Matcha Desserts: Asian-Influenced Sweets
Matcha desserts have become very fashionable lately. This matcha, a ground powder of green tea leaves, adds a soft and vibrant color of shades of green to any dessert. Not to mention adding a variety of curious flavours, from vegetal and grassy, to nutty and sweet. Let’s learn more about the timeless green tea.
Early mentions of matcha come from China’s Tang Dynasty. This ran from 618-907 and saw the tea formed into tea bricks for trade. Fast forward to 1191 and we see the Japanese Buddhist and Zen Master Eisai bringing the tea back to Japan. It would eventually become associated with Zen monasteries and elite members of Japanese society.
Covers provide shade for the green tea bushes. This boosts the chlorophyll levels and explains both its bright colour and amount of nutrients. Louise Cheadle is co-author of The Book of Matcha. She tells us after handpicking “it takes an hour to grind the leaves, and it’s done in the dark to protect the nutrients.” It is also important to use the right equipment and technique to avoid burning the delicate powder.
In Japan, matcha is stone-ground into its fine powder form with special granite stone mills. The result is three main grades of the green tea. Firstly, we have the ceremonial grade tea. People use it for tea ceremonies and activities in Buddhist temples. The cost of this grade ranges between US$100–140 for 100g. Following this we have the premium grade tea. This high quality product comes from the young leaves and costs roughly US$50–80 for 100g. Lastly we have the culinary grade matcha that is perfect for ice creams, cheesecakes, and truffles. We can expect to pay around US$15–40 for 100g of this.
Indeed, we just mentioned ice creams and cheesecakes. But what matcha desserts exist near you? Lately, we see the traditional ground powder used in western-style cookies and muffins, plus blondies and panna cotta. It can even be found in Italian tiramisu. For more eastern inspired desserts, we see matcha in several Japanese treats. Take the sponge cake castella, or kakigōri, a frozen Japanese dessert made from shaved ice and flavored with syrup and condensed milk. We also have manjū, a confection that’s made with flour and buckwheat, then filled with red bean paste. Lastly, there’s monaka, a type of biscuit sandwich made with mochi wafers and azuki bean paste.
Additionally, we have smoothies, milkshakes, and lattes – a natural progression from the original form of matcha green tea. In short, it’s quite a versatile ingredient!
Health Benefits of Matcha
A very recent review published in Molecules discusses the health benefits and chemical composition of matcha. It seems that matcha contains a class of antioxidants called catechins with high levels of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Research shows that moderate consumption of matcha can:
- Promote heart health – Green tea has been shown to reduce levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Strengthen immune system – EGCG’s antiviral effect may support the prevention and regulate immune response in infectious diseases.
- Prevent cancer – The mechanisms behind the effect of EGCG may be related to inhibiting tumour growth and suppressing the inflammatory processes contributing to cancer cell creation and transformation.
- Assist with weight loss – Matcha may help lower blood glucose levels, and its EGCG content may inhibit starch digestion, thus regulating carbohydrate metabolism.
At any rate, this sounds good to us. We can’t wait to consume more matcha desserts. The hardest part is deciding what to have next… Matcha cheesecake or matcha tiramisu?