It’s been years since matcha became a buzz word, popping up around the U.S. in lattes, smoothies, ice cream, you name it.
Matcha wasn’t new then (check in with Japan circa the 13th century) and certainly isn’t now, which speaks to its value as more than a passing wellness trend.
Matcha has had a long life, both as a part of ritual Japanese tea ceremonies and an antioxidant superfood. Made by drying and grinding vibrant green tea leaves, matcha is a bitter powder that tastes vegetal and, for lack of a better descriptor, very “green," thanks to an abundance of chlorophyll.
Traditionally, matcha is whisked into hot water or milk as a hot tea drink. It’s different than steeped green tea in that you are actually consuming the entirety of the tea leaf, which means it has a much more concentrated flavor and bitterness, as well as more caffeine than typical green tea.
And while this may not be sounding super convincing yet, matcha as an ingredient has a distinct flavor and vibrant green color that makes it a popular addition in sweet applications, like ice cream, bubble milk-teas, and macarons. These uses are far from the traditional, century-old ceremonies where it was first used, but can be a great introduction to the unique flavor of matcha.
As a powder, matcha can be added to nearly any recipe. Stir it into cake batters, pastry cream, sugar cookies, and even milkshakes! Less is more, especially if matcha is new to you, so start with a tablespoon or two.
Matcha is sold in a number of forms, from ceremonial grade matcha (for traditional teas) to sweetened matcha latte powders. Ceremonial grade matcha tends to be more mild, but it is also more expensive and best for using as a tea. For baking, look for culinary grade matcha, which should be unsweetened and can be found at most grocery stores or online.
Matcha is typically sold in smaller packages, since it doesn’t have an especially long shelf life (just a few months before you’ll want to start fresh), so it’s not ideal for buying in bulk. And if you enjoy using matcha, shop around and try different brands. They will all have a different level of bitterness and color, so find your favorite.
If you want to give matcha a try, this Matcha-Swirled Pound Cake is a great place to start!