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Green tea time, any time!

Another dry January has arrived, and it has been preceded by a slew of low- and no-proof spirits that offer cocktail lovers and non-drinkers alike the flavour and vibe of liquor without the guilt or compromises to the sensible diet. Better still, green tea, prepared traditionally or in a more modern context, can be enjoyed all year.

Zach Mangan, an international Japanese tea expert, points out that matcha—one of the very best swaps—has been around for generations. Leading up to dry January, Mangan and Nobu corporate chef Matt Hoyle proved their case in a coursed dinner at Nobu’s West Hollywood, Calif. location that the right expression of green tea could stand in for various spirits in mixed drinks and even wine. And with that, it also made a lovely, surprising ingredient for a variety of food recipes as well.

According to Mangan, who is based in Brooklyn, NY and Fukuoka, Japan, demand for Japanese green tea as a non-alcoholic beverage is increased not only in restaurant consumption but also in home consumption. Many restaurant clients of Mangan’s New York-based shop Kettl are preparing Japanese green tea menus and food pairing menus. This should no doubt inspire home entertaining as more people learn just how broad the range of tea expressions go. From sencha and matcha varieties (which most western green tea fans are acquainted with) to less familiar but equally distinctive varieties hojicha, genmaicha, and gyokuro, the diversification of what’s available can open even the most experienced green tea fans up to new ideas.

While learning how to brew and prepare each expression is a good first step, putting knowledge of the different flavour profiles and personalities of each varietal to good use is also sure to stir intrigue among a wide variety of guests.
Tea brewing guidelines
Tea leaf: 5–6 g (2 teaspoons)
Water: 180 ml (6 fl oz (US)) at 80°C (180°F)
Brew for 1 minute
Tea leaf: 5–6 g (2 teaspoons)
Water: 50–70 ml (2 fl oz (US)) at 50°C (120°F)
Brew for 2 minutes
Matcha powder: 2 g (0·75 teaspoons)
Water: 65 ml (2 fl oz (US)) at 80°C (180°F)
Tea leaf: 5–6 g (2 teaspoons)
Water: 250 ml (8 fl oz (US)) at 95°C (200°F)
Brew for 2–3 minutes
Tea leaf: 6 g (2 teaspoons)
Water: 250 ml (8 fl oz (US)) at 90°C (195°F)
Brew for 2–3 minutes

To accentuate the aroma of brown rice, use water at around 90°C (195°F). To accentuate the sweetness of the green tea, you can brew slightly cooler at around 80°C (180°F).
Like any other beverage or beverage foundation, proper care and storage of matcha and other green teas are also essential. Mangan and Hoyle recommend airtight storage and preparation to prevent the oxidization of the tea. Mangan adds that as tea is an agricultural product, just as wine is, it should be looked at with a grower’s perspective. Also, the aromatics of different green teas can accentuate or enhance flavours of a cocktail’s other ingredients as well as the food the finished drink is paired with. Global warming also brings something to the conversation, as Mangan notes that it has pushed tea farming as far north as Hokkaido Prefecture.

While teas prepared on their own can be creatively matched with foods, here are a few drink recipes bringing an added dimension of flavour and conversation.

Sparkling oxidized kamairicha (champagne alternative)

1. Add 15g (½ oz) of tea leaf to a glass carafe.

2. Combine 375ml (approx 13 oz) of chilled sparkling water with the tea leaves.

3. Brew in the fridge for 24 hours. Strain the tea leaves and add in 375ml more of the sparkling water.

Matcha mocktail with cucumber mint syrup
Cucumber mint syrup
500 g (16 oz) sugar
500 g (16 oz) hot water
20–5 g (⅔ oz approx) mint leaf (stems removed)
Whole English cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced

1. Make fresh simple syrup and stir in mind while hot.

2. Steep for 20 minutes and strain.

3. Once mint syrup has fully cooled, slice cucumber and allow to steep overnight.

4. Strain and squeeze all liquid through a filter.

5. Bottle, label and date.
To prepare the cocktail

1. Fill a rocks glass with ice and six sprigs of mint.

2. Add 15 g (¼ oz) cucumber mint syrup.

3. Pour 150 g (5 oz) sparkling water in to the glass.

4. Whisk 2 g of matcha with 50 ml (1¾ fl oz (US)) hot water.

5. Pour into the drink and stir. Garnish.

Matcha mocktail with cucumber, mint and yuzu
2 thinly sliced English cucumber pieces
6 sprigs of mint
Splash of fresh yuzu juice
Splash of simple syrup (sugar)
2 of sifter matcha
50 ml (1¾ fl oz (US)) hot water
Sparkling water

1. Whisk sift matcha and hot water.

2. Pour sparkling water over ice into a rocks glass.

3. Combined whisked matcha with sparkling water and ice.

4. Add yuzu juice, simple syrup, mint, and cucumber

5. Muddle until combined.

Cold brew genmai (standing in for a white like sauvignon blanc)

1. Add 15 g of genmai tea leaf into a glass carafe.

2. Combine 750 ml (25 fl oz (US)) of cold water with the tea leaves.

3. Brew in the fridge for 24 hours.

4. Strain the tea leaves and serve chilled in wine glasses.


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