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Matcha has experienced an increase in popularity recently, and for good reason. The bright green tea variant has wonderful health properties and is an excellent substitute for other enlivening drinks like coffee or black tea. When considering how and when to drink it, it’s a good idea to know what flavors go well with matcha.
The Taste of Matcha Tea
Matcha is made by grinding up entire green tea leaves that are specially grown to have more chlorophyll present. The inclusion of the entire leaves, instead of just steeping them as you would with typical green tea, alters the flavor and benefits of the end product.
Matcha by itself has an earthy flavor, with vegetal notes, some sweetness on the tongue, and often a slight bitterness. This flavor is especially present when it is whisked with hot water into a tea. Many people like to lessen the bitterness with a sweetener like honey or agave and/or some type of cream.
To keep with the health benefits of matcha tea, mix it with a plant-based creamer like almond milk instead of dairy.
What Flavors Go Well With Matcha?
In general, there are some flavors that go well with matcha in almost all situations. We will get into specifics further along, but in general, matcha goes well with these flavors:
- Red Adzuki Bean
- Dark Chocolate
Flavors to Mix With Matcha
In addition to simple sweeteners or creamers, there are quite a few other foods and flavors that you can mix with matcha tea. Some of the most popular ways to prepare matcha are as a matcha latte (iced or hot), mixed as a smoothie, or added into baked goods.
Matcha Latte Flavors
The easiest way to make a matcha latte is to mix matcha powder, some type of milk, and a sweetener. For iced matcha, you can throw the ingredients plus ice into a blender. Since we are just mixing together a powder instead of steeping, you do not need to use heat, although it can help the powder mix with the liquid more easily.
When using hot matcha tea and steamed milk, dairy will provide the most creamy mouthfeel, but for health reasons, we suggest using alternatives.
Flavor alternatives to milk in a matcha latte could include:
- Almond milk
- Vanilla flavored creamer of your choice
- Coconut milk
Sweetener flavors for a matcha latte:
- Simple syrup
- Maple syrup
Matcha Smoothie Flavors
The flavors that go well with matcha in a smoothie will depend on your ratio of matcha to the other ingredients. If the smoothie is going to be more like an iced matcha tea and you want to add on top of that, focus on bright flavors that maybe have a little tartness to them.
Any type of citrus flavors work well with matcha, emphasizing the earthiness of the powder. In addition to being a good flavor mix, adding citrus (lemon in particular) has been found to increase the absorption of antioxidants from green tea.
When looking for a more balanced flavor profile with matcha smoothies, we like to mix it with your standard green smoothie blends instead of the bright berry forward smoothies like strawberry. The berry flavor seems to overwhelm the moderate matcha notes. It does not taste bad, but unless you are only adding matcha for its health qualities, you may be wasting it.
Some good flavors to mix with matcha in a smoothie:
- Almond (either from whole almonds or almond milk)
- Ripe blueberries (as opposed to brighter berries like strawberry)
- Peanut butter
Matcha Cooking Flavors
Matcha can be used in many cooking recipes, from cookies to cakes, and especially ice cream. When baking with matcha, the earthy sweetness really shines and is rounded off by the lingering bitterness.
While adding matcha to something like a standard sugar cookie recipe works well as an added twist, we like recipes that use matcha as a layer with other complementary flavors playing off each other.
Look for matcha recipes that include the following flavors or components:
- Dark chocolate
- Red adzuki bean
- Lemon curd
Matcha Flavor Pairings
In addition to looking at mixing matcha powder with different flavors to create one product, we are also going to look at flavors that pair well on the side when drinking matcha tea.
The beautiful matcha tea ceremony is typically started with the host offering wagashi, a Japanese confection that could be made of different flavors depending on the season. These are served alongside unsweetened matcha tea, so they aim to balance the slightly bitter taste of matcha.
Typical wagashi flavors that go with matcha may include:
- Red adzuki bean
- Sesame paste
- Mild seasonal fruits
Because the unique earthy flavor of matcha works well when a creamy mouthfeel is added, cheeses can often compliment the drinking of matcha tea. We recommend mild creamier cheeses such as cream cheese, mascarpone, goat cheese, and mozzarella. For other matcha products like recipes that have a more robust concentration to them, you could also try stronger flavored, but smoothly textured cheeses like smoked gouda or medium cheddar.
Other Foods to Pair With Matcha
Keeping in step with the flavors already discussed, try looking for foods that contain one (or many) of the ingredients that go well with matcha. The food that you may be eating next to your tea may be dependent on the time of day, so these are just suggestions that you can build off of.
- Croissants or other buttery pastry
- Avocado toast
- Salad with citrus, such as a lemon vinaigrette or one that includes clementines.
One particular thing to avoid, when focusing on the health aspects of matcha, is food that is high in iron. Iron has been shown to reduce the absorption of antioxidants in green tea. This does present a problem when paired with adzuki beans, but it will not hurt you, only reduce the potential health benefits.
Matcha can be mixed or paired with many different flavors, some of which can actually increase the number of antioxidants that our body absorbs. When pairing foods with matcha, be sure to try and balance the flavors so they complement each other.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.