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New, green and trendy – from Japan

Powdered green tea from Japan is a fast-growing trend. People are drinking it as anything from green chai to matcha on the rocks – an alcohol-free cocktail. With milk it becomes a matcha latte or the powder is stirred into green smoothies and hot chocolate. It’s even used to flavour icecream, chocolates, salad dressings and pasta sauces. The word matcha translates simply as ground tea. Matcha tastes “green” and refreshingly bitter to fruity. The better the quality, the finer the aroma, but expect to pay for the pleasure – from 20 to 50 euros for 30 grams of powder.

Caffeine kick and probable health benefits

One and a half teaspoons of matcha powder give you as much caffeine as an espresso. Buddhist monks drank the tea in order to meditate more intensively. Matcha is an extract of fresh tea leaves and because you actually consume the whole ground leaf, it is said to offer more health benefits than you get from drinking a tea. Beneficial substances include antioxidants, calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins and vitamins A and K.

How matcha teas are produced

Matcha tea is made from selected leaves from the green tea bushes that supply tencha tea. Three to four weeks before the harvest, the bushes are shaded with black netting or bamboo mats. This stimulates the plants to produce more caffeine, amino acids and certain bitter substances. It’s only the tender shoots that are plucked. They are steamed gently, dried in the shade and ground in special granite mills. Grinding is a slow process, taking up to an hour to grind just 30 g, which goes some way to explaining the high prices.

Buying and preparing matcha tea

Hot water (80 °C) is poured over one or two grams of matcha powder in a small bowl. The liquid is then whisked with a special bamboo whisk until it is foamy. You can buy the tea powder in packages weighing from 20 to 40 g, because it should be drunk as quickly as possible. Store opened packages in your fridge and use it within three to four weeks.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de