Tea is our ingredient of the season this winter. We’re using that as an excuse to sit down more often and relax over a cuppa’. I’m not sure which I like more today’s milkshake or this old favorite.
How does that saying go, it’s
5 o’clock summer somewhere? At first I felt funny suggesting a milkshake recipe in the middle of January, but Sarah and I are such shake fans that we never pass one up, no matter the time of year, and I’m guessing we have a few readers with the same priorities.
I know this is going to sound absurd, but I remember everything about the first time I tried a Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino (GTF). I was in Boston during a hot summer struggling to do my research on a Saturday, living on a meager grad student budget, and decided that I needed a treat. The GTF it was, and I swear it was the most delicious thing I had in weeks… possibly a reaction to how grey my life was feeling? Dramatic much? Anyway, to this day I love GTFs, but admittedly I still rarely order them. They are never as good as that first one and I still don’t like paying that much for a drink. BUT I have found the perfect homemade alternative : a green tea milkshake!
It’s so simple that it doesn’t even qualify as a recipe, just make your basic vanilla milkshake. I use vanilla ice cream and whole milk for mine, and I like it on the thick side. Sometimes I add a touch of vanilla extract, but with quality ice cream, that’s not necessary. Then I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of matcha green tea. That’s it! It’s creamy, sweet, and a bit earthy/green tasting. Just like my first GTF, but maybe a little bit better.
But wait! Before you run to the freezer, I thought it would be fun to learn a little bit about matcha, which is made from specialty green tea leaves that are ground into a fine powder.
For about three weeks prior to harvesting, the tea plants destined for matcha are covered so that the leaves are growing in the shade. This treatment does a number of things to the leaves. It slows their growth and causes them to increase chlorophyll and amino acid, particularly theanine, production. Matcha’s flavor is dominated by its amino acid content, which gives it a more intense sweetness and deeper flavor than other green teas.
Before the matcha is ground, it is de-veined and de-stemmed, removing the particularly coarse components of the leaves, and allowing the remaining material to be ground into a particularly fine powder.
As with all teas, there are grades of matcha determined by both flavor and texture. The finer the texture, the better the tea, and this is partially determined by the types of leaves used. The leaves growing on the top of the bush are younger, softer, and more supple and will produce a fine-textured powder. The older leaves lower on the bush are tougher and end up producing matcha with a sandy texture. Similarly, the younger leaves have a better flavor than the older leaves.
Matcha is a green tea that should undergo no oxidation during processing. If the leaves do become oxidized, that matcha will have a distinctive hay-like smell and will likely be less vibrant in color, turning a dull brownish-green.
Matcha is traditionally served in Japanese tea ceremonies. A bamboo wisk is used to blend the tea and water, producing a foamy liquid with no risidual lumps of matcha powder. This method of preparation was developed during the Song Dynasty, and the process was turned into a ritual by Buddhists. The Zen Buddhists introduced the methods to Japan in the 1100s….
And now we’re bucking all traditions by replacing the bamboo whisk with a blender and the warm water with frozen milk, but it is delicious!