What is Matcha?
Matcha, or maccha, is powdered green tea, principally grown and manufactured in Japan. It can be part of the Japanese tea ceremony, or it may be added to certain foods to provide color and flavor. Soba noodles may get their green coloring from this powder, and it is also used to flavor green tea ice cream.
This tea is made with very specific tea leaves that have been covered a few weeks prior to harvesting, to slow growth and thus produce a greater amount of amino acids. The leaves are then laid out flat on the ground to dry. Once dried, they are called tencha.
Tencha can then be made into the stone-ground matcha. Only tea that is first tencha can become matcha. Konacha is the name for other powdered teas that are not made from tencha.
There are different grades of this tea. The highest grades are very sweet and intensely flavored. This is due to the significant amounts of amino acids in the tea. Less expensive versions may have a somewhat less intense flavor, and may sometimes be bitter.
Matcha used in a tea ceremony produces a thick drink called koicha. This is an expensive and highly prized part of the tea ceremony. Generally the powder is mixed at a ratio of 6 teaspoons (about 30 cubic mm) to 6 ounces (0.17 liters) of water. A thinner tea called usucha is made with a much lower powder to water ratio. Even though matcha is considered sweet, koicha still has bitterness and may be served with a small candy to cut the bitter taste.
This powder is used in numerous other Japanese foods and is particularly welcome as a flavoring in desserts like monaka. Monaka has sweetened bean curd, or in other versions, ice cream, sandwiched between two wafer-like cookies. Matcha is also a popular additive to soy or dairy milk, in which it is sweetened with sugar.
Since green tea has been shown to have antioxidant properties, matcha has become popular in the US as either a health supplement, or as an additive in smoothies or other foods. Any possible benefits of green tea are usually negated when it is taken with calcium found in milk. Calcium tends to neutralize antioxidants. Thus green tea ice cream or a matcha smoothie may be delicious, but may not be as healthful as many suppose.
Is it only dairy calcium that poses the problem? What if matcha is consumed with other vegetal calciums?
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