matcha green tea

Matcha – All About The Japanese Green Tea & A Smoothie Recipe

February 1, 2020

It’s been a few years now since Matcha became a stable part of the Western culinary world. Beyond the classic way to consume it as tea, it is also a common ingredient in pastries, desserts, and various drinks. In Japan, you can even find Matcha beer and Matcha soba (buckwheat noodles)!

With Natural Food shops calling it a superfood and food bloggers glorifying the green powder, Matcha is the ingredient that will give a Japanese twist to every recipe. Not to mention its cultural importance in Japan.

In this post, I will tell you all you need to know about Matcha powder, its cultural value and why your body wants to consume it. Plus, you can find an amazing Matcha smoothie recipe right at the bottom. Let’s start!

matcha and matcha sweet

MATCHA – the basic facts

The Matcha is often translated to “Japanese green tea”, but you really shouldn’t expect the herbal tea you know.

Matcha leaves are grown in certain areas of Japan, and the bushes are shade-grown for a few weeks before the harvest. Then, traditionally, a group of Japanese grandmas hand-pick the finest leaves. After the leaves completely dry, they will be stone-ground to a very fine powder which is the Matcha.

Now let’s talk about the taste 😏. Firstly, you need to know that as the quality of the Matcha powder increases, the taste becomes less bitter. In the finest Matcha, there’s only a slight bitterness which is easier to become accustomed to.

If I’m being honest, the first time I tried to drink Matcha tea I didn’t like it. I mean, really didn’t like it. I’m a coffee person! Betraying my favorite drink with a green-looking liquid was making me never want to try it again. But as none of us are born coffee or beer lovers,  Matcha is also an acquired taste. Now I LOVE it! In my drinks, pastries, and desserts. So, if I became fond of it, I’m sure anyone else can too.

matcha cake
is that pistachio or matcha?

Matcha in Japanese culture

Although this powdery green tea was originally developed in China, the Land of The Rising Sun is the land of Matcha. It arrived in Japan in the 12th century with Buddhist monks that returned from China. That’s because the tea was mainly consumed by monks to keep them awake during the long hours of meditation.

Buddhism, or if to be precise Zen Buddhism, also set the values of the Japanese tea ceremony. In the Japanese Tea Ceremony, the participants drink and honor the Matcha green tea, in meditative manners (or that’s the ideal). There are special bamboo utensils to prepare the tea, and a specific water temperature to serve it at.

I could actually write a full post about the Japanese tea ceremony alone, but that will do for now. If you’re keen to know more and participate, you can try this tea ceremony workshop. It’s very close to the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto and will provide you with a five-sense experience.

matcha and tatami

Preserving the tradition with new interpretations

These days, Matcha has long exceeded traditional ways of consuming it. In Japan, you can find Matcha ice cream on every other corner, as well as biscuits, chocolate, and many other kinds of sweets. When you’re here, whenever you see green it will probably be Matcha (or wasabi – and I’m not joking).

In many cafes you can enjoy a Matcha latte, whether it’s somewhere local or Starbucks. The flavor of Matcha is bitter indeed. However, with the right balance between the different ingredients, you will notice the tea’s aroma without any bitterness. Although it has a very distinctive taste that some people need to get used to, many have. The Matcha has crossed the oceans to Germany, Australia, California, Toronto, and so many other places. They all have specialty Matcha tea houses.

matcha latte
me, drinking the fine Matcha latte of Santomi Center Coffee

Why would I want to consume Matcha?

Even those who wouldn’t care about cultural importance might want to drink it for their own health benefits. It seems like drinking this tea could benefit your body greatly: it is said that Matcha is rich in the antioxidant polyphenol that reduces the level of the free radicals in our body, reduces blood pressure, balances the cholesterol level, and even reduces the risk of getting cancer. It has also been found to encourage anti-aging, anti-inflammation, an increase in metabolism, and weight loss.

That’s not all: Matcha also has a high level of caffeine compared to other kinds of tea. So it could be a nice boost before your workout.

So, Matcha could indeed be a great contribution to your diet, for the most egoistic reasons 😉. It’s just good for you!

One last important thing: please note that it’s better to not let the water boil as it ruins the taste and the health benefits of the tea. I received this advice from so many Japanese people and I believe they know what they’re talking about.

So, how do we recognize a good Matcha?

The best Matcha in Japan is said to be produced in Uji, but Shizuoka also has a high reputation. When you’re buying it in Japan, make sure that it is made in Japan, 100% Matcha, and it comes as a powder (and not teabags). If you’re not in Japan and want to try some, I highly recommend this brand or this organic Matcha.

Uji matcha

But what if I’m not into tea?

That’s easy – add the Matcha to desserts, hot drinks, and smoothies. There are countless Matcha recipes you can try, and it will definitely enrich your diet. If you want to get inspired with a good vegan Matcha dessert Instagram account, don’t miss BulletProofSamurai.

For a great finale – an amazing Matcha smoothie recipe! (serves two)

…and blend!

matcha smoothie

That smoothie will surely keep you energetic 😃

Have a green happy day!

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