Joburg genius confectioner’s latest creations: matcha chocolate and marshmallows

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Do you have a penchant for matcha green tea? You’re in luck: Karen Schneid-Lieberman of Joburg-based Ooh la la Artisan Confectionery has launched a range of treats flavoured with this alluring green leaf powder.

While Ooh la la is perhaps best known for French-inspired confectionery like its multiple award-winning calissons, nut brittles and nougats, this departure eastwards is less strange than you might think. There has long been a love affair between the French and the Japanese cultures, says Karen: most notably in the French method of making confection and pastry combined with Japanese flavours. “In Paris they’re not particularly interested in the West,” she explains. “They look to Tokyo for inspiration.”

After spending time in the tea-houses of France herself, Karen started experimenting with Asian flavours. She made her first emerald-hued matcha chocolate about two years ago, but battled to get South African consumers to understand the product. Since then, however, matcha has captured more attentionfrom producers and consumers in trend-setting circles.

By now, many food lovers are familiar with this fine powder of leaves that’s stirred into hot water in traditional Japanese tea-drinking ceremonies. Among its many benefits is a high percentage of antioxidants (30 times more than green tea); the ability to help regulate blood sugar and reduce blood pressure; and a pleasant caffeine kick.

“We don’t make any health claims for our products, but matcha has been known to speed up your metabolism and make you lose weight…” Karen teases, hinting at the advantages of her matcha chocolate. And in case you’re wondering about the colour – that bright green shade of matcha is all natural.

“In Japan, matcha is grown in special conditions in the shade – with the result of high levels of chlorophyll in the leaves. It is then hand picked, dried and stone ground,” explains Karen.

In the Ooh la la confectionery range, the powder’s soft vegetal flavour is complemented by another Japanese favourite, the nutty citrusy notes of dried yuzu zest. The small selection includes matcha green tea and yuzu chocolate; a bergamot marshmallow enrobed in matcha chocolate and sprinkled with yuzu zest; and, a true marriage between France and Japan, a matcha calisson. Ooh la la will also sell matcha in powder form for its many benefits and uses.

The team is about to embark on a trip to Japan to host a stand at FOODEX to show off the matcha range and find more inspiration. “I’m excited to see what Japan has to offer,” Karen tells us. “The Japanese are very advanced in terms of their confections, and their ingredients and packaging are amazing.”

We can’t wait to see what Ooh la la does next. Visit the website to order some matcha treats to taste for yourself.