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Great 28: Cheese + Matcha

cheese and matcha

Matcha—an electric-green, hyper-concentrated green tea powder—has leapt the Pacific from Asia. Its superfood status has likely bolstered its recent popularity in America; green tea was already healthy and celebrated, but matcha is believed to be even higher in antioxidants than whole green tea leaves. Matcha’s natural caffeine is accompanied by vitamin C, potassium, and amino acids that include calm-promoting L-Theanine for a gentler alertness burst.

Matcha’s taste is so versatile, there’s no wrong way to enjoy it. Smooth and grassy, with a vegetal tang and a deep umami aftertaste, the tea can be drunk plain or sweetened. And the finely milled leaves pivot easily from beverage to food: Chefs are incorporating matcha into pastas and other savory dishes, and bakers are brightening desserts like blondies and doughnuts with it, too. Online trendspotters like Stylecaster can easily toss off 35 ways to mix it in, from chocolate truffles to macarons.

The green tea harmonizes with cheese, too. Wheels from grazing cows, sheep, and goats often have an earthiness that complements similar notes in the beverage. And rich cream blunts matcha’s edges, as foodmakers like Jenny Zheng, president of Los Angeles’ Little Fluffy Head tea café, have found. Zheng developed a range of cheese-topped teas, including matcha, that have happily surprised customers. “I found that the rich, creamy layer helped soften bitter notes in the tea,” she says.

Matcha Tea

Cheese foam might sound like a molecular gastronomy gimmick, but here’s the thing: It’s basically whipped cream. The cheese-topped-tea trend began in China, Malaysia, and Taiwan, where cream cheese is whipped with sugar. Today, cheese tea is beginning to hit cities like Los Angeles and New York, thanks to innovators like Zheng. She was skeptical when she first tried cheese tea in China, but loved it so much she developed recipes to bring home. Her favorite: a “Chedd-cha” with a matcha base and white cheddar foam. She recommends using a hand mixer to froth together cheddar, whipping cream, milk, pink salt, and sugar. “It makes the tea extra refreshing and extra smooth, like a dessert,” she says.

Recommended Pairings 
Vella Cheese Co. Daisy Cheddar + matcha tea
Franklin Foods All Seasons Kitchen Cream Cheese + matcha tea

Matcha Ice Cream

Of the countless matcha desserts filling bakery cases, restaurant menus, and cooking blogs, matcha ice cream may be emperor of all for its versatility. The powder’s slight bitterness cuts the sweet butteriness of rich cream, making its flavor pop. For the ultimate ease, take your favorite cheese-tinged store brand (we like Selecta Quezo Real, flecked with cheddar pieces) and simply stir a teaspoon or two of matcha powder into your bowl. If you’re feeling more ambitious, it’s easy to make your own mint chocolate matcha ice cream, even without churning (see recipe below)—sweet, rich mascarpone is the magic ingredient.

Recommended Pairings
Tillamook Medium Cheddar + matcha ice cream
BelGioioso Mascarpone + matcha ice cream

Matcha Tartine

For a lighter take on that New York City classic—a bagel with cream cheese and lox—try a matcha-infused cheese with smoked salmon on a tartine (the fancy French term for open-faced sandwich). Michelle Puyane developed the recipe for Smoked Salmon Tartine with Orange Matcha when she and her husband co-founded Chalait, one of Manhattan’s first matcha cafés, in 2015. “Sometimes when people drink matcha they associate it with the ocean and taste a bit of bitterness,” Puyane says. “[Paired] with a creamy [fresh] cheese, [the matcha] brings out the flavor of the fish, adds earthiness to it, and then the zest is a brightening factor.”

Recommended Pairings
Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. Soft Cream Cheese + matcha tartine
Montchevre Natural Goat Cheese + matcha tartine

Matcha Mint Chip Ice Cream: Whip 1 pint heavy cream with 2 tablespoons matcha powder until stiff peaks form. Fold in 8 ounces mascarpone, 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon mint extract, and 1½ cups mini chocolate chips. Freeze for 4 hours.

Photography by SherSor/shutterstock.com

The Great 28 is featured in our annual Cheese Pairings issue

Lynn Freehill-Maye

Lynn Freehill-Maye is a food and travel writer based in upstate New York. She's written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, Modern Farmer, and more. She's married to a former cheesemonger and believes all burgers should be topped with blue.

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