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Top trend: What’s the big deal about matcha?

Matcha macarons

Matcha macarons

Are you curious about matcha, the umami-tasting green tea powder traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies? It’s been dubbed a superfood by some, but is matcha really worth its salt, or is it a passing food fad? We unravel the mystery that is matcha.

So what is it?

What makes matcha so different from normal green tea? While both are from the same source, matcha consists of finely powdered tea leaves that are stirred into water, whereas with regular green tea the dried leaves are soaked to make an infusion.

Health benefits

One of matcha’s many benefits is a high percentage of antioxidants, believed to help fight against the nasties known as free radicals that can cause damage to the cells in our bodies. What’s more, it also helps regulate blood sugar and aid in reducing blood pressure. And good news for caffeine lovers: matcha contains almost three times more caffeine than regular green tea – about the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

But before you think of ditching your daily dose of java for matcha, be aware: there are sweetened variations around, and there are few health benefits to be gained from treats like matcha-infused lattes and iced cupcakes. If it’s the nutritional benefits you’re after, best you consume matcha in its purest form – simply brewed in hot water.

The trend

While this variant of green tea is hardly new to Asia, it only started trending in the West in recent years. Like the cronut craze, matcha madness first set sail in New York, when the Matcha Bar opened its doors in Brooklyn about two years ago. As experimentation began, marvellous creations came to life. At the Matcha Bar you can indulge in everything from matcha milkshakes to matcha donuts. Even celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow revealed her love for matcha lattes on Instagram: “New dreamy discovery to warm up a wintry day: matcha latte”.  Thanks to its earthy flavour, matcha also complements savoury dishes quite well, and is great infused in gnocchi, soufflés and brioche.

Matcha in South Africa

Matcha is slowly making its way onto our shelves.

A matcha flat white from Lady Bonin's in Cape Town. Photo courtesy of the store.

A matcha flat white from Lady Bonin’s in Cape Town. Photo courtesy of the store.

Lady Bonin stocks matcha at their shop in the Woodstock Exchange for R300 (40g), where you can also try their incredible-sounding coconut matcha latte (R30) or normal matcha latte (R26). In Cape Town, you can also get your hands on their lattes, flat whites and baked goodies at Clarkes Bar and Dining Room, El Camino, Crush, Dear Me and Plant Cafe.

You can also get your hands on Lady Bonin’s 40g Matcha online at Faithful-To-Nature.co.za or at the following retailers:

In Joburg and surrounds: Fruits & Roots (Bryanston), Killarney Riviera Pharmacy & Health Shop (Killarney), Leafy Greens Cafe (Muldersdrift), Nutri-Balance (Sandton) and The Juiced Co Health Shop (Braamfontein).

In Pretoria: Natural Life (Brooklyn)

In Durban and surrounds:Bright On Health, Health On Broadway (Durban North), Lifestyle Health (Zimbali, Ballito), Macrobiotic Health Shop (Pietermaritzburg)

In Cape Town and surrounds: The Good Stuff (Cavendish Square, Claremont), Organic Living Health Store (Constantia), Simply Natural (Canal Walk), Die Boord Health shop (Stellenbosch) and Ethical Co-op (Oude Molen Eco Village, Pinelands)

Further afield: Queenstown Locksmiths (Queenstown) and EarthWise Living (Nelspruit)

Peacock, a tea and coffee supply company based in Cape Town, sells original organic Japanese matcha. The Tea Merchant offers a 40g tin for R390 from its stores in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, and online.

Eat Out editor and Woolworths Taste food editor Abigail Donnelly says matcha is quite the treat in ice cream, and she particularly enjoys it combined with chocolate. Instagram feeds, such as the Matcha Movement, are permeated with gorgeous images and recipes that leave us green with envy and, quite frankly, matcha mad.

But will matcha ever trend in South Africa? Abigail longs to be able to say, “Move over red velvet, welcome green suede!”, but perhaps that will only happen when it becomes more widely available – and more affordable – in South Africa. In the meantime, we’ll be dreaming of those matcha-glazed donuts and matcha chocolate with macadamia nuts and goji berries.

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