Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ingredient Insight | Matcha


Renowned for its vivid green colour and numerous health benefits. It can only be matcha. Perfect in so many desserts, chocolates and drinks, there's no reason it shouldn't be a cupboard staple. Find out everything you need to know about matcha in this post (and stick around for some superb recipes to use it in at the end).

Where can I find it?

It's a question asked more than you'd imagine. You may see matcha cakes, drinks and ice cream everywhere, but have you ever seen it in your usual supermarket? I doubt it. The easiest way to get some is probably online. There are many companies dedicated to the sale of matcha out there. Choose one with a good reputation. Don't forget Amazon. You name it, Amazon almost always sells it. Failing that, head to a good Asian food shop, ideally Japanese or Chinese. The chances are if they don't sell any, they can certainly give you some good information on where you can get some.

What about the varieties? Which do I buy?

Matcha can generally be bought in 3 or 4 varieties (grades). Ranging from cooking/culinary grade, all the way to ceremonial grade. For a first time user of matcha for cooking be sure to get the cooking grade. It's not as vibrant green but you'll save yourself a healthy amount of money. Cooking quality matcha is best suited to its purpose. It has a slightly bitter taste compared to the premium, but when combined into cakes or other foods it helps to blend the flavour so it's more palatable.

Premium quality is great for lattes or drinking as matcha tea. Of course, cooking is always an option for this grade but matcha of almost any quality is considerably more expensive when compared to other teas. Premium quality is a much healthier alternative, it is full of antioxidants and vitamins. This is definitely the choice for the daily drinker.

Lastly, there is the ceremonial grade matcha. The brightest and greenest matcha available. It's used in Buddhist temples, ceremonies and by tea connoisseurs all around. Only using the finest leaves from tea bushes, grown in a period of darkness, resulting in leaves rich in amino acids. Not used for cooking, only for drinking as a traditional tea. It would take an experienced drinker to recognise the difference between premium and ceremonial grade matcha.

Storage

You now have a pouch or tin of matcha. You'll be unlikely to use it in a few days. Cooking and drinking with matcha is not something you use large amounts of. Generally used by weight and measured in the smallest of gram measurements, you could see yourself hanging onto a bag for a long time.

Whatever you do, keep it in a cool dark place. Don't be tempted to transfer into a lovely Kilner jar and have it on show in your kitchen. It may well look fancy but all that sunlight will not be doing it any favours.

Storing in an airtight container or a zip seal bag is a must. Matcha is prone to oxidisation, even after production. Plus, keeping the moisture at bay helps with dreaded clumps and lumps.

Using matcha

It's an ingredient that the culinary scene is seeing grow and grow. With its delicious clean flavour, subtle tea aroma, health benefits and photogenic style, this is an ingredient that I don't think will be a phase. It's around for good. It's taken its time to be truly appreciated, having been around for centuries. However, over the last year or two has it become more appreciated.

Used for flavour and for its colour in many foods from mochi, to ice cream and drinks, it's a flavour profile you must try. The ceremonial grade, when made into tea, is said to have tones of  "unami". Just remember to not go overboard, especially when using with other flavours. Like with everything - you can have too much of a good thing.

Now, for some tried and tested recipes you can enjoy with the whole family. Check them out and be sure to tell me what you think once you've tried them.





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