What's the Deal with... Matcha?
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You’ve probably noticed this matcha stuff knocking about for a while now, with many a cafe frothing up medium-to-bad versions of the green stuff. It's not brand new by any stretch - Japanese monks have been drinking it for centuries - but recently London's matcha intake seems to have quadrupled, and we wanna know why. What are the health benefits? Does it actually taste good? How does it compare to green tea? ...So many question knocking about our tired January brains.
So we asked the team over at Tombo (a Japanese cafe whose business now covers three London sites and counting) to see if they had any insights. These guys import premium matcha directly from Japan, so they should know their stuff.
Ground for your pleasure
To understand what the big deal is (and why it costs £3.90 a cup) we started with lil science lesson. Made from the same plant as green tea, and black tea for that matter, matcha is shade-grown for the last three weeks before harvest, forcing the leaves to produce more chlorophyll, making them greener and sweeter.
The leaves are then carefully hand-picked, steamed and ground. That whole rigmarole means you get more goodness in your cup (apparently the nutrients of 10 cups of infused green tea).
All buzz, no jitters
Maya from Tombo explains how matcha provides a more steady energy boost than coffee and how it's full of vitamins and nutrients like vit C, E, B2, folic acid and beta carotene. There's also rumours of mood-calming, concentration-enhancing, AND metabolism-boosting properties; plus some nitty gritty about antioxidants and anti-carcinogens that we don't feel qualified to explain, never mind prove.
We're no scientists, but these all sound like properties we'd like in all beverages. And if it's good enough for the Zen Buddhist monks who invented the stuff back in the 1190s to aid meditation, it’s good enough for us.
Being the upstanding, thorough types that we are, we tested a matcha tea, a latte and a flat green with varying degrees of punch. The flavour is slightly earthier and sweeter than your average green tea, and not as bitter (especially if you pour in boiling water and leave it too long, like we've apparently been doing).
Next we tucked into some pretty desserts, but they were a little hit-and-miss. A purple potato and matcha roll cake provided little excitement for us, the matcha tart offered some, but the soft serve ice cream blew us away. In fact, we'd go for another right now.
Hard to say how it made us feel, though as promised there were no jitters. We felt neither more awake nor more asleep which probably means it worked its mixture of calming and mood-enhancing magic - or we fell hook line and sinker for the spiel.
Either way we left happy with a particular fondness for that superb matcha soft serve - in its frozen, creamy form the delicate earthy flavours really shine through. We're not sure we're ready to fully commit to matcha life, but for those looking to cut down on coffee, cut up on vitamins, or just add a little ‘wellness’ to their Instagram feed, this could be just the new leaf to turn over.
Where to get it