Matcha Latte


Have you ever had green tea ice cream? The green and creamy dessert that is not too sweet, and tastes like green tea and honey?  For a few years now, coffee chains like Starbucks, Quebec’s Moca Loca, and Second Cup have caught on to this delicious but expensive flavour, in the form of a hot drink just one step away from milk based hot beverages like the London Fog.

I love that this drink is available out there for when I don’t feel like the electric punch of espresso nor the heaviness of hot chocolate.  Green tea lattes are perfect when you need a gentle dose of caffeine that has staying power, yet still crave the foamy milk of lattes.

What’s in this delicious green elixir, anyway?  The basic recipe is just milk (or soy milk), water, and matcha.  Matcha is the name of the revered Japanese green tea powder, which is ground up young green tea leaves and is an integral part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  It delivers a higher dose of caffeine than regular green tea, because you are actually ingesting the leaves, rather than steeping the leaves whole.

From the basic recipe, you can add different flavours to boost certain aspects of the distinct matcha taste which is slightly bitter.  Starbucks, when it was the first to market the Matcha Latte years ago, they would use a melon flavoured syrup.  People hated it so now they are made with regular vanilla syrup.  Second Cup I think uses vanilla syrup as well although I can’t really tell.  Quebec’s Moca Loca Matcha Latte, after several tastings and experimentation at home, I can confidently conclude that they use white chocolate.

Without using fancy equipment like the traditional Japanese bamboo tea whisk, or a milk steamer/foamer, you can make foamy lattes too.  The only thing you need to purchase is matcha powder, which you can find at specialty tea stores by the gram.

Here is the basic recipe for one serving of matcha latte using home equipment!

  • 1 scant teaspoon of matcha powder, in a small bowl or glass
  • Milk or soy milk (note that milk will foam up better, but will neutralize some of the health benefits of the matcha)
  • Hot water that’s just finished boiling

First, heat the milk or soy milk.  There are two methods – stovetop and microwave. The microwave method is perfect for making lattes at work.

Stovetop: Measure out one serving of milk using the mug that you will be using, and heat on high in a small pot.  You will have to watch this very closely, because the trick is to pour the milk into your mug as the milk almost boils over. This will give you very nice foam without using a foamer or a machine.

Microwave: Pour cold milk into your mug, and place it in the microwave for 1 minute and 18 seconds, or more, depending on the strength of your machine.  Watch the milk – as soon as it starts boiling and rising, stop the microwave and take it out of the oven.  If it doesn’t start boiling in the microwave, that is ok too.  Look in your mug and if it is hot enough it will have a thin layer of foam on top.

After the milk is thoroughly heated, set it aside and make the matcha.  Because the matcha powder is so fine, a slurry will have to made first before it can be added to the milk.  In the bowl with the measured matcha, add about 2 tablespoons of the just-boiled-but-no-longer-boiling hot water and whisk thoroughly with a fork or a small whisk.  The idea is to scrape at the bowl so that the powder is evenly distributed in the hot water, and also to make foam.  Bamboo whisks used in Japanese tea ceremonies are best for this step because it has so many tines – you will get very nice foam by using the bamboo whisk, but I have been able to do this with a fork and a small whisk.

Pour the matcha slurry into the hot milk, and voila, it is ready for other flavours.  The simplest is sugar or honey, and then off you go to enjoy a nice cuppa!  If you have vanilla syrup, you can emulate the Starbucks and Second Cup version.

My favourite is the white chocolate version for a dessert latte.  To make this version, add about 1.5 oz of white chocolate into your milk when you heat it, but make sure you are stirring all the time.  It’s harder to do in a microwave so I suggest making this on a Sunday afternoon at home.

Options for lattes at work

Once I figured out I can make foamy milk in the microwave at work, I have made the following drinks other than matcha lattes:

Latte – Bring a french press, and use half the amount of water for one cup of coffee (one heaping tablespoon of ground coffee, about 1/3 cup boiling water), “steep” for 2 minutes, and pour into your hot milk.

London Fog – once your milk is foamed up, dip in a double-bergamot Earl Grey tea bag and add honey or sugar.  Keep the tea bag in the whole time.  Starbucks uses vanilla syrup, so if you have it, it’s the best option.

Chai – Same method as London Fog but use a black tea chai tea bag.

Hong Kong style milk tea – use 1/4 volume of your mug for milk, and 1/4 for table cream or condensed milk, and 1/2 for boiling water.  Use orange pekoe.

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