The Best Food to Pair with Matcha, According to Science

It’s hard to believe that this goes well with matcha!

If you’re actually going to practice the traditional Japanese tea ceremony all the way, start looking into Japanese confectionary called ‘wagashi’. There’s a lot of culinary and artistic flair in creating them especially when the aesthetic draw heavily from nature, scenery, the four seasons, literature or traditional arts. The changing of the seasons call for changing the sweets - during April when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, sakura mochi is served, (sakura means ‘cherry blossom’ in japanese) wrapped in the leaves of the cherry blossom tree.

Two kinds of tea confectionery exist: ‘omogashi’ (unbaked cake)  and ‘ohigashi’ (dry confectionery). Omogashi includes sweet buns and dumplings and is paired with koicha, matcha prepared with double the usual scoops of powder that creates thick matcha tea. On the other hand, ohigashi are usually crackers which matches well with the thinner preparation of matcha, koicha, which is half the powder of normal matcha tea.

Just as matcha has an electric green color, Japanese confectionery are just as colorful. The flower shape cakes come in soft pastels, other more eclectic cakes resemble waves, reed, ice have eye-catching colors in palettes of pink, blue or violet.

On the modern side of things, where the pursuit of culinary experimentation calls for the fusion of contrasting flavors to see how compatible they are, the scientists at Purdue University have found that citrus fruits and matcha are the best pairing. Adding a squeeze of lemon to a bowl of matcha increases the antioxidants available for the body to absorb. On their own, matcha’s antioxidants can’t stand the non-acidic environment of the intestines, resulting to less than 20% of it getting absorbed by the body. But by adding lemons or any other type of citrus to your morning bowl of matcha, the antioxidants available for absorption rise to up to 80%!

Aside from the amped up nutrition, the bright, zesty citrus kick complements matcha’s vegetal flavor. Talk about the perfect combination!

What’s not a good match with matcha? Iron.

In a study by Penn State University, a bowl of matcha with an iron-rich meal causes the EGCG to bind with iron which results in losing its antioxidant capabilities. In particular, red meat and dark leafy vegetables were singled out for being a bad partner to matcha tea. That kinda throws a wrench in your plan of creating a superfood meal by combining high ORAC value foods like kale, spinach and matcha, if ever you were planning to.

It doesn’t stop at food though. Iron, even when taken as supplements in tablets or other forms, are bad with matcha because the iron becomes useless as well. If you’re iron deficient and anemic, it’s better if you consult your doctor before subscribing to a daily matcha habit.

If none of these pairings caused your taste buds to water, then there’s no loss for you.

Traditional food, good and bad pairings aside, matcha tea can stand on its own, and you don’t need science to tell you that.