Matcha Pearls & thoughts on tea quality

Matcha is one of my favourite flavourings for sweet treats (which you probably already worked out if you follow me on Instagram). I'm a little bit smug that I discovered this unique flavour way before if became such a huge trend outside of Japan/Asia!

In the same way my teenage self came back telling my friends about pizza with seaweed topping after my first year in Japan, I told them about chocolate, ice cream and cakes flavoured with a thick green tea. This green tea was of course matcha. The artful ceremony in which it is traditionally prepared, 'Sado', Way of Tea, I had the privilege to study for a year in my Japanese high school. Memories which need a whole post just to themselves! (oh and I think I have some photos too!) 

A big advantage of matcha having become so popular is that now it's really easy to find high quality, reasonably priced matcha online and in some health food shops (UK). 

Personally I buy my matcha online and right now I'm trying a few different brands to see which one I can whole-heartedly recommend to you.

I only use Japanese ceremonial grade (high grade) matcha, which is a bright green, fine powder with a clean and complex, unique flavour. Lower quality, 'drinking grade' matcha is a duller, yellow-green colour powder with a coarser grind. The flavour is still 'matcha', but compared to the real thing (ceremonial grade) the flavour is weak, a lot more diluted and 'dull', possibly grassy, waxy and slightly burnt in taste.

Ceremonial grade Japanese matcha.

Ceremonial grade Japanese matcha.

If the brand of matcha you use doesn't include any grading, nor country of origin, it's most likely to be drinking grade. I've tried brands (which can still be large and successful in the organic food industry) that tasted like bitter wheat grass powder! Once you found a good quality matcha, you'll notice the price difference to lower grades isn't even that big. Get the true taste of matcha – go ceremonial! 

Again, this is a subject of a much longer future post .. 

More about my little pearls of green goodness. The one to give me the chocolate covered 'nut ball' idea was my friend Bettina of Bettina's Kitchen – I tasted her version with raw chocolate and hazelnuts .. Instant love!

After a little experimentation I came up with my matcha version – a moist, nutty and aromatic centre with a coating of matcha 'chocolate' .. Everyone who tried them so far have loved them, even people who never tried matcha before – old as well as young! Just be aware matcha contains caffeine so don't let the kids go too crazy ;)

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

Notes on ingredients:

Almonds: I prefer activated almonds for this recipe, but you can use normal, untreated almonds. Activating almonds makes them a little lighter and drier and a lot easier to digest.

Oats: May sound like an odd choice but once it's blended together with the other ingredients, its distinct flavour is gone, left is a subtle 'milkiness'. It also makes the pearls lighter and chewier than a 100% nut recipe.

Vanilla: I find that vanilla and matcha are best friends (lovers, even!) so there's a good amount of vanilla in this recipe. I use whole ground up vanilla pod, sold as a coarse powder, but you can also use non-sweetened vanilla essence. 

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

Honey gives the best consistency for these pearls but you can use another thick liquid sweetener, as suggested below.

Coconut oil vs Cacao butter for the coating: Both have their pros and cons. Coconut oil is easy to source and work with, and it's cheaper than cacao butter. I personally love its taste and light texture. It melts on skin contact though so will be slightly messy to eat. Matcha Pearls made with this coating are best kept in the fridge at all times. 

Cacao butter takes longer to melt and is the more expensive option. But once solidified, it will stay solid out of the fridge. And of course it has that irresistible chocolatey flavour ..

Raw (virgin cold pressed) coconut oil & raw cacao butter.

Raw (virgin cold pressed) coconut oil & raw cacao butter.

Recipe: Almond Cashew Matcha Pearls

Makes 12 pearls (ca 1 inch diameter) 

Ingredients

Pearl centre:

200 ml unroasted, natural almonds (120 g)

200 ml unroasted, natural cashews (110 g)

100 ml rolled oats (40 g)

3 tablespoons liquid honey OR coconut palm nectar, rice malt syrup or date syrup

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (35 g)

1 teaspoon vanilla (ground up vanilla pod) or 2 tsp liquid, natural vanilla extract

1 tablespoon high grade matcha powder

Coating:

4 tablespoons cold pressed raw coconut oil, melted (45 g) OR 40 g raw cacao butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla (ground up vanilla pod) or 1/2 tsp liquid natural vanilla extract

1/2 tablespoon high grade matcha powder

Optional: 1/2 tablespoon coconut palm nectar. Don't use honey as it will not blend together with the coconut oil. I find the centres sweet enough, meaning you don't need the thin coating to be sweetened, too.

To make

This may look like many steps but it's actually a very easy recipe ;)

1. In a small pot of hot water, immerse a metal or heat-proof glass bowl to melt 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. I measure coconut oil roughly by scooping the solid oil up with a tablespoon then plopping it down into the bowl. Of course, if the weather is hot where you are (and the oil is liquid already), you can skip this step, just place the oil in a bowl. While the oil is melting, prepare the pearl centres: 

2. Grind the almonds and cashews in a blender or food processor on low speed until you have a crumbly flour. If you use a food processor, be careful not to over-grind the mixture at any point – you want keep a good amount of nut specks visible.

3. Add the oats and blend again to break the flakes down. You may have to scrape down the sides of your blender for it to blend properly.

4. Stop the blender, add the liquified coconut oil, the honey, vanilla and matcha. After you've emptied the coconut oil into the blender, you can return the bowl to its hot bath and add in the next batch of coconut oil (or raw cacao butter) ready for coating time!

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

5. Blend again on low until all ingredients are mixed well, you may have to scrape down the sides again.

6. Empty the blender onto a length of cling film. Use the cling film like a bag to press the crumbly mass first into a big lump then into a sausage shape, about one inch thick. The mass will feel quite soft.

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls
Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls
Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

7. Put your green sausage in the freezer.

8. Prepare the coating: Whisk the dry ingredients into the melted coconut oil / raw cacao butter: vanilla, matcha and optional sweetener. Leave to rest in its hot bath while you prepare the pearl centres.

9. After about 10 minutes, take your sausage out of the freezer. Be careful not to leave it in for too long – you want it to firm up a little but not go hard.

10. On a big chopping board, unwrap your sausage and cut into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place on a metal or glass tray which is small enough to fit in your freezer.

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

11. Put your naked pearls in the freezer and leave them for at least 20 minutes. This time you want them to go rock hard = frozen!

12. Before taking the pearls out of the freezer, reheat your coating mixture if it has become solid.

13. Action time! Here's an excellent trick I learnt from Audrey, Unconventional Baker: to make it easier to coat anything in chocolate (or in this case, 'matcha chocolate'): freeze it, dip in chocolate, let it drip off and place on a cold surface. The frozen pearl and the cold surface will make the chocolate solidify within a few seconds, which stops it from making too much of a pool around the base of the pearl ..

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls
Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

14. After one coat, put the pearls back in the freezer for a few minutes for the chocolate to set fully, then bring them out again and give them a second coat.

15. If there is any leftover coating, drizzle it on top of the pearls. You can use this drizzle as a 'glue' to stick decorations on – a few leaves of loose green tea, dried flowers, anything you fancy. I like to keep mine simple to focus on the delicate flavour of the matcha.

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

Store in the fridge.

Keeps for over a week in an airtight container in the fridge (I tried really hard to test them for longer but it was impossible :O). In the freezer they will keep for much longer, you just need to thaw them a little before eating.

Shiso Delicious | Matcha Pearls

If you have any comments on this recipe and/or want to share your version, I'd love to hear from you here or on social media. It's always so exciting so see my recipes come alive! On social media, tag your creations #shisodelicious so I can find you  

Much love, Sara x