Matcha is more than just a trendy drink; it is an ancient tradition deeply rooted in Japanese culture. Known for its unique flavor and numerous health benefits, this Japanese green tea has become increasingly popular worldwide due to its versatility and distinct taste.
However, many people are unaware that the secret to unlocking its full potential lies not only in choosing high-quality matcha but also in making it correctly. From the water temperature to the whisking technique, every step plays a crucial role in enhancing both the taste and health benefits of this ancient Japanese beverage. Learn all about the intricate art to preparing matcha correctly here to experience its optimal flavor profile and reap all of its incredible health advantages.
Table of contents
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a type of powdered green tea that has gained immense popularity in recent years. Originating from Japan, matcha has been an integral part of Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries and is now enjoyed worldwide for its unique flavor and numerous health benefits.
Derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is also used to produce traditional green tea, matcha is made by finely grinding shade-grown green tea leaves into a vibrant green powder. Unlike regular steeped tea where the leaves are discarded after brewing, with matcha, you consume the whole leaf, making it a more potent source of nutrients.
The history of matcha dates back to the 9th century when Buddhist monks introduced this powdered tea to Japan from China. Over time, matcha became deeply intertwined with Zen Buddhism and was popularized as a tool for meditation due to its ability to provide both calmness and alertness simultaneously.
Health Benefit of Matcha
1. High in antioxidants: Matcha contains high levels of catechins, a type of antioxidant polyphenol that helps protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants may contribute to reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
2. Boosts energy and focus: Matcha contains L-theanine, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol that promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness. Combined with caffeine present in matcha (though lower than in coffee), it provides a sustained energy boost along with improved concentration and mental clarity.
3. Supports weight loss: Matcha has been linked to aiding weight loss efforts due to its potential role in increasing metabolism and fat oxidation. Additionally, it can help suppress appetite while providing a natural energy boost without any added sugars or artificial additives often found in other beverages.
4. Enhances detoxification: The shade-grown process used for cultivating matcha increases chlorophyll production in the leaves. Chlorophyll helps eliminate toxins from the body and supports liver function, promoting overall detoxification.
reference : women’s health magazine
Choosing the Right Equipment
To truly appreciate the art of making matcha, it is crucial to have the right equipment. I will explain the essential tools required for preparing a perfect cup of matcha and provide useful tips on choosing the right ones.
Matcha tea bowl (Chawan): Traditionally handcrafted from ceramic or porcelain, a chawan provides ample space for whisking and enjoying your matcha comfortably. Select one with a wide mouth and sturdy base so that it feels comfortable in your hands while whisking. You can also use a large mug.
Bamboo Scoop (Chashaku): A chashaku allows you to measure out the precise amount of matcha needed per serving. It’s typically made from bamboo and adds an aesthetic touch to your preparation process. If you don’t have one, you can use an ordinary teaspoon instead.
Fine-Mesh Sifter : Using a fine-mesh sieve or sifter helps break up any lumps present in the matcha powder before whisking, ensuring a smooth and consistent cup of tea.
Bamboo matcha whisk (Chasen): A bamboo whisk is an indispensable tool used to create that characteristic foam/frothy texture in your matcha. Choose a chasen with at least 80 prongs as it helps blend the powder thoroughly without leaving any clumps.
Thermometer: While not essential, a thermometer can help you achieve the perfect hot water temperature for matcha. Aim for around 175°F (80°C) to prevent scorching the delicate tea leaves.
Small Whisk Stand: After whisking your matcha, it’s important to let your chasen dry completely to maintain its shape. A small whisk stand provides proper ventilation and helps prolong its lifespan.
Electric Frother (Optional) : Though not traditional, an electric milk frother can be used instead of a bamboo whisk if you’re short on time or prefer convenience over traditionality or if you simply don’t have a bamboo whisk.
Selecting Quality Matcha Powder
Using high-quality matcha powder is crucial to preparing matcha. However, finding it can be challenging due to the wide variety of options available nowadays. To help you make an informed decision and select the best matcha powder for your needs, here are some tips:
1. Look for vibrant green color: High-quality matcha powder should have a bright and rich green hue. Avoid dull or yellowish shades as they indicate inferior quality or oxidation.
2. Check the origin: Matcha primarily comes from Japan, where it is traditionally grown and processed. The region’s climate and fertile soil contribute to its superior taste and quality. Aim for matcha sourced from renowned Japanese regions like Uji, Nishio, or Kyoto.
3. Grades of Matcha : Opt for ceremonial grade. Matcha powders are generally categorized into culinary grade and ceremonial grade. Culinary grade matcha works well for baking or adding to smoothies but lacks the refined taste found in ceremonial grade matcha used for traditional tea ceremonies. If you want an authentic experience, go for ceremonial-grade matcha.
4. Smell the aroma: Good quality matcha green tea powder has a fresh grassy scent with sweet undertones. Take a whiff before purchasing to ensure its pleasant aroma.
5. Texture matters: Finely ground matcha dissolves easily when whisked with water without leaving any clumps behind. A good quality product will feel like silky smooth fine powder rather than grainy.
6. Consider organic certification: To ensure that your matcha is free from pesticides and other harmful substances, choose products with organic certification labels such as USDA Organic or JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard). This guarantees that the tea leaves were cultivated using environmentally friendly methods.
7. Read customer reviews: Before buying any specific brand of matcha powder, read online reviews from verified customers who have already tried it out themselves. Their experiences will give you insights into the taste, color, and overall quality of the product.
Remember, high-quality matcha powder can be a bit pricier than lower-grade alternatives, but it is worth investing in for an authentic and satisfying tea experience. So take your time to research and select the finest matcha powder that suits your preferences.
Preparing the Perfect Cup of Matcha
If you’re looking to prepare the perfect cup of matcha at home, follow these steps for an authentic and enjoyable experience.
1. Gather your tools: To make matcha, you’ll need a few essential tools including a bamboo whisk (chasen), a ceramic tea bowl (chawan), a bamboo scoop (chashaku), and a sifter(optional). These tools ensure proper preparation and enhance the overall taste.
2. Warm up your tea bowl: Before using your chawan tea bowl, it’s important to warm it up by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a moment. Discard the water and wipe the tea bowl with a clean kitchen towel.
3. Sift the matcha powder of two heaps of a bamboo spoon (or one teaspoon) to the tea bowl. This step helps remove any clumps or impurities present in the powder, resulting in a smoother consistency.
4. Add hot water: Heat fresh filtered water to boil. Transfer the boiled water to a pot lowering the temperature to optimal temperature around 175°F/80°C. Pour approximately 2 ounces (60-70ml) of hot water into the chawan over the matcha powder.
5. Whisk vigorously: Hold the handle of the whisk and whisk firmly but gently against the bottom of the bowl while using quick back-and-forth motions to create froth on top of the liquid surface. Whisking should be done in an “M” or “W” shape rather than a circular motion for better results.
6. Serve and savor: Once you’ve achieved a smooth consistency with froth on top, carefully lift your whisk from the bowl.
What to Serve with ?
Whether you enjoy it as a traditional Japanese tea ceremony or incorporate it into your daily routine, one question often arises: what should you serve with matcha? There is a variety of options from classic pairings to innovative combinations that perfectly complement the earthy and slight bitterness of matcha.
For the ultimate authentic matcha experience, serve the tea with traditional Japanese sweets called “wagashi”. These confections are often made to accompany the tea and so the flavours are perfectly balanced.
Here are some suggestions:
Although it’s not part of making a traditional cup of matcha, you can add milk to the matcha if you wish. Adding milk will turn this traditional drink into a delightful green tea latte and makes it easier for beginners who aren’t yet accustomed to the bitterness. Regular dairy milk and dairy-free options like soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk all work well. Adding honey or sweeteners is common in some recipes but it is also not traditional and diminishes the matcha flavour but it’s an option if you wish.
Tips for Making Matcha
- Choose High-Quality Matcha: The quality of matcha greatly influences its taste and overall experience.
- Pre-heat your tea bowl. This process helps maintain optimal temperature throughout preparation and ensures a smoother consistency.
- Use the Right Whisking Technique: Whisking matcha is an art that requires a gentle, yet vigorous motion. Whisk using quick back-and-forth strokes in the shape of a “W” or “M.” Gradually increase your speed while maintaining consistency until a frothy layer forms on top.
A : No, it will result in clumps in the matcha.
A : No, they don’t. Starbucks and other cafes in Japan offer matcha latte and matcha smoothies, but milk is not added in tea ceremonies or in the traditional and authentic preparation of matcha.
How to Make Matcha
- 1 matcha bowl (chawan)
- 1 bamboo spoon (chashaku)
- 1 bamboo whisk (chasen)
- 1 fine mesh sifter
- 1 thermometer
- 1 whisk stand (if you have)
- 1 tsp Matcha powder *1
- ¼ cup hot water *2
- Warm your tea bowl up by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a moment.
- Discard the water and wipe the tea bowl with a clean kitchen towel.
- Sift the matcha powder of two heaps of a bamboo spoon (or one teaspoon) to the tea bowl.
- Heat fresh filtered water to boil.
- Transfer the boiled water to a pot lowering the temperature to optimal temperature around 175°F/80°C.
- Pour approximately 2 ounces (60-70ml) of hot water into the chawan over the matcha powder.
- Hold the handle of the whisk and whisk firmly but gently against the bottom of the bowl while using quick back-and-forth motions to create froth on top of the liquid surface.
- Once you've achieved a smooth consistency with froth on top, carefully lift your whisk from the bowl.
- Serve with a Japanese wagashi.