Have you caught onto the matcha craze? This finely milled green tea powder, which until recently was available mainly in Japan, is the staple ingredient upon which traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were developed in the 12th century. Matcha has recently become a common ingredient in coffee and tea shops, in the form of matcha or green tea lattes. The practice of milling tea leaves into a fine powder and then whisking in water originated in China around the 10th century, but the best matcha comes from Japan. Tea leaves grown for producing matcha are shaded from direct light 20 days prior to harvest to boost chlorophyll levels. This produces darker, more vibrant green leaves, and also increases the production of L-theanine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the tea plant. L-theanine has both calming and stimulating properties. All green tea contains antioxidants called catechins, which are thought to have anti-cancer properties. Because matcha is finely milled, it has higher concentrations of these antioxidants than regular green tea.
If you want to try using matcha at home, you can start with a simple drink. Just heat up some milk and stir in a small amount of matcha (start with a teaspoon) dissolved in a little hot water to make a thin paste — this will make it easier to dissolve. If you want to get a little more creative, try this easy dessert, which was inspired by bubble or boba tea. Chia seeds — a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium — become tapioca-like when soaked in liquid. The coconut milk complements with the natural bitterness of the matcha to make a smooth, creamy, light dessert.