Ok, so most of you will know how I love my coffee & how easily my intake can go waaay over what it should if I’m not mindful of it – but where did this matcha love come from?! My advice to clients who are trying to cut down on coffee is often to try to find an alternative hot drink. In the past that would have been hot water & lemon first thing in the day, or perhaps herbal teas later on, but now things have changed: move in matcha!
This bright green, traditional Japanese health drink has become my latest love in the kitchen. From its fabulous green colour (green being another of my loves), to the endless goodness it provides, to the ritual of making it – it’s a win-win! Both the Chinese & the Japanese have been drinking matcha for centuries (they also use it in cakes, desserts, & infuse it into creams, but that’s another story for another time…)
WHAT IS MATCHA?
- Matcha is a finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. The leaves are laid out to dry, then they are de-stemmed, de-veined and stone ground to become the characteristic bright green powder that is matcha. More specifically:
“matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This triggers the growth of leaves with better flavor and texture, which are hand selected, steamed briefly to stop fermentation, then dried and aged in cold storage, which deepens the flavor. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder”
- The powder can be made into a simple hot matcha drink (by whisking the powder into water that is approximately 70 degrees centigrade). Other alternatives are matcha latte or iced matcha, or if you want to be a little more adventurous a matcha smoothie or a matcha milk shake!
WHY IS IT GOOD FOR US?
- Matcha is a high quality tea made from “tencha” which in itself comes from the Camellia Sinensis tea bush. (It should however be noted that now that matcha is so very fashionable sadly not all matchas will match this high quality).
- With other green teas components from the leaves are “steeped” – that is they are left to infuse in hot water to release both the flavour and the nutrients. With matcha, you actually ingest the whole leaf (see above) so you are getting a much more potent ‘punch’ of all the nutrients.
- Matcha is packed with antioxidants, and especially with polyphenols which have been linked with many positive health benefits (amongst other things polyphenols are believed to combat inflammation, which is the source of so many health issues today).
GREEN TEA & CAFFEINE…
I’d like to believe we are all aware of keeping an eye on caffeine intake – and of why we should. Matcha does contain caffeine, so it is not a caffeine-free alternative. In fact, because you are ingesting the whole leaf rather than the steeped residue caffeine levels are higher than green “teabag” tea. However, matcha fans will tell you that the caffeine ‘hit’ from matcha is quite different. It is described as a:
“clean, calm and focused energy boost”
…which lacks the jittery-ness and the spikes and crashes of a coffee-based pick-me-up. It’s a similar comparison to the effects of “good” and “bad” carbs. A slower, more prolonged boost, as opposed to a quick ‘high’ and equally quick crash. Hence, the fans insist, whereas coffee will make you “wired”, matcha will gently ease you into increased focus and ‘cradle’ you whilst you are there…
MY MATCHA LOVE
There are many things about this drink that I personally love. It has a somewhat bitter after taste which sort of resembles the after taste of coffee. If I “latte it” with my beloved frothy milk on the top it feels like a treat which is more than comparable to my frothy coffee. On top of that I have to confess it’s the ritual that I love. If you make your latte the traditional Japanese way the whole experience becomes much more mindful – almost meditative – (and that in itself will increase our awareness of how much we are drinking).
So what are my own ‘must haves’ for my matcha love? Here goes:
- a quiet 5 minutes to enjoy the actual process of making it
- a bamboo scoop and whisk to make the matcha in the traditional Japanese way
- a bowl as opposed to a cup
- frothy milk (personally I prefer latte to plain…)
- a quiet 5 (or 10!) minutes to enjoy the results…
So if you have yet to jump on the matcha bandwagon then why not go ahead and give it a go? There are undoubtedly many actual health benefits, but as I say, for me it’s more than that. The whole process and the slightly ritualistic quality of creating this drink makes my matcha love more mindful, so that my afternoon drink becomes a part of my stress management and self care (as opposed to a jittery coffee-based ggrrrrr!)