Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Tea is classified into types according to the time of harvest and how much the leaves are allowed to oxidize; but it is almost always brewed simply by steeping the loose tea leaves with water.
Enter the Japanese matcha, which belongs in a class of its own.
Matcha is made by grinding top quality green tea leaves down into powder, to which hot water is added. It is then carefully yet vigorously mixed into a frothy and rich concoction.
Indeed, when drinking matcha, one is consuming the entire leaf, and so matcha is known to be extra bitter, extra flavorful and packed with extra nutrients as compared to all other forms of tea.
How to select your matcha
Matcha is a refined drink; it costs a little more than your average tea, and it also has a much more exquisite taste when brewed correctly. If you are going to purchase and try some anyway, we recommend looking for a quality product for a quality experience.
- Country/City of origin
While many countries can stake their claim on the quality of their tea, when it comes to matcha Japan is the undisputed number one. Within the country, Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture and Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture are widely seen as producing the highest quality matcha. Uji City, in particular, is synonymous with the product, with certain confections literally named Uji Kakigori (Uji Shaved Ice), which any Japanese will instantly know to mean Matcha flavored shaved ice.
- Grade Label
Matcha comes in many grades, especially in quality obsessed Japan. Depending on the company, the names of the grades will defer, but they are usually classified into 3 broad categories : Ingredient Grade (For use in making desserts and confections), Tea Grade (For brewing, and this may have many levels) and Ceremonial Grade( The top one, two levels reserved for the rarest of occasions, and usually costing a fortune).
If buying matcha from a shop where customers get to see the yet unpackaged tea powder, color is a good way to easily distinguish the quality of the matcha. The best matcha is a brilliant emerald green, indicating high levels of chlorophyll in young tea leaves. Lesser products are derived from leaves that are either older or less tended – these are a little more yellowish.
- Fineness of powder
The finer the powder, the silkier and more delicious the matcha. Coarser powders tend to clump together and don’t dissolve as well into the beverage.
How to brew Matcha
1. Gather the required tools.
You will need : Matcha Powder, Water, Tea cup (Final cup for drinking), Tea bowl (For whisking), Tea whisk(also known as chasen), strainer.
2. Ladle 1 1/2 teaspoons of matcha powder into the tea bowl over the strainer.
Always use a strainer, and lightly press the powder through the strainer to break up clumps.
3. Boil water. Allow the boiled water to cool to about 85 degrees celcius. (or about 1 minute)
4. Carefully pour about 50ml of water into the same tea bowl.
5. Using the tea whisk, whisk to combine.
There are two main whisking motions for two different outcomes.
For a thinner, smoother tea, whisk lightly in a circular motion.
For a foamy, stronger tea, whisk with more vigour (using the wrist as a pivot) in a up-down motion (like drawing an M over and over).
6. Pour out the tea into a tea cup and enjoy!
The traditional tea ceremony
Matcha has become a very popular beverage all over the world; the matcha drink and matcha flavored products can be easily purchased at many cafes and restaurants. Follow the guide above and it can also be made at home with little hassle.
However, matcha was made for hassle.
Matcha was designed not simply a drink, but one part of a much larger tea ceremony experience that began with guests entering a small tea hut and watching intently as a skilled master, with immaculate elegance, brewed the drink and then served the tea down a line of honored guests.
The practice of the tea ceremony was a spiritual exercise originally meant only for nobles, monks or for the children of young families as part of their upbringing (and bridal training). While it remains a highly sophisticated art and is performed with great care, today it is accessible to anyone who wishes to experience this important cultural asset of Japan and enjoy freshly brewed matcha.
While we hope that our guide will help you select and brew matcha in the comfort of your own home, we also highly recommend everyone to experience the traditional tea ceremony for themselves in Japan.
Let me introduce you to some of the popular matcha bowls at MUSUBI KILN. All of them are carefully handcrafted by Japanese artisans.