Tea 201 – What is Matcha?

matcha Tea 201   What is Matcha?

Pre-Whisked Dry Matcha

Whenever I walked into a tea shop, I had always seen the bamboo whisk pictured above but could never figure out what it had to do with tea…apparently it is all in the matcha.

Matcha is a powdered green tea of the highest quality in Japan.  This type of tea is traditionally used in chanoyu/the Japanese Way of Tea.  The directions on preparing the tea are simple: add the powdered green tea to hot water, use the whisk to thoroughly mix the powder and water, drink and enjoy.  No sugar is needed.  However, if you must indulge your sweet tooth, a sweet is allowed prior to drinking the matcha as long as it complements the tea’s flavor.

There are two types of matcha: koicha/thick tea and usucha/thin tea.  The names are quite self-explanatory.  For thick tea, more tea is needed in proportion to water.  The end result is a thick creamy soup.  On the other hand, for the thin tea it is more water needed in proportion to the tea.  Then the mix is whisked together to create a light and frothy beverage.

Matcha is grown in the Uji area which is southwest of Kyoto.   The leaves are picked in early May and lightly steamed in order to prevent fermentation as well as allowing the tea to retain its vibrant green color.  The leaves are dried then stored until November when the plants are stone-grounded when needed.

When storing your matcha, be advised that you should not store it like a normal tea.  Matchas should always be stored in a freezer in either an air-tight container or plastic bag.  When you are ready to drink your matcha, you must let the powder rose to room temperature and then strain it through a fine sieve.

So little did you know that not all teas come in leaf form! What do you think, dear readers?

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4 Responses to “Tea 201 – What is Matcha?”

  1. Maggie F says:

    Having participated in a Japanese Tea Ceremony, I can tell you that although the actual tea itself it easy to make, it is extremely precise. The amount of force used behind whisking the tea and the technique used to handle the whisk is require a level of precision. The tea ceremony I went to was held by my Japanese professor and I am not sure how many she had gone to in Japan. There are also ritualized conversations that are involved and a precise code of conduct.

    Matcha is also used in the making of a Japanese sweet called Hanami Dango (translation: flower watching dumpling)and I also believe it is used to make green tea ice cream.

    All in all, I would say that this is a very informative post on a specific type of Japanese tea and i thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  2. Tea-Guy says:

    Thanks for the feedback Maggie! You’re right, Matcha is a complex product requiring the right nuance to perfect.

    That being said Matcha actually comes in three general grades:

    Ceremonial Grade
    Standard Grade
    Food Grade

    The food grade Matcha is what is used to make our yummy ice creams, candy bars, cupcakes and Hanami Dango.

  3. I have yet to try straight tencha (de-veined gyokuro leaves before stone-grinding). It’s on the to-drink list.

  4. Tea-Guy says:

    I’ve had Tencha from Harney & Sons. I enjoyed it personally. The flavor fell somewhere between Gyokuro and Matcha. Equally interesting for the palate and nose. Very nice.

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