It has a detoxifying power thanks to its polyphenols rate, which is also very high, which protects the cells of the body and eliminates toxins, and has antibacterial properties.
It is very rich in antioxidants, particularly in catechins, and more specifically in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG helps fight inflammation in the body, helps keep arteries working, promotes cell renewal, and more. FYI, matcha contains about 3 times more antioxidants than regular green teas.
In short, the antioxidants contained in matcha tea protect against certain cancers and the main cardiovascular diseases.
Do I need to clarify that even Mother Nature’s best treasures are to be consumed sparingly? I hope not. Just remember, in case, for everything you do in your life, the lyrics to the French song “Everything is poison” by Mass Hysteria: “everything is poison, poison is the dose.”
Which matcha, which tools?
First, you have to choose your matcha. If you want it to taste good and have all the properties mentioned above, you have to choose one great, what did I say, one of very high quality. A little tip: it must be bright in color and not be bitter (following the recipe below, i.e., with the right dosage, the right temperature, and the right process). Regarding brands, my choice of heart goes towards that of Mariage Freres because it is a tea house that has all my confidence in terms of quality and traceability. Obviously, these aren’t the only ones with super quality matcha. If you want to try other brands, I regularly order some from Anatae Matcha and Kumiko Matcha; you can also find some great matcha at Whole Foods Market or your local tea shop.
As for the gear to prepare it at home, you will need at least to invest in a bag of matcha + a matcha whisk (chasen).
The complete panoply of the matcha lover: some great matcha, a matcha bowl (chawan), a bamboo spoon (chashaku), a small sieve or a tea strainer (furui), a bamboo whisk (chasen), and a whip rest to keep its shape (naoshi).
If you want to play it minimalist (matcha + whisk), however, I recommend that you find a way with the tools you have in your kitchen to sift it so as not to have lumps (a flour sieve, a cheesecloth, or a fine strainer will do the trick. At worst: crush the matcha delicately with your finger to obtain the finest possible powder, but you still risk having a few small lumps).
The matcha ritual
This is not, of course, a question of reproducing a Japanese tea ceremony lasting several hours, with the rites and customs, but rather of honoring this magnificent tea of great delicacy by taking into account our Western constraints such as lack of time, and therefore to avoid screwing up the aromas and the benefits, while doing it fast. There are two essentials for this: temperature and the gesture.
1/ Pour hot water into the bowl to warm it up, remove the water, and dry it with a clean cloth.
2/ Place the strainer on the hot tea bowl, pour a dose into it using the chashaku or half a teaspoon of matcha tea (1g is enough for a bowl), sift the powder.
3/ Add a little hot water, the equivalent of a ladle (note: temperature between 60 and 80 °C – 140-176°F maximum, never beyond), then whip using a rapid forward-backward movement, which is the traditional movement (or possibly in M or zig-zag, but NEVER in the round). After 30 seconds, there should be some foam forming on the surface.
4 / Add the desired amount of hot water and whisk briefly again until you obtain the desired amount of foam. It’s ready.
If you are wacky or a curious Padawan, you can, once your matcha powder has been mixed with your ladle of hot water: complete with oat (or almond) milk instead of water, cold or hot, and why not add a few ice cubes, for a cold, hot or smooth matcha latte. Three recipes in one!
Here you are, know you now all the secrets for great matcha with divine aromas, never bitter, tasty at will, which is good for the body and the soul.