Long before my (relatively recent) obsession with Japan I developed a taste for matcha, the very finely powdered green tea that is at the heart of the Japanese tea ceremony.
There are a number of different types of green tea in Japan. Some tea leaves are deliberately grown in shade for at least the last 20 or 30 days before harvest (as opposed to those for sencha, which are grown in the full sun). This slows down growth and stimulates increased chlorophyll levels, resulting in darker leaves and higher levels of amino acids. L-Theanine in particular provides a rich umami flavour which is a key aspect of gyokuro. Once the leaves have been dried, they are either sold as gyokuro, or they are de-veined and de-stemmed (tencha). Tencha can then be stone ground very finely to create the vivid green powder known as matcha.
Matcha, the drink, is prepared by whisking matcha powder into hot (not boiling) water until smooth. This rich green tea is quite bitter, so it is often served with wagashi – traditional Japanese sweets.
These days, matcha is also very popular as a cooking ingredient in all kinds of sweet and savoury dishes such as mochi, dango, cakes and biscuits, noodles and even mixed with salt as a condiment.
One of the most popular recipes is ice cream, with the vivid green colour as much of an attraction as the grassy green tea taste.
Most matcha ice cream recipes call for making an egg custard from scratch, whisking the matcha in with the other ingredients during the process. However, I decided to see if I could create a quick version of recipe using fresh ready made custard, available from my supermarket. I added a little extra sugar, as freezing tends to dull sweetness a little and I wanted lots of sweetness to balance the bitterness of the tea. I also added a little sake, to help keep the ice cream softer on freezing.
Quick & Easy Matcha (Green Tea) Ice Cream
- 500 ml good quality fresh vanilla custard
- 3 tsp matcha
- 3 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp sake (or vodka)
I used a good quality full-flavoured matcha but taste your custard once you’ve added the sugar and matcha, and add more to taste, if required.
Combine custard, matcha and sugar in a pan and heat gently on a low heat, whisking regularly.
Once the sugar has dissolved and the matcha has properly mixed into the custard, remove from the heat and whisk in the sake.
Cool the mixture in an ice bowl or in the fridge.
Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn, according to instructions for your machine. Mine took about 25 minutes.
Once the ice cream is ready, either serve immediately or transfer to the freezer to solidify further. My machine makes slightly soft ice cream, so I like to freeze to achieve a firmer texture.
Happy ice cream making!