Green tea ice cream is a great summer treat but it can be flavor intense. This Japanese green tea ice cream is mellower in taste. Instead of matcha powder, the milk is gently infused with organic matcha sencha green tea leaves.
I remember the first time I saw a dessert menu that listed matcha tea ice cream. I was completely taken aback by this exotic Japanese green tea flavor added to my beloved summer dessert. Green tea ice cream? I could not wrap my mind around it, so I had to order it. And it was love at first bite.
This experience was the first of many unusual ice cream flavors to cross my lips. But then, I was still trying to figure out how they got ice cream to taste like a cup of intense green tea. The answer turned out to be matcha tea, or more specifically matcha powder.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Four O’Clock for this sponsored post opportunity. Please note all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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The Story of Matcha Ice Cream
Homemade green tea ice cream has been sold in Japan in small stores and stalls for a very long time. In its original form, it was actually flavored shaved ice. There are records of this ice cream flavor being served at royal dinners in Japan since the late 1800s.
But the large scale production of a Japanese green tea ice cream recipe first saw the light in the US in the 1970s. You could find it at Japanese restaurants and the occasional Asian food market. And in the 1990s the US started exporting it to Japan. Crazy, right?
One last note on this ice cream flavor’s history. Think back to when you might have had your first bite of matcha ice cream. Chances are it was also in the 1990s, about the same time as the boom of sushi popularity when Japanese restaurants were sprouting all over the place.
Traditional matcha ice cream is made with matcha powder. This powder is made from organic matcha leaves that have been grounded entirely to a powder. Matcha comes specifically from a green tea plant that has been shaded in the last weeks prior to cultivation. The result is a very green and, once aged, a deep flavor.
Matcha can be described as having a quite strong and vegetal flavor. Some find it a bit bitter and astringent. Now imagine this in ice cream. hence, matcha ice cream might not be everyone’s cup of green tea.
And that is the very reason why I came up with this mellower ice cream green tea recipe!
Sencha vs Matcha
There are actually many types of Japanese tea. Let’s start with what is green tea in the first place. Green tea is made from loose leaf tea that has not been withered and oxidized, contrary to an oolong or pu’er organic green tea. I bet you did not know there are so many types of green tea.
As we saw before, matcha is made from the entire leaf and because it is a powder, one just needs to add warm water and the green liquid is whisked. When you drink matcha you drink the entire leaf. Sencha tea basically means infused tea. In this process, whole tea leaves are placed in warm water to release the flavor.
Making the process of how to brew tea easier vs matcha, it is no wonder why sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, representing 80 percent of the tea market.
When Sencha meets Matcha
There is a new popular trend on the horizon, the sencha matcha hybrid cup of tea. What is it? Take some loose green organic tea leaves and matcha powder, and place them both in a tea bag. Voilà, I think it is the best green tea combo possible.
This way you can enjoy the benefits of sencha green tea and matcha in one cup. Sencha tea is grown in full sun, where matcha is shaded. This little difference actually has a big impact on the already well-known benefits of green tea.
Matcha has more caffeine and a natural relaxant called L-theanine. This creates a balance in the energy absorbed by the body. On the other hand, sencha tea benefits include much higher antioxidants levels developed by the extra sun exposure.
Combined brew green tea bags of sencha and matcha lets you reap all these good things in one cup.
Mellow Japanese Green Tea Ice Cream
OK, we have learned a lot about various types of Japanese green tea, how about we get back to the ice cream! As I said before, some people don’t like matcha ice cream because of the intense and astringent taste. I have posted over the years my fair share of fun and exotic ice cream recipes but never a green tea one.
What if there was a way to make a softer green tea flavor. Maybe if the milk is heated and simply brew tea in the milk? The internet is filled with matcha ice cream recipes but finding a tea ice cream recipe with steeped tea was definitely more of a challenge.
This is totally optional, but I added two teaspoons of dried tea to the ice cream custard during the churning process. This gave it extra texture, a little more flavor, and I found the ice cream prettier.
What a great success! My ice cream is so much more subtle than straight up matcha, while still revealing a lovely green tea flavor. It has a much softer palate and little bitterness. If you are not a fan of matcha ice cream, give this one a try. I am sure you will really enjoy it.
Yields about 1 quart
Japanese Green Tea Ice Cream
This Japanese green tea ice cream is mellower in taste. Instead of matcha powder, the milk is gently infused with organic matcha sencha green tea leaves.
Over medium-low heat, add the heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, green tea bags, and salt to a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, until small bubbles appear on the edge of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to steep for 30 minutes. Ring gently the tea bags to get all the flavor out and discard. Bring back to a simmer.
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in a quarter of the hot mixture into the eggs to temper. Continue to whisk slowly in the remaining cream mixture. Pour back into the saucepan.
Cook mixture over medium-low heat, constantly stirring, for about 5 to 10 minutes or until they are thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If you have a cooking thermometer until it reaches 170 degrees. If overcooked, the mixture will curdle. Strain the mixture if necessary.
Pour custard mixture into a bowl, cover with cling film touching the surface, and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight, then freeze according to your ice cream maker directions. When the ice cream begins to firm up, add the loose green tea, and continue churning. Place the ice cream in a container in the freezer and let it firm up before serving.