As spring touches the Japanese Alps of Hakuba, Nagano, Japan the rivers fill with white water and the sasa grass, the native bamboo shoots with long green leaves poke their heads through the snow again. The mountain air is warmer on your face, the corn snow is delightful around noon, two-toned faces of goggle tans are a sign of happy riders and the buds of green are making the streets of Hakuba sing spring.
I’ve felt green as grass since arriving here in November. For a total of 4 months I have had no internet at home and also have not had a cell phone, ipad or i-anything for that matter. Just a good ol fashioned laptop. It has been freeing in so many ways, it has come with it’s hardships and frustrations but this rare blessing has been just that, a forced but detached blessing. I have read books, spent lots of time thinking, meditating and mostly being present with the people around me. While today’s world is so dependent on being connected 100% of the time, making sure all of our moments are recorded and shared. Having my own business I felt as though I needed to be always online. it’s a huge eye opener how much it gives but also takes from every situation. In the land of technology I found the present moment with no way of letting anyone else know, but me.
I couldn’t write an article with the theme green without chatting about something very traditional, ceremonial and sacred to japan, matcha. I’m sure you have heard by now the health benefits of green teas antioxidant value- it’s next level. But instead of talking about green tea and if you know me at all by now, let’s turn up the gnar points and go for nutrient density, besides which we all know how to steep some tea, lets go crazy and eat the whole tea leaf! Yes that is right, matcha is the powdered leaf of green tea. The stems and vines are removed and the delicate leaf is carefully made into a fine powder. This fine powder of green tea is host to many healthful benefits. In fact there are more than 137 antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea! If that alone is not great enough, consuming matcha improves memory, concentration and metabolism. This chlorophyll-rich tea leaf gives a boost of energy but unlike coffees crash this green tea leaf provides a crash-free experience leaving you feeling refreshed. Just before harvesting the leaves produce L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps us balance caffeine, therefore a better option for those who are sensitive and can’t metabolize caffeine.
There are different grades and specific times this green tea leaf is harvested. Before harvesting the tea leaves are shaded from the sun to produce more chlorophyll (green blood of plants) which makes it a deep and vibrant green. The most prized matcha is the first harvest or ceremonial matcha where the leaves are carefully picked in the spring, giving it a smooth light flavour. The last harvest matcha is picked in the late summer rendering an earthy and slightly sharp flavour. The later harvested matcha is more affordable and mostly used for lattes, flavouring dishes, baked goods and other drinks. It also works great as a food colouring. Because of matchas distinct flavour, if you are new to this try a matcha latte or adding it to/sprinkling it over some chocolate –my fave.
Japanese tea ceremonies are an age-old tradition. Although the ceremony centers around the matcha tea, the focus is on the aesthetics of preparation, serving and drinking of the matcha. It is a true art form to watch and witness. The cups and tools of the ceremony are just as delicate and beautiful. The bamboo spoon used to measure the matcha powder is called a chasaku and two scoops measure a perfect cup. This spoon looks more like a bent flat stick. The sifter (furui) and bamboo whisk (chasen) help deliver the smooth creaminess of the tea. The whisk is a beautiful tool with many delicate prongs to ensure the fine powder is mixed thoroughly.
The beautiful ritual of making tea is about patience and delivering liquid nutrition to our bodies. Tea ceremonies were influenced by zen buddists and the art of preparing it is very meditative. Let’s bring a little more green to your morning and try some matcha tea.
Find this and other great articles in the Fernie Fix Magazine!
Traditional Matcha Tea
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- 5 oz or 2/3 cup hot water
- Bamboo whisk
Place the bamboo whisk into a glass of water so the tines soak and become soft, flexible and supple.
In the bottom of your mug place 1 tsp matcha powder, if you have a matcha sifter or a fine mesh sifter you may use it at this point. Sifting your tea will break up the fine clumps and guarantee a smooth and creamy cup of tea.
For a traditional cup of matcha tea, allow the boiled water to cool to 170 ˚F (just under boiling). Add 5oz of the hot water to the tea.
Using your bamboo whisk, vigorously whisk back and forth for 20-30 seconds to blend the matcha powder and water. Refrain from using a metal whisk, as an alternative you can use an electric milk frother.
Once blended move the whisk in a zig-zag motion to create a light foam or froth. Be sure not to press on the bottom and bend the prongs of your bamboo whisk.
Enjoy each sip of this healthful beverage.
- 1 cup milk or milk alternative
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- 1 Tbsp raw local honey or maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
Bring a kettle of water to just about boil and turn off.
In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat.
Bring to a very light boil, whisking occasionally-this creates a froth.
Remove from heat and add vanilla and sweetener of choice. Whisk to combine.
In a mug, combine ¼ cup water and matcha.
Vigorously whisk back and forth to dissolve matcha.
Carefully pour milk into matcha and enjoy.