Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ingredient: GREEN TEA

Green tea is made from Camellia Sinensis, a tea plant native to China. What makes Green tea "green tea" however, is not the plant it comes from (other varieties of tea come from the same plant), but rather the process of harvesting and processing that the leaves undergo.

In short: tea plants produce a series of leaves and flowers, with the small, new shoots called the "flush" appearing every few weeks. These small, young leaves are typically picked by hand and then dried. Green tea goes through the least amount of oxidation, meaning it's processed more quickly and maintains the most antioxidants. Green tea producers end oxidation by applying heat-- the Japanese use steam while in China the leaves are often dried in hot pans. This process of quick drying is also what imparts the tea's characteristic astringent taste.

We've all heard that there are health benefits to drinking green tea, and I'm here to say that it's true. A combination of caffeine and antioxident polyphenols in green tea means that if you drink enough cups, you'll stimulate fat oxidation in your body, essentially boosting your metabolic rate without actually having to move your butt. Green tea also helps prevent cardiac disease, atherosclerosis, blood clots, tumors, Alzheimer's Disease, and just about every type of cancer.

Luckily, the health benefits of green tea has increased its popularity and availability in the U.S. If plain green tea isn't to your taste, there are many others to try. Jasmine green tea (light and refreshing without a hint of bitterness) and Genmaicha (a Japanese toasted brown rice green tea that's nutty and delicious) are two of my favorites. My most recent tipple of choice is "Organic Precious Eyebrow" a Chinese green tea that tastes like plums.

Green Tea Muffins

After a trip to Japan last summer, I decided that there are few things the U.S. needs to steal from the Japanese.

1. Good quality conveyor belt sushi

2. Tommy Lee Jones-endorsed Iced Coffee

Because I'll only buy my iced coffee from a vending
machine if Tommy says it's OK

3. Pagodas

Our buildings are so square, man

4. Green Tea Flavored Sweets

In Japan, everything from cookies to bagels to soft-serve ice cream (see above) are imbued with green tea. The tangy, earthy flavor adds a delicious, unexpected edge to sweets and I quickly became a fan. Luckily, I brought home a tin of powdered green tea from Japan which is perfect to use in baking.

adapted from allrecipes
Makes 12 muffins

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder (note: actual tea leaves won't work)
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and powdered green tea.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter and milk until combined. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts.

Bake muffins until golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.


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