What is it about matcha?
Is it the gorgeous green color?
The grassy fresh taste?
The buzz about something that provides an energy boost, calm alertness, antioxidants and a slow-acting caffeine lift with no jitters?
“Matcha: A Lifestyle Guide” (Dovetail, $25) just published this month. Jessica Flint and Anna Kavaliunas wrote the book after enjoying a year of weekly matcha-fueled conversations. They wanted to tackle the subject of matcha – its history including its role in the Japanese tea ceremony, tips for getting the best matcha when you’re drinking and dining out and recipes from breakfast to dinner to cocktails. For those wanting to know more about matcha, it’s a thorough and wide-ranging guide to the subject.
If you haven’t tried matcha, chances are good you soon will. Matcha lattes are available at many “coffee” shops, your grocery store may be stocking Uncle Matt’s Matcha Green Tea Lemonade and McCormick’s has come out with Organic Matcha Green Tea with Ginger Seasoning.
Matcha is also on the menu of more Atlanta restaurants, coffee shops and bars than you might think.
Those who dine regularly at Umi, Buckhead’s modern Japanese restaurant, know to plan ahead if they want to enjoy pastry chef Lisa Ito’s Green Tea Soufflé. Ito was born in Japan and was classically trained in French cuisine. “When we decided to open Umi, I wanted to create a recipe that would marry both traditions. The Green Tea Soufflé is our signature dessert and we serve only 12 a day. Some people reserve their soufflé when they make their dinner reservation.”
Ito grew up enjoying matcha as part of the Japanese tea ceremony. “It makes me so happy when I see that bright green color. I used to practice making it when I was little, a tablespoon of matcha poured into hot water and whisked until smooth. There’s much more involved in the tea ceremony and it represents so much of our culture.”
She gets her matcha from Japan and cautions that if you’re going to work with matcha at home, you want to make sure what you get is fresh. “It should smell fresh and have a bright green color. If it’s not handled right by the store, it can lose that smell and color. Once you open it, you have to store it airtight and use it quickly. Refrigerate it or freeze it. This is one of those ingredients where the price reflects quality. Buy the most expensive matcha.”
Connie Miller of Zen Tea in Chamblee says matcha has become the shop’s signature drink. When she opened nine years ago, she had to initiate her clientele into the world of matcha. “But as soon as they were introduced to it they liked it, and then their friends would come in and say, ‘I want that green drink my friend gets.’ It has a very green taste so we serve it as a latte with a little vanilla soy or coconut milk. Now 70 percent of our regular customers get a matcha latte every day.”
The shop sells organic stone ground Japanese matcha so you can experiment at home. The most popular size container is 1.5 ounces, which is enough for 20 servings at a half-teaspoon per cup. It sells for $19.99 and you can get it at Zen Tea, or at Press and Grind in Virginia-Highland, Vivid Boutique in Decatur and Nature’s Garden Express at Krog Street Market.
When she was learning about matcha, Miller was intrigued by how the monks who ground matcha found it helped them stay awake but in a meditative and calm state. And she says what makes matcha so special is that it’s like a live food source. “The tea plants are shaded three weeks before harvest, which forces the nutrients to the top of the plant. Only the tips are harvested and the leaves are ground into matcha powder, so you’re eating the whole plant, not just a brew from the leaves. It makes an uplifting, energizing and healthy drink.”
Over at Press and Grind in Virginia-Highland, general manager Jennifer Thompson has become a matcha fan. “I found that drinking coffee, my body had energy but my mind was exhausted. Someone introduced me to matcha and I find it’s like a timed-release caffeine. You get the energy but without getting jittery.”
She also likes the benefits that come from matcha’s level of L-theanine. “It really does give you more clarity and consistent, sustained energy.” L-theanine is an amino acid that comes from tea leaves. Since you’re consuming the whole leaf rather than just a brew made from the leaves, you get a bigger dose.
At Press and Grind they make their matcha lattes with Zen Tea’s matcha and their housemade nut milks. Thompson likes hers with coconut milk. “You only need a half teaspoon of matcha per serving. It doesn’t take much. Then we steam it or whisk it and serve it hot or cold. A lot of people also add a shot of vanilla for additional flavor.”
Matcha powder is very fine and has a tendency to clump. Whether you’re cooking with matcha or whisking it into a drink, you want to be sure to sift it. A small fine mesh sieve works perfectly.
Tuna Poké Bowl with Matcha rice and Seaweed Salad
This recipe from “Matcha” by Jessica Flint and Anna Kavaliunas (Dovetail, $25) makes the most of two delicious food trends – matcha and poké. It goes together quickly and you can prepare everything up to a day ahead.
1 cup short-grain rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning vegetables
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons matcha, sifted
1 pound sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked edamame
1/2 cucumber, cut into 1/2-in cubes
1 cup prepared seaweed salad
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
In a sieve, rinse the rice under cold running water until the water runs clear.
In a medium saucepan, combine rice, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine vegetable oil and matcha to make a slurry.
When rice has finished cooking, remove saucepan from heat and let stand to steam the rice, about 10 minutes. Uncover and stir in the matcha slurry. Scrape the rice onto a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature.
When ready to serve, in a large bowl, combine tuna, soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil and pepper flakes. Toss to coat tuna evenly. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine edamame, avocado and cucumber and season with salt.
Divide rice between serving bowls. Top with edamame mixture and tuna. Divide the seaweed salad between bowls and sprinkle tuna with sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Serves: 4
− Adapted from a recipe in “Matcha” by Jessica Flint and Anna Kavaliunas (Dovetail, $25).
Per serving: 585 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 39 grams protein, 54 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 24 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 1,396 milligrams sodium.
Lisa Ito’s Green Tea Soufflé
Ito’s matcha soufflé is the signature dessert at Umi, and only 12 are made each evening. The server presents the soufflé at the table, makes a little hole in the middle and pours in a little Matcha Crème Anglaise.
Here she gives you the recipe for half the evening’s production. Don’t forget to sift the matcha as you’re adding it to the base and Crème Anglaise. Very important to prevent little lumps of matcha powder.
7/8 cup milk (whole or two-percent)
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon matcha, sifted
Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for buttering ramekins
Unsalted butter for buttering ramekins
9 egg whites
Matcha Crème Anglaise
Powdered sugar and additional matcha for garnish
Make the base: In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until just steaming.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Whisk in flour and matcha. Slowly whisk in half of the hot milk. Add mixture to saucepan with remaining milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes then remove from heat. Transfer to a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface. Keep warm until ready to use. May be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.
When ready to bake soufflés: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and sugar six 8-ounce ramekins. Be sure all sides and bottom are completely covered.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add scant 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy. Spoon in one quarter of the base and whisk thoroughly until smooth. Quickly fold remaining whites into mixture until combined. Don’t worry if some streaks remain. Transfer to prepared ramekins. Bake 17 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with powdered sugar and matcha and serve immediately with Matcha Cremé Anglaise. Serves: 6
Per serving: 185 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 8 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 4 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 112 milligrams cholesterol, 104 milligrams sodium.
Matcha Crème Anglaise
1 1/4 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons matcha, sifted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk just until steaming.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar, matcha and flour. Whisk very well. Slowly whisk in half of the hot milk. Add mixture to saucepan with remaining milk. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Strain it into a container and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes: 1 1/2 cups
Per 1/4-cup serving: 110 calories (percent of calories from fat, 29), 3 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 110 milligrams cholesterol, 30 milligrams sodium.
Nexto’s Tiki Ocha
Nexto’s general manager and beverage director Mike Branton created this recipe to pair the nutty, earthy and grassy flavor of matcha with the classic ingredients in a Tiki cocktail. “The matcha pairs great with the sweet and boozy flavors of a classic Tiki cocktail and gives it a creamy texture that rounds it out giving it umami.” Make the Matcha Coconut Milk ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to whip up your cocktails.
1 ounce Angostura or other dark rum
3/4 ounce Matcha Coconut Milk (see recipe)
3/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce Smith and Cross Navy Strength (or other 150 proof) rum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Sprig of mint, for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add dark rum, Matcha coconut milk, simple syrup, pineapple juice, 150 proof rum and lime juice. Shake well. Strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with mint and serve immediately. Serves: 1
Per serving: 187 calories (percent of calories from fat, 48), 1 gram protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams fat (4 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 4 milligrams sodium.
Matcha Coconut Milk
This will make enough for about 20 cocktails. If you’re not planning a party that large, cut the recipe down to a half or quarter of this. Just be sure to blend your coconut milk thoroughly before proceeding with the recipe. It tends to settle in the can, separating into liquid and solid components. And sift that matcha before adding it to the coconut milk.
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon matcha, sifted
In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk and matcha until matcha is completely dissolved. Strain into a container and refrigerate until needed. Makes: 1 3/4 cup
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 33 calories (percent of calories from fat, 87), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams fat (3 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.