What is matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground Japanese green tea. The tea plant is grown and harvested in a different way than tea plants intended for white and black tea or oolong and Pu-erh tea. The plants are covered the last 4 weeks before the harvest. After steaming the leaves, they are ground to an (ultra)fine green tea powder.
How do I recognize good matcha?
There are three ways to assess the quality of matcha, without tasting it.
1. Smell – the grassier, the better
Good quality matcha has a fresh, grassy smell. A dull, dusty smell indicates a lesser quality, or that the matcha has been diluted with another substance.
2. Color – The greener, the better
Matcha with a bright green color is rich in chlorophyll. This indicates that the tea leaves were properly covered and were harvested at the right time. Matcha with yellow-green color is of lower quality. This matcha is made with tea leaves that were not correctly covered, not covered long enough, or is made with tea leaves from the bottom of the tea plant.
3. Grain – The finer, the better
Matcha has to feel silky-soft, meaning the leaves were very finely ground and this is only possible when the tea plant is correctly covered and harvested. Matcha of high quality has the texture of eyeshadow; there is almost no grain to be found.
These 3 factors can help with purchasing the right matcha. If you have the chance to taste the matcha, then you can recognize good quality from its taste. Matcha should have a green, grassy taste with a sweet undertone. Matcha of lesser quality will taste bitter and will have an unpleasant after taste.
Can you use every type of matcha in pastries and dishes?
Yes you can, but would you open a €50 bottle of wine to enrich your sauce? When you use matcha to prepare a drink, you should opt for top quality matcha such as the Kotobuki Matcha from Amanprana or the Super Premium Matcha TEN and the Premium Matcha HORAI from Aiya. Then you can enjoy the rich taste of matcha. Are you looking to add the taste of green tea to your dish, then you lose some of the top quality flavor amongst the other ingredients. Therefore, it is better to opt for a matcha which is meant to use for baking or cooking, such as the matcha from Aromandise.
What do you need to prepare matcha?
You prepare matcha with a chasen (matcha-whisk) in a ceremonial chawan (a traditional matcha bowl). The chawan has a wide opening so that it is easy for the matcha to be whisked to a foamy, green matcha. A chasen also has a sturdy bottom, so that the bowl can easily be held whilst drinking matcha.
If desired, matcha can also be strained before adding water and whisking the tea with the chasen. This leaves less chances of clots forming.
Can matcha be drunk at any moment in the day?
Yes. Connoisseurs and matcha lovers recommend to start your day with matcha. The feeling of calm focus stays with you throughout the day and is the ideal helper for starting your days’ tasks with energy. Moreover, the oxygen boost provided is more than welcome after sleep. However, Matcha is not soporific. Therefore, it is not advisable to drink green tea before bedtime, like other caffeinated beverages.
How can you influence the taste of matcha?
Matcha lovers adore the natural, grassy flavor of matcha. This is the taste of umami. And the higher the quality of matcha, the more umami is present. (Umami can also be found in other Japanese products such as miso, tamari, umeboshi…) Healthy and tasty!
Those who want to enjoy the health benefits of matcha but still have to get used to the umami flavor, can mix the foamy green tea with (vegetable) milk. This is an easy way to sweeten matcha and to moderate the typical umami taste.
Why is matcha often compared to wine?
Much like the differences in various wine sorts, there are many differences between the various matcha sorts. A cheaper wine is often a lesser wine. The same principle applies to matcha. A novice wine drinker has to develop their taste pallet before they can truly appreciate a more expensive bottle of wine for what it truly is. Again, the same principle applies to matcha. Price is often an indication of quality. Nonetheless, cheaper matchas with a fine taste can also be found, much like the ceremonial AKASHI from Aiya.
What nutritional values does matcha have?
Matcha is rightfully called a green superfood. Good quality matcha is rich in polyphenols, L-theanine, antioxidants, catechins… Your body will thank you for drinking matcha daily. With matcha you consume the entire tealeaf and not only the water-soluble particles.
How much matcha is required in order to reap the health benefits?
Half a teaspoon per day is enough for one cup of matcha, and is enough to help support your health. Matcha has a high ORAC-value. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and refers to the amount of antioxidants found per 100g. In general, it is recommended for your daily ORAC intake to be somewhere between 3500 and 5000, in order to neutralize free-radicals. Depending on the quality of matcha, your cup of matcha will contain more or less ORAC. Kotobuki Matcha from Amanprana, for example, has an ORAC value of 168500/100g. This is much higher than other known superfoods, such as broccoli, blueberries, goji berries and raw cacao.