(Matcha green tea, Photo credit by Alex Tsang)
Food trends are a dime a dozen these days. From fro-yo to green juice to the current obsession with mega-cakeshakes (think ice cream on top of a brownie on top of a donut on top of a milkshake - covered in chocolate fudge or nutella), which is yet another food trend in itself.
It’s easy to identify a fad from afar, and just as easy to predict its demise. Froyo joints that once disproportionately swayed the ratio of froyo-vs-any-other-food outlets along our high streets? Gone. Green juice? I hear they’re not actually that good for you. Mega-shakes? We’re still waiting for this one to pass. But one food trend that has withstood the test of time (so really, it’s not a trend) is the other green goddess, matcha.
(Search Volume for 'Matcha' from Google Trends)
Matcha has been ‘trending’ across both the foodosphere and health worlds alike for some time. From matcha donuts, pancakes and waffles, to beautiful truffles and cheesecakes; matcha ‘NiceCream’, and oat bowls to delightfully green smoothies and lattes, I’ll leave you to guess which ones fly the foodie flag, and which the health flag - or both! There’s certainly no shortage of inspiration across the web, including a number of raw, vegan options to tantalise both the foodie and health nut in us.
(Matcha fro-yo in cones, Photo credit by YOMG)
(Matcha muesli, Photo credit by Naturally_Nina)
Australia is, by and large, a healthy nation. In fact, in 2015, USA Today rated Australia amongst the top 10 healthiest countries in the world. And why wouldn’t we be, with our sprawling beaches and perennial warm weather across two-thirds of our country?
The abundant access to warm weather activities - outdoor sports, surfing, sunbathing (which is almost a sport in this country) - and our version of ‘muscle beach’ in Bondi motivates us to look good, and having stumbled through the workout craze of the early 00’s, we’ve now all learned that looking good starts with being healthy on the inside.
In the past few years, Australians have sought out (and probably become a little obsessed with) healthy food and drinks to complement our active lifestyles. Quinoa, chia seeds and kale, for example, burrowed their way into our vocabulary and menus, and lifestyle choices like paleo, vegan and eating gluten-free (for better or worse) burst into popular culture.
To develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle, adjustments to our diets need to be sustainable and more importantly in our busy lives, convenient. While health foods like quinoa, chia seeds and kale are easily assimilated into our daily lives, entire lifestyles changes (by going paleo for example, which eliminates all grains and grain-based products, legumes, dairy, processed sugar, processed and seed oils, gluten, preservatives and artificial colours and flavours), proved unsustainable for many and the calling for a good burger and beer became just too alluring.
For me, it’s a daily cup of matcha tea. Easy and delicious with a list of health benefits that outstrip many other health foods on the market.
(Matcha latte, Photo credit by Joanne)
Matcha has become a big movement in food culture, making its steady way to the West. You can see that there are A LOT of health and food enthusiasts and influencers from Australia are promoting this amazing delicious green powder widely in culinary art. They use matcha green tea in baking, beverages, cooking, skin care, etc.
Another thing makes matcha is so wonderful is that matcha is raw, vegan and gluten-free. Because of that, you can make TONS of vegan, raw, paleo, healthy, dishes with this green tea powder! With matcha, you can go beyond your own imagination and creativity!
(Oats & Chia pudding with matcha nice cream, Photo credit by Alicia)
(Pine Lime Splice matcha cake, Photo credit by Nicola)
(Matcha smoothie bowl, Photo credit by Annie)
In Melbourne, there are many cafes, restaurants, or local eateries, such as Operator 25, Woven, YOMG, or Man’oushe, also adopt matcha into their menu and it becomes a BIG hit to their customers.
(Matcha fro-yo topped with fruits, photos credit by YOMG)
(Matcha crumpets, Photo credit by Operator 25 and Dr. Marty)
(Mini Peppermint matcha cheesecake slice, Photo credits by The Tasting Co)
(Matcha almond milk, Photo credit by Nectar & Green, Boston, USA)
There are so many beautiful, healthy, and TASTY dishes that are made with matcha. There is no doubt that matcha is continuing to grow and expand bigger in Australia!
The consumption of green tea dates back more than 4,000 years, and green tea powder - the original form of matcha - has been consumed for almost 1,500 years (just a few years, which I think proves it’s not a fad).
Its heritage stems from the Tang Dynasty in China (618 - 907) where green tea leaves were steamed, compressed into bricks, roasted and granulated, resulting in a fine green powder, which was then decocted with hot water and served with salt. The practice carried through the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) and was later adopted by Zen Buddhists as part of their traditional tea ceremonies.
The ceremonial method for preparing matcha tea was brought from China to Japan in 1191, and while matcha has decreased in popularity throughout China, its fundamental use in tea ceremonies continues to thrive in Japan and today, matcha is highly recognised for its health benefits and is consumed by people across the globe.
Green tea contains a number of amino acids, nutrients (such as L-theanine, which enhances the production of dopamine and serotonin in our bodies), catechins (the most abundant of which - epigallocatechin or EGCg - boasts cancer fighting properties) and other essential vitamins including calcium, iron, potassium, protein and vitamins A and C. The potency of matcha tea compared to green tea boosts its health benefits exponentially.
What makes matcha more potent? The tea plants from which matcha is produced are grown in the shade, and in the weeks prior to harvest, the plants are covered to reduce direct access to sunlight all together, further enhancing the production of chlorophyll, a natural detoxifier, which helps flush heavy metals and other toxins from the body. The harvested leaves are laid out to dry, de-veined and de-stemmed and finally ground to a fine powder - the final product we know as matcha.
Matcha is essentially heavily concentrated green tea, packing its goodness into the fine powder. In fact, one cup of matcha green tea has 4.3 times the amount of amino acids compared to regular brewed green tea, and the equivalent nutritional content of 10 cups of green tea.
Daily consumption of matcha has been reported to help:
Consuming matcha every day is significantly linked to reducing the risk of death from any cause - be it cancer or cardiovascular disease. An increase of one cup per day further reduces the risk of death from health causes by 4%. The recommended consumption is one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, to help boost energy levels and sharpen concentration.
1 teaspoon of matcha (approximately 2g) added to one cup of warm water (no more than 250ml) contains 70mg of caffeine. The recommended maximum daily caffeine intake for a healthy adult is 400mg. To help you with the maths, that’s about five cups a day. Having said this, matcha - like any other green tea - contains caffeine and is not recommended to be consumed extensively, especially in the evening. Unless like an Italian, you can down a couple of espressos before bed and still get a good night’s rest!
For pure health benefits, matcha is best consumed as a beverage, dissolved in warm water. However, there are many other ways to enjoy matcha both as a drink (35 matcha smoothie recipes, anyone?) and in food, especially desserts (mmmm… matcha cake and many other delicious recipes). In fact more and more matcha treats are being found in cafes across Australia, jumping on the backs of other food trends such as… wait for it... the matcha cheesecake.
(Mini matcha cheesecake, Photo credit by Anthony)
Being a health product and popular baking ingredient has well and truly established matcha as more than a health food trend in Australia. Once a predominantly black tea drinking culture, we’ve opened our taste buds (and hearts - be gone, cardiovascular disease - and stomachs - so. much. yum!) to this green powder, whose versatility knows no limits.
I mean, you can even make matcha beer! I kid you not!
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