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What Is Matcha?

This green tea can be consumed as a drink or added to baked goods to contribute color and subtle flavor.

Though it's been around for more than 800 years, matcha has recently surged in popularity, both as a beverage and as a flavoring for everything from soba noodles to ice cream. Matcha, a type of Japanese green tea, is made from tea plants that are deliberately grown in the shade so that the leaves develop more chlorophyll, which translates into a more potent, grassy flavor. Matcha isn't consumed as an infusion; instead, the dried leaves are ground to a fine powder that is whisked into hot or cold water to make the drink, which has a stronger flavor and more caffeine than infused green tea. It also has savory notes from the abundance of umami-boosting amino acids in tea, including theanine, arginine, and glutamate.

Matcha is sold in three grades that are determined by processing method and the age of the tea leaves. Higher-priced ceremonial- and premium-grade matchas are used exclusively for drinking (their subtle characteristics would be lost in other applications), while culinary-grade matcha is used in cooking. We added culinary matcha to a frosting for our Yeasted Doughnuts, and we have also incorporated it into sugar cookies and chiffon cake, where it contributed an appealing light green hue and a hint of savory flavor. We also liked the ground tea in whipped cream, where more of its sweet, grassy notes came through, which complemented the cream's rich dairy flavor. To experiment with adding matcha to other desserts, choose recipes in which the powder won't compete with stronger flavors. Start by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of the powder, using color as your guide: The darker the item's color, the stronger the matcha flavor.

Going Green

Culinary matcha added to baked goods gives them green color and subtle savory flavor.

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