The latest food trend spreading like wildfire—Matcha! No longer limited to tea, matcha has been catching pace, fanning across countries in desserts, ice-creams and even savoury mains. Chefs are including this tea in their menus, curating special dishes to showcase its luscious green colour and unique astringent taste.
First Things First
Matcha is finely grounded, powdered form of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It involves processes unique to this tea for growing, harvesting and preserving. Consumed differently than other green tea leaves or bags, it is dissolved in water or milk for drinking purposes. Devoured without straining, it is more potent than other tea varieties.
Tea is an integral part of Chinese culture; originated in the country with Emperor Shen Nong, it was used as a vital medicinal herb. In the Tang Dynasty, people in western China stored tea by compressing it into hard bricks and cakes, allowing for longer preservation and easier transport. While making the beverage, they would simply break out a piece and toss it in boiling water, seasoning with ginger or salt. However, it was in the Song Dynasty, that the powdered tea was refined and popularised.
The preparation and consumption was then categorised into a celebration and ritual by Zen Buddhists, who departed the knowledge to Japanese monks visiting China. The tradition became an important part of Japanese culture, evolving into a Chanoyu ceremony, whereas it was under-appreciated and forgotten in China, until the recent global resurgence of matcha tea.
Grades Of Matcha
While buying matcha, it is important you choose the right grade for yourself and understand its character, to not be ripped off! The quality is determined by multiple factors, the most important being location on the bush.
Used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, it is made with the youngest tea leaves and is the finest quality available. Factors for recognition: Vibrant green colour, fine texture, delicate taste, grassy fresh smell.
Premium Culinary Grade
Another fine grade, it is made with early harvest leaves, used for cooking and baking. Factors for recognition: Robust and slightly less sweet flavour with bitter notes, noticeably green but less vibrant than ceremonial grade, soft and smooth texture, fresh smell.
Perfect texture to be used in desserts and blended drinks, it is made with less delicate leaves than the culinary grade. Factors for recognition: Unique green colour, fine texture, slightly grassy smell.
Used in power drinks and smoothies, it is made with late harvest leaves. The most economical, it is ideal for large-scale mixing and brewing. Factors for recognition: Pale in hue and astringent on the palate, less fine texture.
Health Benefits Of Matcha
Matcha contains theanine along with caffeine, bringing along its calming effect. It is a powerful anti-oxidant source as the leaves are used in whole for preparation. It also contains high chlorophyll levels which have shown to eliminate heavy metals from the body. However, matcha also contains a higher concentration of lead than other green teas. Thus, restricted consumption is the way to go when dealing with matcha.
#EatExtra Get your scoop of matcha at Yum Yum Cha with Matcha Mochi Ice-cream or head to Tea Trails in Connaught Place for a Japanese tea service completed with a warm cup of matcha and tempura fritters.
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