Matcha Made Easy: A Guide on How to Use Matcha Powder

Apr 28, 2024

Imagine a superfood so powerful that it can boost your metabolism, improve your focus, and comes packed with antioxidants. And we forget to mention, this is all possible while tasting delicious with its unique texture and flavour.

Welcome to the world of matcha, a form of Japanese green tea powder that originated in China, and has taken the world by storm in recent years.

From its beginnings as a traditional Japanese tea to a global superfood, this vibrant powder continues to grow in popularity. It's now become a staple in cafes and kitchens worldwide - not to mention our own kitchens too.

In this guide, we will explore everything from what matcha is, to the health benefits of matcha, how to use matcha, as well as some of our favourite uses for it.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a finely ground powder made from specially grown and processed Japanese green tea leaves. Matcha is different to regular green tea which is made by steaming, pan-frying and drying tea leaves which are not directly consumed. Instead, matcha involves consuming the whole leaf in powdered form.

Matcha powder and preparation

The History of Matcha?

Matcha has a rich history that goes back around 1,000 years. Surprisingly matcha originated in China and was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 12th century. The monks valued matcha for its ability to keep them calm and alert especially during long hours of meditation. Over the centuries, matcha evolved from a spiritual drink to a essential Japanese ingredient and integral part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony or "Chanoyu".

Where Does Matcha Come from? How Is Matcha Made?

Matcha originates from the leaves of the Japanese green tea plant. The regions most famous for producing matcha are Uji in Kyoto, Nishio in the Aichi Prefecture, Shizuoka, and Kagoshima.

These regions create the optimal climate conditions. They also have rich soil and use traditional farming techniques. These are all crucial for cultivating the tea plants used in matcha production.

The process begins with shading the tea plants for about 20 to 30 days before harvest. This shading technique increases chlorophyll production and boosts amino acid levels. In particular, the levels of L-theanine contribute to the tea's unique sweet and umami flavour profile.

The tea is then steamed to halt oxidation, before being dried and aged to enhance their flavour. As a final step, the leaves are stone-ground into the fine, bright green powder that we all know as matcha.

Japanese green tea leaves

Grades of Matcha

There are several grades of matcha tea each with different uses. These include ceremonial, premium, and cooking.

Ceremonial grade matcha powder is the most elusive grade and expensive matcha powder. It is finer and purer than the others and is typically reserved for traditional tea ceremonies where it is drunk.

Premium grade matcha uses the fresher, younger leaves from the top of the plant and is great for everyday tea drinking.

Finally, there's cooking-grade matcha which uses the older leaves further down the plant. As a result of its stronger flavour, it is used in general cooking and baking.

What Does Matcha Taste Like?

We always struggle to agree on exactly how to describe what matcha tastes like. This is most probably because the taste of matcha is complex and layered. It can also vary slightly depending on its grade and how it is being used.

That said, matcha generally possesses a fresh and intense taste, that's bitter to start with. However, after a few seconds, the bitterness dissipates to give off a natural sweetness and a creamy body.

As a general rule of thumb, higher grades of matcha, such as ceremonial matcha, have smoother and milder taste profiles. On the other hand, cooking-grade matcha is typically more bitter, making it ideal for mixing with other ingredients.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Matcha is packed with goodness including antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals.

Matcha is rich in compounds called polyphenols. They are antioxidants that protect the body against diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. One such polyphenol is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). It is best known for its cancer-fighting properties.

Matcha's high concentration of chlorophyll, caffeine, and the amino acid L-theanine in combination with polyphenols, promotes brain function. The L-theanine in particular also aids relaxation without drowsiness. This is a rare quality in a caffeinated beverage.

Various studies also report regular consumption of matcha as being beneficial to your well-being. This includes enhancing mood, improving skin health, and boosting metabolism. This makes it a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.

How to Prepare Traditional Matcha Tea?

Preparing matcha is an art that requires specific tools and a bit of practice to perfect. These are the specific steps we follow ourselves and recommend for beginners:

  1. Sift 1-2 teaspoons of matcha powder with a strainer into a matcha bowl ("bowl"). This will avoid clumps and ensure your matcha is smooth or frothy.
  2. Ideally, you would use a matcha bowl ("chawan") and spatula. Don't worry too much if you don't have these available, a deep and wide bowl and spoon will suffice.
  3. Pour in about 70-80ml of hot water. The water must not be boiling but ideally no more than 80°C.
  4. Use a bamboo whisk ("chasen") and whisk vigorously in a "W" or "M" motion until the tea is frothy. This will typically take around 30 seconds, but a good check is the emergence of a creamy green foam on top.
  5. Sit back and enjoy immediately.
Preparing matcha tea

How to Use Matcha Powder?

Besides traditional tea, matcha has many potential uses in the kitchen both for drinks and food.

Add matcha to lattes, smoothies, or shakes, for an added burst of colour, flavour, and nutrition. Use it for cakes, cookies, and bread, to provide a mellow, earthy flavour that complements sweet and savoury dishes.

We also love experimenting with matcha in everyday cooking. We've tried it out to make everything from green noodles to vibrant salad dressings.

Here are 10 great uses for matcha that you can easily try at home.

#1 Matcha Latte

Enjoy an extra creamy, frothy latte with a vibrant green topping and a gentle, energising caffeine kick.

Iced Matcha Latte

#2 Smoothies

Add a scoop of matcha for a burst of antioxidants and a subtle earthy flavour to your morning smoothie. We love it with bananas and avocados, but it works with a lot of mixes.

Matcha Smoothie

#3 Pancakes

Mix matcha into your batter for pancakes that not only taste great but also boast a striking green colour.

Matcha Pancakes

#4 Cupcakes and Biscuits

Infuse your cupcakes and biscuits with matcha to give a delightful twist to traditional flavours. You can also top it with matcha frosting for extra pleasure.

Matcha Cookies

#5 Ice Cream

Create a rich, creamy matcha ice cream that's both refreshing and indulgent, perfect for an exotic dessert.

Matcha Ice Cream

#6 Energy Bars

Incorporate matcha into homemade energy bars for a natural boost of energy and a unique flavour.

#7 Desserts

Use matcha to add depth and colour to a variety of desserts, from cakes to mousses.

Matcha on Cake

#8 Oatmeal

Stir matcha into your morning oatmeal for a healthy start with a boost of antioxidants. Add fresh seasonal fruits for extra flavour.

Matcha Oatmeal

#9 Protein Shakes

Blend matcha into protein shakes to maximise your workout potential with added flavour and health benefits.

#10 Cocktails

Mix up your cocktail game by adding matcha to create innovative drinks with a sophisticated twist.

Matcha Cocktails

Each matcha use offers a unique way to enjoy matcha and benefit from its taste and nutrients.

How to Buy Matcha? What to Look Out for and Where to Buy?

When purchasing matcha, make sure you buy the right grade depending on your intended use.

You should always look out for a vibrant green-coloured powder, which indicates high quality and freshness. Avoid powders that look dull or yellowish.

Always check the origin of the matcha. Authentic matcha usually comes from Japan as it is produced in a specific way that influences its flavour and colour. However, we wouldn't rule out matcha simply for the reason that it is not produced in Japan. We have tasted great, authentic matcha from countries such as Korea and Taiwan, but it's something to be aware of.

You can buy high-quality matcha online from reputable suppliers. Alternatively, visit health food stores that source directly from Japanese producers.

Final Word

Matcha is more than a traditional Japanese tea. It's a great-tasting, versatile ingredient that has a wide range of uses to liven up many drink and food recipes.  Better still, it has been linked to many health benefits and is widely considered to be good for your overall well-being.

So whether you're enjoying matcha tea, or blending a matcha smoothie, this green tea powder offers a unique blend of flavour and nutrients.

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