As more and more people become more and more health-conscious and look for ways to live a more robust life, foods that have been around for centuries continue to emerge as the best dietary options. Matcha is a prime example of an age-old superfood that has only rocketed to popularity in the U.S. over the past several years. It is touted as having a plethora of health benefits — and many are backed by scientific research — so people want to know, “How can I get this magical ingredient into my diet?” Our resident matcha expert Becca Du, creator of the matcha recipe blog Cooking Therapy, answers this and more.

Matcha 101

What is matcha?

Matcha is made from Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub that is grown in Japan. The plants are shaded about two weeks before harvest because the darkened growing conditions create softer, sweeter and brighter leaves. After harvesting, the leaves are steamed and dried before workers remove stems, twigs and other undesirable elements. These pure leaves are ground into powder which is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.

What does matcha taste like?

According to Du, the flavor of matcha is very specific. “It’s like a tea flavor. But it’s also earthy, and actually bitter.” Because of this, matcha works really well in desserts that have a lot of sugar. If you don’t balance out the bitterness with enough sweetness, the taste can be rather unpleasant.

Are there different types of matcha?

You can buy ceremonial grade matcha or culinary grade matcha. While these two types are similar, how they are intended to be used is very different.

“Ceremonial grade matcha powder is what you use for tea and tea ceremonies,” Du said. It is intended to be whisked with hot water and consumed on its own. “Generally, people don’t bake with that because it’s really expensive.”

Culinary matcha powder, on the other hand, is designed to be an ingredient for matcha lattes and baking. “When you bake stuff in the oven, things tend to lose their color as well as their flavor,” Du said. “But culinary-grade matcha powder, especially really high-quality matcha powder, will hold this color and flavor really well.”

What are the health benefits of matcha?

According to the National Institutes of Health, matcha has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, the phenolic acids found in plants have been reported to “inhibit cancer cell growth and prevent metastasis.” In more general situations, matcha may increase cognitive functions and memory, reduce stress, slow the aging process, help regulate insulin secretion, strengthen blood vessels, reduce inflammation and more.

Kitchen tools and gadgets required for matcha

When working with matcha, it is important to have a matcha strainer because the distance between the wires is very small. Du said that “One major problem that you get when you bake with matcha is it tends to clump up. You really need to sift it into your dry ingredients or your batter. That’s one of the keys to getting like a very even green color.”

If you are planning on drinking matcha, a matcha whisk, or chasen, is essential to mix the powder and water thoroughly. You will also want a special matcha bowl, or chawan, that is large enough for you to quickly move the whisk in a “W” pattern — if the bowl is too small, you won’t be able to create a frothy beverage with evenly distributed flavor. Also, the sides must be high enough that the matcha doesn’t splash out but low enough that your whisk can easily touch the bottom of the bowl.

6 tips for people starting out with matcha

  • Drink matcha before trying a recipe so you know how it tastes.
  • Start with sweet recipes because matcha is a little more difficult to incorporate into savory foods.
  • Pick a recipe you really look forward to eating. It is easy to have good intentions and bake something healthy that you might not be thrilled to finish.
  • Because there is a tiny bit of moisture in matcha powder, it doesn’t really work that well for biscuits, scones or shortbread cookies.
  • Use high-quality matcha. It is a little more expensive, but it really makes a difference with taste and color. If you use low-quality matcha, you might need to add more than the recipe requires to get the desired results.
  • Don’t give up. A matcha recipe can be difficult to master. But once you do, it is worth the effort.

Best matcha desserts

When asked about favorite desserts, Du replied, “I love my matcha white chocolate cookies. I think they’re some of the best cookies I’ve ever made. I also really love my matcha brownies.” Our expert also makes a delectable tiramisu with matcha mascarpone cream and powdered matcha on top.

Recommended products

Aiya Culinary Grade Matcha

Aiya Culinary Grade Matcha

This matcha has a special blend that provides color, aroma and nutritional benefits. It is ideal for baking recipes.

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Aiya Ceremonial Grade Matcha

Aiya Ceremonial Grade Matcha

Aiya’s ceremonial grade matcha is made for whisking into hot water to create a flavorful beverage that has a delicious balance of natural sweetness and earthiness.

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Encha Latte Grade Organic Matcha

Encha Latte Grade Organic Matcha 

Encha’s latte grade matcha uses tender leaves from the Uji mountains of Kyoto to create a high-quality, USDA-certified organic option. It has a velvety consistency and a balance of sweet and earthy flavors.

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BambooWorx Matcha Whisk

BambooWorx Matcha Whisk

This bamboo set comes with everything you need to make matcha tea. It includes a scoop for measuring, a whisk for mixing and a spoon for stirring any matcha that settles while you drink.

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Jade Leaf Matcha Tea Sifter

Jade Leaf – Matcha Tea Sifter

Made of durable stainless steel, this strainer will not rust or easily bend. It has a long handle for ease of use and an ultra-fine mesh to keep your tea free of sediments.

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Matcha Tea Bowl and Whisk Holder

Matcha Tea Bowl and Whisk Holder

The smooth interior of this matcha bowl makes it easy to whisk up some lump-free tea. The set comes with a 30-day no-chip warranty with free replacement for peace of mind.

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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