Matcha is considered to be the first powdered tea. Created in China sometime between 960-1139 CE, it traveled to Japan with the Zen Buddists. It is actually de-stemmed gyokuro. Matcha starts like gyokuro in Japan, by spending a few weeks in the shade before plucking, withering in the sun, and then steaming. At this point in the manufacturing process, the leaf is typically folded or rolled for gyokuro. With matcha, the leaf is dried flat and the stem is removed from the leaf and the remaining parts are sent through a granite grinding stone to make the finished matcha powder.
There are a few different grades of matcha. The two most commonly found in the U.S. are ceremonial matcha and cooking matcha. Ceremonial matcha is usually made of 1st pluck of gyokuro and has a much more subtle grass and seaweed flavor. As its name implies, it is drunk during the Japanese Tea Ceremony. This type of matcha really should be drunk in the traditional way and not used for cooking. Cooking grade matcha is made of older leaves and carries a much stronger grassy taste. It holds on to its flavor even when added to recipes. It can also be drunk and its name in Japanese actually translates into daily matcha. However, in the U.S. cooking matcha is rarely marketed as a daily drinking matcha.
While, matcha as a drink for me is still an acquired taste. Cooking with it is super easy and it adds some really interesting flavor and color to everyday items, like ice cream. We recently tried two different matcha green tea ice cream; one more traditional and one vegan friendly.
Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream (With or Without Mint and Chocolate Chips)
2 cups half-and half
1 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 tbsps. matcha powder
Heat the half-and-half and heavy cream to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in the brown rice syrup. Pour through strainer into a bowl and whisk in the matcha. Cooking matcha clumps a lot like corn starch, so send it through a sifter first to make your life easier in whisking in the matcha to the milk base. Cool in the refrigerator until 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about 6 hours). The matcha will float to the top, whisk again and pour into your ice cream machine based on the instructions for the machine. If you want, add in ½ tbsps. vanilla extract and 1-2 tbsps. mint extract based on your preference, just before pouring into the machine. About 10-15 minutes into churning you can add ½ cup of your favorite chocolate chips. Finish churning the ice cream based on the instructions for your ice cream maker.
Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream (With or Without Mint and Chocolate Chips) – Vegan
¾ cup cream of coconut milk (see below on how to get this)
½ cup soymilk (plain or vanilla)
½ package of silken tofu – 6 to 7 ounces
½ cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup
2 tbsps. matcha powder
Put a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours, but it hardens better overnight. The cream rises to the top of the can, so do not shake the can when you take it out. Open the can with a standard can opener and spoon out the cream into a measuring cup. The remaining items freeze nicely and can be saved to use in other recipes. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until everything is incorporate and smooth (usually about 3-5 minutes). Put back in the refrigerator until the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit (assuming everything you use came out of the freezer this only takes about 3 hours). The matcha may separate if you leave this overnight in the refrigerator, just lightly whisk by hand before pouring into your ice cream maker. If you want, add by hand ½ tbsps. vanilla extract and 1-2 tbsps. mint extract based on your preference, just before pouring into the machine. About 10-15 minutes into churning you can add ½ cup of your favorite chocolate chips.
This is just one of several ways to add matcha into your routine, even if the drink is not your thing. What do you like to add matcha too?