What’s green, has similar caffeine content to coffee, and provides an amazing antioxidant boost, without the crash? Matcha! What is matcha, exactly? It is a Japanese green tea that is as unique as its name; the entire tea leaf is ground into a fine, chalklike powder, which is traditionally whisked with hot water and then sipped. Once prepared, you will have a herbaceous, pungent aroma that some say tastes like the “essence of tea.” Your tea will have varying shades of bright jade-green color that showcase the high antioxidant and beta-carotene content.
Matcha was originally introduced by Buddhist monks at the beginning of the first millennium and used as part of Zen rituals. The method of making the powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves and whisking it in a bowl became popular. Legend has it that samurai warriors prepared matcha before battle and also used it as a form of meditation.
Why drink matcha today? Matcha has been linked to a plethora of health benefits. One glass of matcha is the equivalent of ten glasses of green tea in terms of its nutritional value and antioxidant content. It’s been rumored to be great for those looking to detox and burn calories. Matcha is also excellent for increasing mental clarity and energy. I find a quick boost of it midday really helps me focus, concentrate and regroup. Another fascinating benefit: the antioxidant catechins in matcha have been shown to have antibiotic properties that may promote overall health. Additionally, matcha provides potassium, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
Today, matcha is enjoyed in many ways. A traditional three-piece set for making matcha includes a whisk (chasen), bowl (chawan) and spoon (chashaku). If you’re new to matcha, a simple bowl and metal whisk will work fine. Because it is so much more potent than other teas, I advise first timers to start with 1 teaspoon or less of matcha.
Bring about 3 ounces of water to 180°F. If you’ve let your kettle boil, let it rest for about five minutes to cool down so that the water won’t singe the delicate leaves. Place the matcha in your bowl and add the water. Use the whisk to stir the tea and dissolve it into the water. Carefully increase the intensity and whisk in a W motion. This will create a nice frothy appearance. Your matcha is now ready to drink!
A popular way to drink matcha in North America is to add it to smoothies. It also can be enjoyed as a green tea latte. To make a latte, prepare the matcha as stated above; then sweeten it to taste with honey, vanilla syrup or agave. Top off the matcha with 6 ounces of your favorite steamed milk, such as soy, almond or 2 percent. This is a gentler way to enjoy the benefits of the drink if you’re not partial to the grassy, pungent taste of traditionally prepared matcha.
You can find matcha at your local speciality tea store. There are some great online sites that sell it by gram as well. High-quality matcha can be pricier, but the purity and taste are worth the extra money. One of my favorite tea company’s, Rishi, has an excellent online collection.
The health benefits and versatility of matcha appear endless. Next time you’re thinking of trying something new to sip, whisk up some matcha and see what it does for you.