Gotch Your Matcha?

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I am a coffee drinker, but I love tea.  Especially green tea.  Green tea is a great appetite suppressant, and I often drink it when I am trying to make it to my next meal or snack. I had heard of matcha, and I knew it was a type of green tea, but I had never really tried it.  As someone who spends a lot of time reading food blogs, I had noticed that matcha has been quite trendy lately in cooking, and I have even saved several recipes to try.

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I have recently taken on a blogging assignment: to sample and write about some ceremonial grade matcha from Matcha Zen.  I received the cutest little package in the mail.  It was a little cardboard tube with a bag inside full of emerald green matcha from Matcha Zen.  Matcha Zen tea is some of the finest matcha you can buy.  It comes from a region of Japan historically known for cultivating quality matcha. It’s also USDA certified organic.  The matcha at Matcha Zen is not the only “green”  that their into.  They support ethical, and sustainable practices when it comes to sourcing, cultivating, packaging, and marketing this special tea.

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Tea Ceremony

Tea is serious business in Japan.  According to the website, Japanese Tea Ceremony, the tea ceremony has several names, “Chanoyo,”  meaning literally, “hot water for tea,”  or “Sado”  and “Chado,”  which both mean “the way of tea.”  I could go on for days about the history, aesthetics, and essence of the tea ceremony.  It has been going on for over 900 years in Japan, and even before that in China.  People have dedicated their whole lives to studying it.  I am not a scholar of tea, but I am a lover of most everything that involves food and drink. The website describes the tea ceremony as  “…a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.”

I love it!  I am always trying to be more “in the moment,” and I love the idea of being fully engrossed in the intricacies of where to place utensils, etc. Also, how touching is it to prepare a cup of tea for a friend “from your heart.”  This captures the essence of what I love about cooking.  Cooking for someone, especially someone you love, the goal or intention is to please. satisfy, or nourish them. Ask anyone what their favorite meal is, and most likely, it will be something that was prepared growing up by their momma.  How come that food tasted so good?  Because it was prepared with thoughtful intention and love.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a quality green tea that is dried and crushed into a fine powder. The tea leaf is known as tencha. The tea bushes are shade-grown to avoid the exposure of direct sunlight which reduces the pace of photosynthesis and slows the growth of the plants. This stimulates the production of chlorophyll and amino acids, resulting in a dark-green tea leaf. The bright green powder is beautiful brewed into teas, and cooked into food.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Wow!  This stuff is really good for you. The website, Organic Facts, states that matcha is full of nutrients. “It is source of vitamin A, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin K and trace minerals.  Matcha is rich in components with super antioxidant activity including polyphenols, catechins and chlorophyll. Presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline in the matcha tea makes it a multi nutrient-packed drink.”  These nutrients lead to a number of health benefits. Organic Facts list these health benefits as boosting immune system health, reducing inflammation, and helping to prevent cancer. It also helps with detoxification, cardiovascular health, and boosts metabolism.  Matcha has the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The caffeine in matcha, however is a different for than is in regular coffee. This form caffeine is known as theophylline, and releases amounts of energy in a steady stream. Kaitlin of The Garden Grazer blog describes the caffeine high you get from matcha as “zenery.”  According to Kaitlin, “zenergy”  is the feeling of being energized, yet calm and focused.

A Cup of Matcha

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I decided it was time to make myself a cup of matcha.  I  found a simple description on  how to make it from Bon Appetit’s website.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bamboo whisk, but I did have a small stainless steel whisk that was the perfect size, as well as a small strainer. Even though I didn’t know the proper procedure for a tea ceremony, I did have a very pretty china tea cup that my mom had given me.  I hardly use it, so I thought it was appropriate for the occasion.

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 Bon Appetit stated that you should push the matcha through a strainer into a bowl to sift it so there are no lumps.  You pour in the hot water and whisk the tea until it becomes frothy.  I added a bit of stevia to the tea powder before I whisked in the water.

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 I loved the beautiful deep emerald green color that looked especially pretty with my fancy teacup.  The first sip was a bit bitter, but the more sips I had, the more I loved it.  The stevia helped to balance out the bitter flavor, which left an earthy, umami-type flavor.  I also loved the swirls the powdered tea left when I got toward the bottom of the cup.  I couldn’t help but think of tasseography, or the practice of reading the symbolism in tea leaves to predict the future.  I know there’s a pretty fantastic future to be predicted in the swirly pictures of my cup of Matcha Zen.

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The Recipes

I found endless food blogs with posts about cooking with matcha.  Here are some links to some of my favorites.  Stay tuned for a food recipe using Matcha Zen in the day or two!

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Chocolate Matcha Butter Cups from Keepin it Kind

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Healthy Matcha Green Tea Coconut Fudge from Desserts with Benefits

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Matcha Mochi Yogurt Pops from My Name is Yeh

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