Note – Scroll down to the bottom for Recipe for Matcha Sundae
From visiting the place where matcha was first made in Kyoto to tasting its future in Tokyo and San Francisco, let me tell you it’s story.
The difference between matcha and regular green tea is that matcha is made from powdered green tea leaves as opposed to just extracting the flavor from boiling the leaves with water.
In Kyoto, I visited the garden where the first tea was planted in Japan from China, and even today, leaves from here went to the Emperor in Tokyo during important rituals. The first character in the stone stands for tea (ocha), and is easily recognizable from tea-houses in Gion where geishas entertained their guests with string-music, fan-dancing and drinking games from medieval Japan.
The second character, I think, looks similar to “Zen”, but correct me if I’m wrong. Matcha was popularized by Zen Buddhist monks as a way to stay awake during long hours of meditation. Bodhidharma, the ancient monk from India is said to have cut off his eyelids to stay awake and these eyelids grew into the first tea-bush in China.
Types of Matcha –
Matcha powder can be regular (“Food grade”) and really good (“Ceremonial grade”). Ceremonial Grade is generally used in formal Tea Ceremonies. The following is matcha with Wagashi (Old Japanese sweet), served in traditional pottery-ware.
In terms of flavor, there are two unusual flavors I had come across in Kyoto – one was Uji Matcha – this is to regular Matcha what Dark Chocolate is to Milk Chocolate. From the region of Uji, this has a stronger umami flavor and sweetness and lesser grassiness from regular Matcha.
The second one is “Roasted Matcha” which is brown in color and has a roasted flavor, similar to Hojicha. Don’t miss this one out.
Recipe for Matcha Sundae –
If you live in a country non-native to matcha (such as me currently living in the US), here’s a good recipe for a Matcha-sundae.
- Vanilla Ice-Cream
- Uji / Ceremonial Matcha Powder
- Green Tea Pocky
- Condensed milk
- Milk Chocolate
- If you have a regular matcha-flavored soft-serve at home, responsibly discard it into the appropriate trash can.
- Run to your nearest Asian store and get either Uji Matcha powder or Ceremonial Grade Matcha powder. While you’re there, pick up a green-tea Pocky (or green-tea macaroon).
- Put half of your vanilla ice-cream into the blender with Matcha powder.
- Re-freeze the above.
- On a serving bowl, place one scoop of matcha-blended ice-cream and another of regular vanilla ice-cream.
- Add strawberries.
- On strawberries, pour condensed milk.
- Add shavings of white-chocolate.
- Now top with green-tea Pocky sticks with the green end on top.
- Add any other toppings you want – but beware – the flavors of the topping should not overpower that of the matcha. So bitter flavors like chocolate or coffee and strong acids like mango or orange, are a no-no. The milder the flavor is, the better it pairs with matcha.
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