Matcha tea, a green tea full of precious resources, is in the star ingredient today. Let’s discover together the favorite ice cream flavor of Japan : matcha ice cream, green tea ice cream, also called matcha aisu or matcha aisu kurimu in Japan.
The tea ceremony in Japan
Spirituality and contemplation, charm and mystery, the tea ritual in Japan is more than just an invitation to enjoy a hot cup of tea.
In Japan, drinking tea is enriched with spiritual and social connotations that show in the rigor with which the Japanese perform all phases of the ceremony, including the choice of clothing and the room in which they must occur. The ceremony takes place in small wooden buildings located in gardens rich in water and rocks.
The tea ceremony in Japan is called chanoyu (茶 の 湯), sadō (茶道?), or chadō (茶道) and is a traditional art inspired in part by Zen Buddhism in which matcha (抹茶?) Is prepared in a codified way by an experienced practitioner and is served to a small group of guests in a calm and zen setting.
Chanoyu, literally “hot water for tea”, usually refers to art, while sadō or chadō (“tea path”) represents the study or doctrine of the tea ceremony on the way to a spiritual path.
Chanoyu is the Japanese expression that identifies this tea ceremony, an ancient social and spiritual ritual still practiced to this day. A true philosophy of life whose ritual expresses and recounts the intimate meditation, the search for the essentiality and the purification of the typical spirit of Zen discipline.
Encoded by Sen no Rikyū (千 利 休) also known as Sōeki (1522-1591), a famous Japanese tea master of the wabi school, this art takes up the tradition founded by the Zen monks and is based on four basic principles: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.
The tea house contains a tea room, a preparation room, a small waiting room and a path through the garden. The basic utensils used are the tea bowl (chawan), the tea container (natsume), the bamboo whip (chasen), and the bamboo tea ladle (chashaku).
The complete ceremony lasts four hours. During a chanoyu, everything is carefully thought out, each element, each arrangement as well as each gesture.
This ritual of tea in Japan is enriched by intense and unique charm and mystery, a true art to learn and to pass on.
Here are the 7 fundamental rules set out in the Sadô doctrine:
- Make a delicious bowl of tea
- Arrange the charcoal to heat the water
- Present the flowers as they are in the fields
- In summer, evoke the freshness, in winter, the heat
- Be ahead of time for each thing
- Prepare for the rain
- Give each guest your undivided attention
What is matcha?
Matcha (抹茶) is a very fine powder of ground green tea, which has been finely ground between two stone grinders.
Its leaves are steamed, dried and reduced into a very fine powder. There are two types, koicha, thick, from plants older than 30 years and usucha, thinner, from plants less than 30 years old.
It is mainly used during this famous traditional Japanese tea ceremony, centered on the preparation, service and consumption of this famous tea.
How to prepare matcha
What is the process of making this tea, which is sweet like no other, and with benefits superior to that of simple green tea?
20 to 30 days before the harvest, matcha tea trees are covered with special textile called kanreisha similar to cheesecloth, used to protect tea from sun rays.
This technique allows for a tea with a sweet and delicate taste, since the lack of sun decreases the presence of tannins, a vegetable substance based on polyphenol, which can confer a bitter taste.
Protecting the tea leaves from the sun allows theanine to be created, and it is theanine, a natural element, which gives matcha this sweet taste.
Harvesting, which begins in the spring, is the most difficult time of year for farmers, who have to be careful not to pick leaves that are too big or too small.
Today, most tea leaves are machine-picked and the few hand-picked teas, such as Gyokuro, Sencha or Matcha, are very valuable.
The flavor and aroma of hand-picked tea are much milder. Matcha tea, before being crushed, is called Tencha.
Fresh tea leaves are processed immediately after harvest. The processing of tencha (matcha) leaves consists of 4 steps:
Fresh tea leaves, immediately after harvesting, are steamed for 30 to 40 seconds. The vaporization process blocks oxidation and this is one of the most important steps that decides the quality of the finished tea.
Steamed tea leaves are quickly cooled by a strong explosion of cool air. This fast cooling process produces the aroma and bright color of the tea leaves.
During this stage, the tea leaves are dried on a brazier in several layers. The temperature of each layer is carefully controlled from 230 F to 360 F. The tea leaves go through each level of the brazier on a conveyor belt to dry for about 20 minutes. This drying process determines the aroma and taste of tencha (matcha).
Cutting and sorting
After being extracted from the heat, the tea leaves are cut and selected to determine if they are dry enough. At this point, before tencha is reduced to matcha powder, the tea is known as tencha aracha.
The tencha is ground with a stone mill and results in a finely structured powder. The process lasts no less than one hour for 40 grams of product.
What is the origin of matcha?
The first matcha, although famous for being Japanese, originated from China during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. The ancient Chinese characters used for matcha were pronounced mòchá (茶).
During the Tang Dynasty, tea was spread in various forms: raw, in rolls, in loose leaves and as a powder. The tea was usually infused and called jiānchá (煎茶).
With the beginning of the Song Dynasty, it went from jiānchá to diǎnchá (茶), the process described above.
The preparation and consumption of matcha have even become part of the Chan Buddhist ritual. Legend says that it is a Buddhist monk of the Tendai sect named Saicho, who introduced the tea beverage to Japan in the beginning of the 9th century.
Three or four centuries later, and to this day, Zen monks have never failed to drink a large bowl of matcha, before facing the long hours of meditation.
Its use was then passed on through the ages thanks to chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony.
This matcha ice cream is a delight, neither too bitter nor too sweet. It is a perfect end to a Japanese meal, and this green tea ice cream can even be used to prepare mochi ice cream!
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons matcha tea powder
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- Place the ice cream maker bowl in the freezer for at least 24 hours so that it is ready for use.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cream, sugar and salt.
- Start cooking the mixture over medium heat and, while stirring, add the matcha tea powder.
- Mix well.
- Stir regularly and cook until the mixture starts foaming and is very hot to the touch, but not boiling.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl placed on an ice bath to cool it down.
- Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
- Once the mixture is chilled, transfer to the pre-chilled ice cream maker bowl and churn for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Transfer the still soft ice cream into an airtight container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.