Adventures in Matcha

Coffee is my first love

Coffee and I have had an on and off relationship for a while now. I used to drink 2 or more cups a day in my early 20’s, which dwindled to a firm one cup rule and always before 12 pm. But now I really feel it negatively impacts me. I’ve noticed that it can make me jittery, lose my appetite, and worst of all sweat profusely. It sometimes also affects my sleep, even if I drink it in the morning. When I’m on holiday I tend to handle caffeine a lot better than in my usual day to day.

The first cup of matcha

In the past I have just switched to decaf - a swiss water process decaffeinated whole bean option. But on a recent holiday to New Zealand, I finally tried a delicious matcha latte at a vegan restaurant. But it wasn't love at first sip! The first cup I thought just tasted like a grassy powder suspended in nut milk, I had to add a spoonful of coconut sugar to make it more palatable. But strangely the next day I was wanting to have it again. Combine that with being on holiday, catching up with friends and family which resulted in at least two coffees per day, I was overloaded. The rough, acidic taste of my usual cup of bean water just didn't appeal (I drink my coffee black).

I drunk coffee for so many years but found it started to negatively affect me more and more.

I drunk coffee for so many years but found it started to negatively affect me more and more.

Apart from that first inaugural cup, I haven't sweetened my matcha since. The homemade fresh nut milk at the restaurant probably played a big part in my new love of matcha. In my opinion, it goes great with a slightly creamy nutty base instead of plain water. So once I arrived back in Canada the experiments started to try and nail a matcha recipe that hit all the marks for me. What’s important to me: taste, dairy free, sugar-free, mouthfeel/creaminess, cost-effective, fast and easy to prepare in the morning. This pretty much ruled out making my own nut milk, I ain't got time for that.

Playing with matcha at home

The first thing I tried was “Let’s do organic Creamed Coconut” - this comes in a hard block but when melted it’s a creamy coconut butter that I usually buy and use in curries. It was a fail, the coconut is definitely not fine enough and the result was really gritty - it was a mouthfeel fail.

The second try was just using coconut milk from a can, these usually have a lot fewer additives than a carton or bottle of nut or coconut milk. I picked up a Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk - the full-fat variety. Before using it has to be re-blended because it separates in the can due to the lack of said additives. This was a solid contender because it was smooth drinking but I just didn't get much of a coconut flavour despite it being just coconut. Maybe the flavour would have been stronger if I just used the solid part of the coconut cream from the can.

Trying this fancy brand of matcha took my home concoction to the next level.

Trying this fancy brand of matcha took my home concoction to the next level.

The next option was inspired by all of the cashew coffee I’ve seen on Instagram. So I blended a handful of raw cashews with hot water into a quick creamy nut milk - no straining required. The first time it was still kind of gritty, the bottom of my mug was a super thick liquid but I did enjoy the nutty taste. Next time I tried the same thing but with two teaks, I soaked the cashews in boiling water for about an hour while I cooked and ate breakfast. Then I blended for a full minute and a half, my new Vitamix has a timer showing so it made this part pretty easy. The result was a much smoother and creamier version, blending for longer definitely makes a big difference. The creamy, nutty flavour was spot on and balances out the grassy teaspoon of matcha.

I also considered but didn’t try regular almond milk from the store or NutPods which could both be solid options. I have also just procured Artisana coconut butter, which has been described as a very smooth and fine blended coconut so that will be my next try - Nutiva also makes a coconut manna that makes a good and slightly cheaper option. The matcha experiments continue. Can you tell I really want to nail a coconutty matcha blend? Have you tried matcha? What’s your opinion on the green, grassy, tea-like taste?

On Vegetables

Broccoli for breakfast. Salad for lunch. Stir fry for dinner.

In the last few months, I have made a more intentional effort to eat two cups of non-starchy veggies with every meal. Sometimes it’s an effort but it has totally become a habit. Now when faced with a meal with little to no veggies I’m befuddled.

This is a great option for people who aren't sure exactly how to balance the macros on their plate. I mean carbohydrates, protein and fat - the macronutrients in our diet. It’s too easy to overeat if your meal is just a starch and protein. But most people tend to get confused about what to actually fill their plate with - enter non-starchy vegetables.

Salad is a sure fire way to eat your vegetable quota for the day.

Salad is a sure fire way to eat your vegetable quota for the day.

Eat all the veggies

I usually form my meal around the protein, which usually needs more planning or defrosting from the freezer. Then I fill half of my plate with non-starchy vegetables. Don’t get caught up in what veggie does what for your health, all vegetables are unique with their own special vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients. Nutrition is a relatively new science so there are factors we don’t yet understand. So stick to a variety of whole vegetables and you will be fine.

Start with ones you know you enjoy, then branch out and try new ones, vary what you buy with the season and what’s on sale. Mix cooked and raw veggies throughout the day and for the advanced, add fermented veggies that you can either easily make yourself or buy at most supermarkets these days - make sure to look for raw on the label and no junky ingredients.

Arugula or rocket is a gateway veggie for breakfast. Buy the washed and bagged variety to save time in the morning. Throw your eggs and preservative free bacon on top of a big handful, or just add reheated leftovers from dinner over the top of a bed of arugula, this versatile green is flavorful and goes well with anything. Be patient because our taste for vegetables will change, I used to hate celery but now I love it, same with fennel. Now I crave more vegetables and that’s a great place to be. After travelling for weeks and plenty of cafe breakfasts with just toast and eggs with a scant green leaf for garnish it’s great to be able to return to the regularly scheduled programming in my own kitchen filled with a variety of fresh produce.

Kale is one of my favourite, it tastes great with nearly everything.

Kale is one of my favourite, it tastes great with nearly everything.

Set yourself up for success

The key here is, stock your fridge with vegetables you enjoy. Make the effort and commit to filling half of your plate with these vegetables even if it means quickly steaming some to throw on - it doesn't have to be fancy or a recipe. Rotate what you buy so you aren't eating the same 3 vegetables over and over. Keep an eye on what you have in the fridge, they can go bad quickly so remember what has to get eaten first.

Final note for the busy folks. Prep a whole bunch of veggies together for several meals, keep a big container ready to go in your fridge to add to your meals. Eg: in a big wok or pan saute a mix of things like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, kale or cabbage with the seasoning of your choice. Let cool and store in a huge tupperware.