What’s all the fuss about matcha and green tea?

The world is going through a serious health obsession. One in 5 articles I read has something to do with exercise or eating better, whether that’s 15 reasons why avocados are good for you or the next diet craze, 16:8. I don’t know whether that says more about my reading patterns than the world, but there’s no denying that we have become a lot more aware about how food and drink affects us. And it’s probably about time!

With this health focus, a type of tea has been featured in the press A LOT. Adding matcha to cakes, smoothies or having it as a matcha latte are just some of the examples I’ve seen. But what exactly is it? And why are health, sports and nutrition companies pushing it so much?

A powerhouse of goodness

Matcha is a powdered green tea originating from Japan from a plant called Gyokuro. Because the plant is shaded, it produces more chlorophyll which contributes to enriched antioxidant levels. As opposed to green tea where you steep the leaves and discard them, matcha is mixed with water and ingested, so naturally, one would think it’s better for you. However, studies have been inconclusive on how much our bodies are actually capable of absorbing from this goodness. Inconclusive but not disproving so what are the potential benefits?

Matcha:

  • Has 60x more antioxidants than spinach and 137x more than green tea (source)
  • Offers some protection against heart problems like high blood pressure and cancer development through a powerful antioxidant group called catechins
  • Boosts metabolism, helping you burn up to 25% more fat
  • Increases energy and exercise endurance – the special type of caffeine it contains will give you energy without the side effects of coffee so you’ll have energy for longer without crashing
  • Strengthens the immune systems through the combination of nutrients: Potassium, Vitamins A & C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium.

Isn’t that just green tea though?

Yes, it is, but it’s stronger and it’s more versatile in a powder form. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, quite literally! Matcha has a very strong earthy flavour (a bit like boiled spinach) and in it can be quite bitter to the inexperienced tea drinker. While mixing it into brownies and lattes and smoothies sounds like a good idea, you need to remember that just by adding vitamins to a brownie, it doesn’t make it a healthy brownie, just a better one. You’re still consuming sugar and fat. Also, matcha is a very expensive ingredient to be wasting in baking! 30g could set you back as much as £20, though prices vary on the internet. Sports nutrition company MyProtein sell 100g for £19.99 and it’s organic so it’s unlikely to have lead contamination as that’s a worry with ingesting green tea, particularly from China.


The good news is that regular green tea provides many of the same benefits because at the end of the day matcha is still green tea. So if you don’t find the taste particularly appealing, you can just drink regular green tea. The results might be slightly diminished as you’re not ingesting the leaves, but remember that studies have been inconclusive regarding how much our bodies process by ingesting the stuff.

How do you make a cup of tea using them?

Both matcha and green tea are great. But what all that press doesn’t tell you is that matcha is very bitter. Even for me and I have tea without sugar! So while you’re drinking something healthy because of its many benefits, you will need to add some sort of sweetener (syrup, sugar, honey or whatever you use) which diminishes its nutritional value. Even so, here’s how I use it: mix 1/2 teaspoon with 80-100ml of water. The water should be about 70-80 degrees not boiling, in the same way as green tea. Whisk it until it turns frothy (traditionally done with a bamboo whisk in a warm container). Top up with frothy or ice cold milk depending on the season and preference to make a matcha latte. Or if you’re brave enough, drink it as it is.

And to make a cup of green tea like Green Tea & Apple for example, measure one teaspoon per cup if you make it in a teapot or about 1 1/2 for a mug. Add hot water at 70-80 degrees – my personal trick for that is to stop the kettle from boiling when the bubbles are forming just before it reaches boiling point. Steep for 2-3 minutes, remove the leaves and enjoy!

So whichever one you fancy drinking, or develop a taste for, one thing is for sure: green tea is incredibly good for you and it’s a great way of having a flavoursome drink while avoiding those nasty sweetened drinks and even alcohol!

Tea review: Green Tea & Apple Blend

After one of my most recent posts on how to recognise good quality tea, I’ll bet you’ll judge my pictures below with fresh eyes!

This review is dedicated to one of my favourite summer teas, which my generous husband indulged me with for my birthday this year. He knows how much I love Fortnum & Mason (which I have nicknamed ‘The Mothership’), so he couldn’t go wrong with buying me one of their teas. And it’s become an instant success.

I also recommend it if you’re just starting to experiment with alternative teas to your regular black cup of tea. A fruity blend is naturally sweetened and more pleasing to the palette so you should find it an easy experiment.

How to enjoy the Green Tea & Apple Blend

Dry leaves: small dark and light green leaves with a potent apple fragrance

Green Tea & Apple blend
Water temperature: 80 degrees (you can use a thermometer or you can wait until the bubbles start to form and stop it). Always use freshly poured water!

Amount: 3-4g or a teaspoon per cup. Hunt for some apple pieces too for a flavourful brew, or double up the quantity if you’re making ice tea (recipe for that here).

Brewing time: 2-3 minutes

Wet leaves: expanded light green leaves, with a fresh, dewy aroma and a slight fruity tone. You’ll notice the dry leaves smell much stronger of apple. It’s common for many fruit and flower blends that the scent is stronger before undergoing the brewing process.

Green Tea & Apple blend
Brew: Fresh and zingy, this tea has the familiar earthy or grassy taste of a green tea with a sweet and sour fruity twist. The apple flavour is actually a lot milder than you might expect, but it complements the green tea beautifully, livening it up a bit. And it’s a brilliant ice tea blend!

Green Tea & Apple blend infusion

Ready to try it?

Of course, green tea and apple is not the exclusive blend of a particular company, so you might be able to find it from your favourite supplier. The one I’ve use for this post and love is from Fortnum & Mason, priced at £6.25 per 125g (at the time of writing) – it should be enough for at least 30 cups.

How to make a natural and refreshing ice tea

I know, it’s been a while since I last posted but I haven’t forgotten my readers or my mission. I made a promise to help you discover tea and I will keep it because there is such an exciting world of flavours and aromas waiting for you! Life just got in the way a little bit as it always does but I’m back, with more energy, drive and passion than before.

We still have a long journey of discovery ahead, but no prepared explorer leaves without supplies. As it’s summertime, I thought we should take some refreshing ice tea with us, so I’m sharing my top tips on making a natural, sugar-free brew at home.

The difference between natural and powdered ice tea

Before I share some tips, I wanted to clarify something. In many parts of the world, and particularly in the US, ice tea is a powder you mix with water and voila! Job done. But as I’ve already mentioned my stance on tea bags (hint: I run away from them as fast as I run away from spiders), you can probably imagine what I think about powdered ice tea.

It’s not that I have something against convenience, but if you read the ingredient deck on that stuff it’s very often 90% sugar or sweetener and a shocking 0.5% tea.

Ice tea the natural way

I’m going to teach you how to make a drink with 100% tea and if you want to add sugar, honey or other sweeteners, that is your own decision! I don’t judge, I’m just giving you the option.

  1. Best types of tea for ice tea – depending on your palette and preferences, pretty much any tea can make a good ice tea. If you’re a regular black coffee drinker or dark chocolate lover, black tea would be a good one to start with because you don’t mind a slightly bitter taste. Try a lighter blend or tea such as a Ceylon or Darjeeling and don’t add milk because it won’t hold its strength/taste. If you’re like me and you have a sweet tooth, I would recommend using a smooth green tea like Gunpowder or any white tea. Or better yet, opt for a blend with dried fruit and flowers to enhance the flavour. Fortnum & Mason sells a green tea and apple blend which makes a lovely cold brew!
  2. How to brew it – looking on the internet you’ll find cold and hot brew instructions for ice tea. Personally I prefer the hot method as you can add ice cubes to the tea to cool it down straight away rather than waiting for as much as 2-4 hours to steep the leaves! Add double the amount of tea you normally would or half the water. For example, in a six cup teapot you can either use 12 teaspoons of tea leaves and fill up with water or add half the amount of water to 6 teaspoons. The only difference is the quantity you’ll end up with! Leave it to steep according to the instructions – 3-5 minutes for the green tea and apple blend above, for instance. Then get a generous amount of ice cubes so you double the volume of liquid and you’re done! Ready to drink ice tea.
  3. Enhancing the flavour – cold/frozen drinks and food need to pack a punch to tickle our taste buds (that’s why melted ice cream tastes sickly sweet, whereas when it’s frozen it seems to have just the right amount of sugar). In order to prevent ice tea from tasting bitter or bland, I’d recommend adding your favourite fruit to the mix – citrus, berries and melons will add a whole other layer of deliciousness. If not, you can also add sugar, honey or other natural sweeteners just don’t be too generous with the portion!
  4. Freshness – tea tends to get a bit bitter with age, so I’d recommend drinking it in three days at most. My batches never last that long!
  5. Recommended blends – if this is your first time making ice tea (and even if it isn’t), opt for a fruity blend like the Chelsea Garden blend from Whittard, Green & Elderflower from Fortnums or Peach Sencha from Easy Teasy. Of course, if you want a non-caffeinated option, try a Vanilla Rooibos from Dragonfly Tea or Rooibos Tropica from Teavana. These are just some examples, but feel free to experiment and make your own blends too!

Putting it into practice

An iced surprise in Romania

I was travelling to Romania last summer and I encountered this lovely cafe that sold an incredible variety of tea. By far my favourite was the White Pear and Berries ice tea which you can see in the video. It not only gave me an instant, delicious and refreshing drink, but it was quite a really cool experience too. Try to replicate it at home with your guests and you’re sure to impress them!

Ready to try making ice tea? Please, please, please share your ideas and favourite recipes or blends with me. I love to try new things!