Magnifique Matcha macaroons, Oh mon Dieu!

Look what came in the mail for me today.

kawaii kenko

kawaii kenko

How cute is that?  It’s right up there along with giggling infants, dimples, Mini Coopers and baby pandas.

It was sent by Melbourne-based Kenko Tea, a premium matcha online retailer.  I’d used matcha in a past post whereby I concocted a raw vanilla cheesecake using a mung bean crust.  However only a dusting of matcha was used – it was not the centre of attention.

I did a lil more digging around and discovered there’s matcha.. and there’s MATCHA.  Let me explain.  Like any fruit or vegetable, the more vibrant the colour = the more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains.  Makes sense.  Who’d want a light mauve eggplant over one a fetching deep shade of royal purple?

I took the photos below to illustrate the varying grades of this wonder powder.

gorgeous green

gorgeous green

Yeah, this is mine… all mine.  Note the intensity of the hue.  And the smell when I popped open the container was just wow.  Pure freshness in a can.  Eau de fresh!

not so green

not so green

Yeah, the above pic is not my matcha obviously.

I was keen to do two things:  brew myself a well-earned cuppa matcha.  Check.  Experiment with Kenko Tea’s premium matcha in the kitchen.  A ha…

This is what transpired.

Raw Magic Matcha Macaroons

2 tbs matcha green tea powder
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried coconut
3-4 tbs tahini
3-4 tbs cup agave
¼ tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: carob nibs, orange zest

Food process the coconut and sunflower seeds first until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Food process everything else and shape into cute macaroon-esque balls.  Done.  Haha, short and sweet right.

If it’s too dry, gradually add more tahini, vanilla extract or agave.  Conversely, if you went overboard on the liquid, add more dried coconut bit by bit.  I had carob nibs in the pantry so threw them in there for an extra crunch factor.

Shape into macaroons and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes.

matcha macaroon heaven

matcha macaroon heaven

I was interested to find out more about the Man behind the Matcha.  This is what I discovered….

Sam James, 27, has called the kitchen a second home ever since embarking on a chef apprenticeship at the age of 16.  He works on Kenko Tea during the day before working the evening shift at a Melbourne restaurant. 

Kenko Tea creatively fuses together his passions for quality ingredients, health and funky packaging.

Why did you start Kenko Tea?

I decided to start my own project as after living in Melbourne CBD for the last few years, I’d noticed the specialty coffee culture in Melbourne explode.   I’ve always had an eye for food trends and first came across matcha online when researching its health benefits and high levels of antioxidants.

I couldn’t find any GOOD matcha in Melbourne.  I read about matcha being an amazing, sweet, fresh and bright green super tea that whisks up a layer of crema.  The ones I tasted were horrible unless mixed with loads of sugar and milk. So that’s why I started Kenko Tea, to bring high grade matcha to Australia.

What prompted you on the health and wellness path?

I’ve had a growing interest in nutrition, food and health for a few years now. I was miserable in my early 20’s – the lifestyle that comes with working in kitchens is characterised by long hours, high stress, bad diet, no social life.

I started searching for healthier ways to manage stress. This led me down all sorts of paths – meditation, yoga, martial arts, gym, cutting out sugar/processed foods etc.  These days I notice straight away if I haven’t exercised for a few days or go back to eating junk.  I am still learning what works best for me.

Why the interest in matcha?

Besides the health benefits, it was the intense colour that appealed to me.  It was something new and exciting, an ingredient I’d never experimented with.  It’s incredibly versatile – to drink on its own as a tea, made into a green smoothie, or added to desserts and sweets.

The history behind matcha is fascinating.  It was used by samurai and Zen monks for meditation and the stone grinding production methods are the same methods they’ve used for centuries.  The more I learn about matcha, the more I Iove it.

How matcha benefits me:

Matcha makes me feel energized, refreshed, alert and focused without the jittery or wired feeling of coffee.  Matcha’s high levels of L-theanine which when combined with caffeine, delivers caffeine to the bloodstream over a longer period, so you feel calm and alert for 4-6 hours without coffee’s massive ups and downs.  I receive emails constantly from customers saying exactly this regarding their energy levels.

Describe a typical day for you: 

Wake up 9am, make a matcha smoothie, check emails, pack any orders and go to post office, check emails, write more content for my website, experiment with matcha recipes, send out any more orders before post office shuts. Then I head to work.

Life motto:

If you don’t design your own life someone else will happily do it for you.

The Kenko Tea Co in 5 years’ time: 

Matcha is the superfood of superfoods.  It’s the next gojiberry, acai berry, maca, cacao and spirulina all rolled into one. Kenko Tea will be the number one source of high grade, artisanal matcha green tea in Australia, and the world.

my matcha

my matcha

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Vegan in the Valley: A Visit to Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe

Perhaps it was a case of ‘third time lucky’.  This was visit #3 to the Swan Valley Vegetarian Café.  My past two visits were for brunch and a PM coffee’n’cake session in the second half of last year.  For those that don’t know, the Swan Valley Vegetarian Café is in ‘the valley’ about 30 mins drive from Perth CBD.  Some of its neighbours are wineries, chocolate factories and farms.  Run by Julie (a naturopath) and Charlotte (a Bowen therapist) the café exudes a quaint country charm. 

Greeted with a smile at the front counter when walking in, we’re given menus and a general direction of our table. Hubby and I made our way through the tea shop towards our seats.  It was a lovely sunny day, however appearances proved deceiving as it was quite chilly outside.  Pity, as the café has a beautiful garden area and live music to enjoy too.

Taking our seats indoors, we were served immediately by our friendly waitress, who brought us water without needing to be asked.  We ordered our mains and requested a fresh detox juice (moi) and Flower Blossom tea for drinks.  Curious name, I thought.

The tea in pre-bloom

The tea in pre-bloom

A blooming tea is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.  It delivered an explosion of spectacular shades of green made from high-quality fresh green tea buds from the high mountains of Yunnan province in China.   Consisting of a bundle of dried tea leaves encasing a dried flower, the bundle expands and unfurls in a process that emulates a blooming flower when steeped.  The flowers inside emerge as the centrepiece.

Wow.  And here is the blooming tea at its full glorious height.

full bloom

full bloom

I slurped my detox juice up in a matter of seconds.  Delish.  No pic sorry!  It was a deep red hue due to the beetroot.

Our mains arrived simultaneously.  Being a chilly winter’s day, hubby opted for the Moussaka.  Not just any moussaka though.  Typically, traditional Greek moussaka is a coronary waiting to happen – lamb mince, cheese, béchamel sauce, potato, eggs and butter.  This was the vegan version.  It looked and smelled awesome….

Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe vegan moussaka

Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe vegan moussaka

Hubby gulped down a mouthful.  It tasted as good as it looked.  Big thumbs up.  Actually, an even bigger thumbs up as this is coming from a non-vegan!  Meanwhile, I looked down at my chosen main, Raw Marinated Mushrooms with a Sunflower Seed Pate.  I’d been addicted to sunflower seed pate since devouring the sun-dried tomato version at home.  Again, the presentation was impeccable.

Raw Marinated Mushrooms with Sunflower Seed Pate

Raw Marinated Mushrooms with Sunflower Seed Pate

We both wished we had several stomachs so we could try everything on the menu.  Alas, another day another time.  With our plates scraped clean, we turned our attention to dessert.  There was quite a variety of both raw, cooked, vegan and gluten-free sweet nothings to cap off a, so far, faultless dining experience.

Staying true to my raw roots, I chose the cinnamon maca slice and hubby went for a choc beetroot vegan cake.  I also ordered a mocha with oat milk.  I was curious about the desserts and coffee, as on previous occasions they were less than stellar.

best buds: beetroot + cacao

best buds: beetroot + cacao

raw cinnamon + maca slice

raw cinnamon + maca slice

Ohhh, so glad I saved room for dessert… and the mocha was excellent too.  Hot, thick and frothy.. just the way I like it.

From a year ago, this humble establishment has made leaps and bounds forward.  The presentation, quality and service has drastically improved.  Combined with their seamless amalgamation of nutrition, healing, overall health and well-being – this is one place to definitely mark on the map.  It’s proven to be a haven for the like-minded.  There are various events on the calendar such as pilates, tarot reading and educational seminars.  Another big tick – the café makes donations to the Greener Pastures Sanctuary in Waroona, Lighthouse Foundation and other animal-friendly charities too.

Satiated and happy, we said good-bye and are looking forward to our next visit.  I’m glad there’s an establishment like this in the Valley area.  Often, I hesitate on making the 30 min drive out as inevitably after winery-hopping and general roaming around hunger will beckon.  There is rarely anything on offer that suits my chosen lifestyle.  Until now!

Further notes on Swan Valley Vegetarian Café:

They’re actually licensed and offer a selection of vegan, organic & bio-dynamic wines (some from ‘The Valley’), as well as a range of gluten-free beers.  Whether its breakfast, lunch, brunch, high tea, special functions or catering, it’s pretty likely you’ll be well taken care of.

The tea store stocks their own range of herbal teas ‘Valley Tea’, with herbal blends specially formulated to benefit the body’s systems (brews include Slumber, Winter Blues, Adrenal Detox, Stressless, Purify, Inflammation Tea, Dieter’s Tea, as well as old favourites such as Irish Breakfast et al and much much more), Rooibos varieties and organic Green teas with hints of organic orange peel, lemon grass, lavender etc.  There’s Chinese white tea, Jasmine tea and of course the blooming teas – which I thoroughly enjoyed during this visit!  Check out Valley Tea for more info.

Besides tea, other drool-worthy items in store are Yummy Crunchy Granola, Organic Quinoa, Organic Coconut Sugar, Agave, Cacao, Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds, and Loving Earth Drinking Chocolate.  You’ll have to see the range for yourself.

Let me know what you guys think of this place!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Raw Vanilla Matcha Cheesecake with Sprouted Mung Bean Crust

This is by far my most experimental creation yet.  I must have been channeling Heston Blumenthal in a serious way!

I love my raw cheesecakes as much as anyone else, however the generous use of nuts in both the crust and the filling leave me feeling a little heavy.

I wanted to maintain the slight crunch factor characteristic of crushed nuts and thought sprouted mung beans would be a good substitute.

Mung beans are a common dessert in Asia, able to be served hot or cold and usually accompanied with generous lashings of sweetened coconut milk.

In keeping with the Asian influences, I opted for a regular vanilla filling using silken tofu, and sprinkled matcha powder on top.

For those that don’t know, matcha is finely milled or finely ground Japanese green tea.  The difference is you are consuming the whole tea leaf, not just the liquid from steeping it.  Therefore its nutritional benefits far outweigh traditional green tea (10x more in fact).  Here’s a concise matcha article which is quite informative – on a bodybuilding website out of all places!

In short, matcha….

  • Is packed with antioxidants including the powerful EGCg
  • Boosts metabolism and burns calories
  • Is a natural and effective detoxer
  • Mood and concentration enhancer
  • Rich in fibre, vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
  • Fights against viruses and bacteria
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

Raw Vanilla Matcha Tofu Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups sprouted mung beans
1 tbs coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped soaked dates (reserve liquid)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

protein-rich mung bean crust

protein-rich mung bean crust

Filling:

250g silken tofu
2-3 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs vanilla essence
3 tbs agave
reserved date liquid (to taste)
1 tbs lemon juice

To make the crust, simply food process all the ingredients until they come together.  Press the resulting paste into a springform pan and put in the freezer to harden while you make the filling.

Blend or food process the filling ingredients.  Taste test and adjust seasonings.  If it tastes a bit “tofu-ish” add more lemon juice and agave.

Once you’re happy with the taste of the filling, spoon it over the prepared crust.  Leave in the freezer to firm up, approx 1-2 hours.

Sprinkle with raw matcha powder for an antioxidant hit!

P.S. I mixed then froze leftover filling and mung beans… it’s like mung bean vanilla icecream!

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake