Tea leaf evolution, from a Buddhist monk’s drink to a cult ingredient for stars and chefs like Thierry Marx.
Matcha tea was produced and consumed for centuries in the East, where Buddhist monks would drink it to remain calm and focused during meditation. It has now become an increasingly popular and renown ingredient in the West: great chefs have been introducing it in their creations in the past few years and it has become part of several celebrity diets, from Hollywood stars to athletes.
Matcha is a finely processed variety of Japanese green tea. Its bright green colour, due to a high level of chlorophyll as a result of its being grown in the shade according to a special technique, which also increases the presence of antioxidants.
Matcha leaves are now grown in various parts of the world, but Japan remains the country yielding the best quality, for its particular climatic conditions. Once grown, Matcha leaves are covered and left in the shade for about 20-30 days before harvesting: this way the tea will be richer in vitamins, chlorophyll and mineral salts. The traditional process for producing the powder, the form Matcha is traditionally sold in, has been handed down through generations: the carefully hand-picked leaves are steamed, dried, and finely powdered.
The Matcha tea drink can be prepared in two different ways: Usucha and Koicha. The first is the classic Matcha, lighter and closer to western taste. The second one has a thicker consistency as it is prepared with twice the amount of powder compared to the Usucha and only with the best green tea leaves of the first crop, as they contain a higher concentration of antioxidants and caffeine.
Properties and benefits
The way Matcha tea is prepared gives it greater concentration of substances than the usual infusion. In particular, Matcha tea is rich in vitamins B1, B2 and C, beta-carotene, mineral salts, polyphenols and caffeine. Recent studies have shown that Matcha leaves have 137 times the antioxidant content of traditional green tea, resulting from the significantly higher catechin content, which possess anti-ageing, draining and detoxifying properties. Due to its high polyphenol content it also helps protect the skin from ultraviolet rays.
Uses in cooking
Matcha tea, for its versatility and its aromatic taste, is now a widely used ingredient for the preparation of various and varied sweet and savoury dishes. A quick search will yield results where it appears as an element of recipes for dried biscuits, tiramisu, rolls, chocolates and various desserts. By varying the concentration and the cooking stage, it can also be used in the preparation of fresh pasta, and as an aroma enhancer for meat-based and, above all, fish-based dishes. In addition to its nutritional and organoleptic properties, its bright green colour has inspired great chefs and confectioners to use it both as a natural dye and as an ingredient to create tasty and good-looking dishes.
His Majesty, Mister Green Tea by Thierry Marx
Although several great chefs have recently introduced Matcha tea in their recipes, other recipes have yet to match the iconic level reached by Mister Green Tea, a dessert created by French star chef Thierry Marx. An innovative chef that is hard to fit into any traditional category, Marx manages the Camélia, the restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Paris. Mister Green Tea is the convergence of different stimuli and influences: a personal passion for Japan combined with his own professional research into balancing taste, shapes, colours and respecting ingredients, as Marx explains:“My cuisine is inspired by various elements, but an authentic relationship with nature, respect for the product and above all the will to enhance the ingredient remaining as close as possible to the original taste are certainly among the most important ones.”
In this case, the result is a dessert that combines soft almond and hazelnut biscuits with Matcha tea, grapefruit pulp, white chocolate, meringue, salty butter and wasabi, sesame and citrus cream. The chef tells us how Matcha was not the starting point for this dish: “My inspiration was not so much the idea of using Matcha tea, but rather evolving the concept of sweet towards a dessert without any added sugar (in the traditional sense of sucrose – editor's note).”
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