Happy New Year! As much as I love and welcome the festive holiday season, I am always ready for January 1. First of all, the holidays are exhausting. Secondly, despite my best efforts, chances are I have indulged a bit more than anticipated. In fairness, we all have–and that’s ok.
With the New Year comes new goals, health-wise, food-wise, family-wise, or otherwise; it is a time for change and I welcome it. So to “ring-in” the New Year right, I created this special mocha smoothie. It is healthy and has a kick of caffeine–which is something most of us need today, I know I do!
The matcha craze is everywhere these days and is showing no signs of letting up. Matcha, for those who don’t know, is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special because (1) the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and (2) the stems and veins are removed during processing.
Apparently, growing the plants in the shade boosts the plants’ chlorophyll levels and it produces more theanine and caffeine. This combination is believed to have more of a calming effect on people than the caffeine might suggest. The best matcha comes from Japan, the most well-known growing areas localized to the southern half of the country: Uji, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Kyushu. So you may want to look carefully for those regions when buying it.
Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies developed around the early 12th century. Called “Chanoyu,” they centered around the preparation and offering of matcha. Today’s recent rise in popularity seems to be connected mainly to matcha’s suggested health benefits. Unlike a regular tea leaf or bag, matcha is dissolved directly into a liquid and thus is an easy addition to a smoothie.
In addition to adding matcha to smoothies, matcha—both warm and cold—can be used for other drinks such as cocktails or specialty coffee drinks. You can also add it to baked goods, such as cakes and cookies. The naturally sweet, subtle grassy taste can adapt well to drinks or foods without being overpowering. So, if you drank a bit too much bubbly last night, or had a few more sweet treats the past month, turn a page and start your year off with this low-fat, protein-packed, slightly caffeinated matcha smoothie. You’ll be glad you did.