Updated: Nov 7
I think the main reason why people love or dislike matcha does not always solely depend on the quality of the matcha powder itself (this obviously too) but on the way they experience it for the first time. Hardly anyone I know has been introduced to the pure version first - which usually is the highest quality (and price point) - unless you have visited Japan and were able to attend one of the traditional matcha ceremonies.
Most of us have had it in a cafe or maybe at a friend's place and most likely not all these versions used a ceremonial grade matcha powder nor a good plant milk option.
But why is it so hard to make matcha taste good?
If you see it from a taste perspective, matcha behaves very differently with milk than for example coffee, chai or chocolate. The flavour is much "purer" and the astringency and grassiness are very dominant which means it needs a counterpart to make it taste well rounded and balanced. And without getting too nerdy about this - at the end of the day we all love to eat and drink something that is tasty and has balance. Simple but not easy.
Before I tell you what I think the best plant milk for matcha is, I share with you what in my opinion is a bad choice (you might be surprised):
The most obvious one I guess is cows milk - not only does the flavour interfere with the green tea notes but also health benefit wise its not ideal because the casein protein in cow's milk has been proven to inhibit the antioxidants in matcha powder.
In the plant milk world are in my opinion most varieties NOT ideal for matcha. Especially not plain oat or even Barista oat milk (but its what most cafe's use...). They are great for coffee but too heavy in texture and flavour for matcha. Pure almond milk is usually either too sweet (added sugar!) or has a strong marzipan flavour (and very little almond % which equals water with a few almonds plus added flavours and stabilisers). Hazelnut, rice or coconut milk are also not a great combo for matcha. And as with most things, but especially in the culinary world - the magic lies in the combination. For example, oat and (homemade) almond or oat and soy milk are great - they add not only good and relatively neutral flavour but also the fat of the almonds as well as the protein of the soy help stabilise the milk in order to create foam and creaminess. Barista Oat milk normally has added oils and stabilisers to give the milk stability after frothing. I am not against it and definitely drink the milk once in a while in my flst white but if I can avoid highly processed and use more "simple" milk alternatives for my daily matcha - I will!
The next topic is: sweeteners. A lot of people prefer to not sweeten their milk / matcha as they want to avoid added sugars or an overly sweetened beverage. I totally understand that and I also don't recommend to just add plain white sugar to your matcha but luckily there are some healthy alternatives that make a big difference for a well balanced matcha latte:
If you have a blender and want to invest 10 extra seconds (I promise it doesn't take much longer!), you can use one small or half a Madjool date. It adds a gently sweet but not overpowering flavour and it also gives the milk a creamy and rich consistency. I like to soak the date a few minutes in the milk while warming it up so it blends easier.
But if you don't have a blender or extra time in the morning - try a teaspoon of honey, agave or maple syrup. You can add it directly into your electric milk frother (if you have one) or in the pot you are warming up your milk. You can whisk the milk by hand (I don't necessarily recommend using the bamboo whisk but if you have no other option or you are travelling - it's still the best tool) or use an immersion hand blender if you like it frothy and creamy.
Always read the ingredients list of your milk first - some already have some sweeteners added and some versions are already naturally sweet (Almond - Rice milk blends for example). Maybe you don't need to add anything or just a tiny bit to balance the flavour. Definitely avoid those with added sugars!
And obviously you can also make plant milk yourself. It requires a bit of time and preparation but it is soooo worth it and you can taste and feel the difference. Simple ingredients and as nutritious as it gets (healthy fats and plant protein). You can also decide how strong / thick you want it and sweeten it to your liking - although adding dates from the beginning will make the milk only last 2 days instead of 4! Honey, maple syrup or agave are ok but I honestly prefer to sweeten it as I go on the day of preparation as it only takes a few seconds more..
HOMEMADE PLANT MILK RECIPE
This is a no-strainer Cashew Hemp milk recipe that I have been making at least once a week over the past few months. I usually use my Vitamix for nut milks but I also tried it in a much cheaper blender e.g. the Nutribullet 900 PRO and it works perfectly! There are obviously also more expensive versions but I wanted to try it on purpose with the cheapest one to make sure the cashews are blended properly and you don't need to strain the milk through a cheese cloth - which I would recommend doing when you are using harder nuts like almonds or hazelnuts. So if you are still looking for a relatively cheap investment in order to start making nutmilks (and obviously many other recipes) - I can highly recommend this one (also super easy to travel with).
The ingredients list is as simple as the preparation technique:
raw unsalted cashews, shelled hemp seeds, salt
If you want you can also add vanilla, cinnamon, tonka... or a liquid sweetener of your choice (we used honey for that recipe and it was delicious).
The main thing to remember is to soak your cashews the night before you want to make the milk. They need at least 6 hours to become soft and blend more easily. The hemp seeds you don't necessarily have to soak but you can. In the morning, rinse and properly wash the cashews (I actually find it quite annoying to have the small hemp seeds in the strainer as I feel like I always lose some of them - that's why I don't soak them). The last step is to add everything to the blender with the amount of water that you want. So for example:
1 cup of cashews : 2 cups of water is VERY thick - almost like cream. This is good for cooking or to use as a creamer for your coffee - you really don't need much!
1 : 3 cups are my preferred ratio as it's still rich but also "milky" and foams perfectly
1:4 ratio is great if you prefer to make a milk that you can also use for your granola or as an addition for smoothies etc
Play around and find out for yourself what you like the most. As a rule of thumb I add around 1/4 cup of hemp seeds per 1 cup cashews and 3 cups of water (with a pinch of salt). But feel free to add less / more to your liking.
One thing I have to mention (that I don't feel like I knew before and only figured out lately):
If you heat up freshly made nut milk in a pot, it can get thick and slimy quickly. Through a chemical reaction from the protein of the nuts with water & heat, the milk seizes and makes it almost slurry like. Not ideal and definitely not great texture for a matcha latte.
So - what's the solution?
1) You don't heat up the milk but use it for an iced matcha instead
2) You use an electric milk frother which, depending on the version you have, should heat it up to around 70°C that doesn't cause thickening.
3) You sneak in one extra ingredient that avoids thickening and makes the milk even frothier...I know I am all about the homemade pure version in this post but it wouldn't be me if I didn't add one extra little something - in this case soy milk, which adds extra protein and helps keep the milk "milky" :-)
If all of this sounds like a lot of information (which it is) - read my 10 min "Matcha Morning Ritual" tutorial in order to understand better how easy and quick it really is.
MY MORNING RITUAL
I always boil some water first thing in the morning and let it sit a few minutes to cool down to 80°C (I also sip on some warm water to get hydrated and my digestion moving).
Meanwhile I take the matcha out of the fridge and prepare my bowl and whisk. I like to put my whisk into a small glass of hot water in order to soften the bamboo prongs and make it last longer but you don't have to - this is optional!
In a small pot I add around 100 ml of soy milk with one small pitted date (or 1 tsp of maple syrup). While this is heating up, I prepare my matcha by sifting 1 tsp of "Morning Ritual" matcha powder into my bowl, adding 1 Tbsp of hot water and creating a thick paste before adding the rest of the water (around 60-80 ml) and whisk in a W pattern to create foam and the typical matcha aroma (don't skip this step!). As soon as the milk is hot, I blend it with 100 ml of my homemade nut milk. This creates the perfect temperature but also consistency once you pour the milk over the matcha! And now the most important part - find a cosy and comfortable place where you can take 5, 10,... minutes for yourself and enjoy your homemade matcha latte!