Whether you’re a beginner at green tea, or have drunk it for years, sometimes it’s hard to know what kind of tea is best for different kinds of uses. The different flavors, colors, and health benefits can be overwhelming! Of course, personal preference is most important – there’s really not a bad choice, and everyone has their own favorites, but here are some of my tips and ideas:
If you’re a morning person, who wakes with a song in their heart, ready to face anything…well, I don’t have any advice for you! I am a night owl, so mornings are a time when I need some extra nurturing and a bit of caffeine to get me going. I’m also not one to sip a leisurely cup while reading the paper – I prefer to sleep until the last minute and then run out the door as quickly as possible! So, a Matcha Shot, made strong and consumed in a few moments, is my morning choice.
When I lived in Japan, I noticed that there were many traditional sweets and buns that highlighted the fresh green color and vegetal flavors of green tea – but to my eyes, green pastries and desserts still seemed WEIRD. These days, it’s much more common to see green tea ice cream in the US, but friends and family are still surprised when I present them with a green tinted granola bar or candied nuts. If your family is skeptical, start with powdered sencha, which has a less-aggressive flavor, for baked foods. The slightly bitter taste of matcha provides a good contrast to the rich creaminess of cheesecake, ice cream, or other rich desserts.
This summer, I could not get enough of Sweet Green Tea, made with lavender blossoms and kukicha tea. I brewed a pitcher of tea every few days, and kept it ready in the fridge. Poured over crushed ice, it tasted sweet and floral, and satisfied any afternoon sugar cravings without any calories or chemicals.
Smoothies and green tea lattes:
Matcha is the star-player for making quick, nutritious, and energizing smoothies and lattes. The stronger flavor of matcha mixes well with the creaminess of dairy or non-dairy ‘milks’ and a ¼ tsp adds a powerful dose of antioxidants and caffeine to fuel your day.
Although Matcha is the tea that we know from the Tea Ceremony, my own favorite tea ‘ritual’ is making a pot of loose-leaf tea and pouring it out for myself over the course of a quiet hour. Something complex, a bit dark and roasty is perfect for savoring in this way – I like Gyokuro. This tea is the best quality, and stands up to repeated steeping – I enjoy the different flavors that emerge on the second and third round.
Now that I’m (well) over 40, I need to limit caffeine in the afternoon. Decaf varieties of any green tea are a good option, and if I want a gentle lift in the afternoon, the lower caffeine of Sencha works well.
Cocktails and special beverages:
I like double-strong brewed leaf tea for cocktails, because I generally want a clear, sparkling appearance when the drink is served. The hint of lemongrass in Morning Green Tea is a great match for Asian-inspired specialties, mixed with flavors like ginger and lime. That being said, my favorite creation this summer was Matcha Shaken Sangria – a spicy, tangy, and citrusy drink that really pops with umami from the matcha!
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