I don’t know if it was watching the Japanese Tea Ceremony in Karate Kid Part II as a child, or the time I spent living in Asia many years later, but I have had a mini addiction to matcha for a while now. These days, you can’t walk into a convenience store without seeing a matcha flavored version of one of your favorite treats. It’s a trend that is sweeping through the US right now but has been a staple in Asia for quite some time. And with good reason.
Dating back to the 12th century, matcha has been used as the main ritual in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies which, brings us back to the Karate Kid. Who knew we were getting cultured while watching Daniel and Mr Miyagi honking noses as finishing moves in Okinawa. Nevertheless the tea ceremony scene has stuck with me. The intricate attention to detail, ornate settings and zen like qualities were something that grabbed my attention then, and really started my love of teas and Asian culture in general.
So, what exactly is matcha? In its pure form matcha is powdered green tea, but there’s much more to it than that. When you prepare a regular cup of tea the leaves are steeped in hot water and at some point those leaves are either removed from the water or discarded. When preparing matcha the whole tea leaf, which is a much higher quality leaf than typical tea, is ground into a fine powder which completely dissolves when added and whisked into hot water. Therefore you are ingesting the entire leaf, and since it’s such a high quality tea leaf the antioxidants and other health benefits are through the roof, 10x that of a regular cup of green tea.
In addition to drinking matcha traditionally, there is no limit to the creative ways you can use the healthy powder. I have seen it as an ice cream flavor, sprinkled on everything from cheesecake to halibut, and the most recent adaptation, cocktails. While visiting London last year I visited Bull in a China Shop and came across the Matcha Sour made with Nikka from the Barrel. Not only was it delicious, but it started a new level of fascination with matcha. Now when I walk into a bar with a heavy Japanese influence like Brush in Decatur, GA, I am forever looking for a matcha based cocktail.
The earthy and grassy elements of the powder may be an acquired taste to drink straight, but serve as a natural and versatile bittering agent that bartenders around the globe are using more and more both as a main ingredient and as a garnish sprinkled on top. The green color may throw people off. But just think, with all those antioxidants, you are more than likely killing your hangover before it even shows up. And for that…. you are welcome.