Originally published in two parts in December 2020
A Blog Series for Serious Sippers!
In this blog series, I will answer the question “what is Matcha green tea?” and help you discover how to find genuine matcha, how best to store it, and the ways to prepare this vivid green health elixir from Japan.
The Essential Guide to Matcha: What Is Matcha?
The Essential Guide to Matcha: Matcha Processing
The Essential Guide to Matcha: Japanese Matcha Versus Imposters
Thanks goes largely to Instagram for making matcha hit the limelight! The vibrant green color brings photographs to life and makes you drool as you scroll one amazing creation after the next.
Truth be told, I really struggled with matcha when we opened our cafe bakery in Japan where I was doing all of the baking. It seemed like I could never get the taste balanced and it was costing a fortune in failed attempts! I’ve learned so much over the years and now I will happily bake, create, and use matcha as an ingredient in my home kitchen.
Matcha is such a versatile superfood that you really don’t realize just how healthy it is as you crunch into cookies, slice into that pie, and build a leaning tower of Pisa parfait!
Yes, certain matcha is sublime for sipping; but buy the culinary grade with an edgier taste profile and chalkier texture for a value-packed way to add copious amounts of this bionic superfood to your daily life.
It’s easy to think of matcha as the Japanese cocoa because you can substitute matcha for cocoa in a lot of recipes with just a few modifications. The powdery consistency is very similar. In fact, my yabunouchi tea ceremony teacher in Nakatsu made me practice whisking with cheap cocoa powder to perfect my whisking skills (but actually to keep me from wasting her ceremonial grade matcha)! Give it a go!
Pictured: Häagen Dazs Vanilla ice cream with matcha-dusted black sesame seeds
Here are some basic tips that will help you use culinary-grade matcha as an ingredient in your kitchen:
- Sift your matcha to allow it to combine with the other ingredients and prevent it from forming tiny clumps. Definitely do this when drinking ceremonial grade too!
- Treat your matcha as a dry ingredient when you are baking. By sifting it twice with your flour and other dry ingredients, you will achieve a more consistent mixture throughout.
- Matcha is white chocolate’s best friend! This duo is all you need to make some of the loveliest sweet matcha creations you will ever taste. SLOWLY melt a few bars of white chocolate over a simmering double boiler, scoop out a bit from the pot, and stir SIFTED matcha into it to form a paste. Then stir the paste into the rest of the warm liquid chocolate. Let it cool and set in the fridge. Use the very best white chocolate you can find – Lindt is a good one. Do not overheat or over stir as separation could occur. (And REALLY don’t make a whisked matcha shot with water and add to the white chocolate because that truly will make it separate. Been there, done that!)
- Baking with matcha can be underwhelming when you see the color of the finished product. It rarely retains that vibrant green color unless your ratio of matcha to other ingredients is substantial…and even then it might not be what you would expect. It wasn’t until reading an ice cream wrapper in Japan that I discovered a mind-blowing secret! Japanese matcha treats often contain a dash of Spirulina to help jazz up the color. I was flabbergasted. Do it!
- Matcha can be added to literally anything so don’t hold back. When you add matcha to a recipe, it often can’t be tasted over the other ingredients. That can be a good thing, at least for me, as every meal would taste the same! Vary the amount of matcha you use to either amplify the taste or let other flavors rise above it.
- Ratio is everything. Beware the cookbooks that say to use 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of matcha for 350g of flour. That trace amount isn’t enough to taste, see, or really provide any benefit due to the ratio of matcha to flour. There are a lot of recipes created by chefs who don’t have a clue about matcha. Not knowing what to buy, worried about the price, and adding small amounts, they fumble along with this unknown ingredient. The culinary grades of matcha are sold in larger containers. It’s a cheaper “value” grade of matcha, and larger amounts are needed for recipes, so go ahead, USE it generously, without the wallet guilt. Chiki Tea’s smallest container of culinary grade is 100g. We call it Muse because it’s just so amusing to use!
Staples In My Kitchen
- Sea salt and matcha (for everything)*
- Black sesame and matcha (for ice cream, salads, topping rice)*
- Matcha-dusted macadamia nuts (other nuts too – snacking)*
- Black sesame, salt, matcha (for sushi and rice balls!)*
- Matcha granola (toppers for ice cream, yogurt, salad, and soup)*
- Matcha green goddess salad dressing (salads and marinade)
- Matcha jam (for breakfast, smoothies, using like butter)
- Matcha white chocolate (baking, snacking!)
*Make fresh to keep nutrients/taste intact, other staples can stay for a short time but will lose quality the longer it is kept
Green Goddess Dressing & Marinade Recipe
- 40ml apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1.5g matcha: non-heaping tsp (I use our MUSE)
- 120ml cold-press extra virgin olive oil
- Stevia (sprinkle, 1/4 package)
- 1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard or other of your choice
- 1/4 tsp powdered garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk the sifted matcha into the vinegar. Pour into salad dressing bottle or pitcher and add remainder of ingredients. Very gently shake (or if using a pitcher, whisk) to create an emulsion. Vigorous shaking will make the dressing runny.
Image provided and copyright held by author