What Is Matcha?
Or, "Why is this ice cream so freaking green?"
Matcha. It's bright green and makes its way into those radioactive-looking green tea frappuccinos. That may just be all you know about matcha, but tune in because there is a lot more to learn about the Japanese fine green tea powder.
Matcha is made from shade-grown young tea leaves. Several weeks prior to harvest, the tea leaves are covered to avoid any exposure to the sun. This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and stimulates the production of amino acids. Then, the leaves are harvested, and only the finest, greenest, unblemished leaves make the cut. They're laid out flat to dry, where they begin to crumble.
At this stage, the tea is known as tencha. The tencha is then de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha. This process takes a while: 30 grams of matcha takes up to an hour to grind, which explains why matcha is generally more expensive than other forms of tea. There are also several grades, defined by factors like location of the tea bush, treatments before processing, stone-grinding and oxidation.
Traditionally, there are two ways to prepare matcha: thick and thin teas. Matcha has also come to be used to flavor and dye foods like mochi, soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confections).
Matcha also has numerous health benefits. Researchers have found that there are three times more antioxidants in matcha than in normal green tea. Matcha is also said to boost metabolism and help reduce cholesterol levels. Plus, it's delicious — earthy and slightly sweet. Bottoms up!
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