Everything you Need to Know about Matcha
By Emilie Holmes
Gaining an almost cult-like following, particularly in it's recent incarnation as a latte, matcha is not only famed for its numerous health benefits, but is also steeped in tradition. So what's all the fuss about? Here's the lowdown.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a fine green tea powder made from whole, ground leaves, distinctive for it's rich flavour and vibrant green colour. The young leaves of the first harvest of the year are shaded for 3-4 weeks before they're picked to bring out sweetness in the resulting cup. Once harvested, the leaves are then dried and gently sifted to separate out the stems from the leaf. The remaining leaf is then ground into a fine powder using a stone or ball mill.
The centrepiece of a Japanese tea ceremony, matcha is traditionally prepared using a bamboo whisk and then drunk from a 'chawan' or tea bowl, allowing you to sip the tea while also taking in its fresh aroma. The fine green powder is dissolved in hot water to produce an intense green tea. That means that unlike with other teas where you discard the leaf and consume just the liquor, with matcha you are consuming both - hence the increased health benefits.
What does Matcha taste like?
Matcha has long been a go-to for discerning green tea drinkers, but it has recently gained new followers thanks to an increased awareness around its many health benefits. Drunk traditional style with just hot water, good matcha should be smooth and creamy, striking a perfect balance between sweet and savoury. If you're already a green tea lover then you'll love the intensity and heady aromas of matcha. If, however, the vegetal flavours of a green tea aren't your thing, you might prefer to blend your matcha into a smoothie for an extra energy boost or combine with milk as a creamy latte.
However you choose to drink it, swapping your coffee for a matcha in the morning will give you the caffeine you need to stay alert, but without the coffee jitters and with a bundle of anti-oxidants thrown in too!
What are the health benefits of Matcha?
The health benefits of green tea are not a new discovery - green tea has been used as a remedy for stress for hundreds of years in Japan and China. More recently it has been linked to everything from fighting disease and anti-ageing to weight loss and even improved memory. This is all thanks to both rich levels of catechins, powerful antioxidants that detoxify the cell-damaging free radicals in the body, and the presence of L-theanine, a natural amino-acid which is known to slow down the release of caffeine into the blood and promote a feeling of 'calm alertness'. This powerful combination found in all green teas can boost mood, cognitive function, memory and alertness. And because with matcha you are consuming the whole leaf vs just the infusion, matcha packs an even more powerful health punch than a normal green tea.
How to enjoy matcha
Thanks to its bright green colour you can spot matcha as an ingredient from a mile off. See below for some of our favourite ways to enjoy it.