Matcha (or maccha) is the finely powdered, high quality tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The word “matcha” means finely milled or fine powder green tea.
Matcha is made from the same shade-grown leaves used to make gyokuro. While gyokuro leaves are rolled out before drying, matcha leaves are laid out flat, causing them to crumble a bit. Then they are de-veined, de-stemmed and stone ground to a fine powder similar to talc.
These days, matcha is used for many things other than drinking and the Japanese tea ceremony. Among them, it is sprinkled over food or used to flavor noodles, desserts, coffee drinks and even alcoholic beverages.
Where to buy
High quality matcha can be difficult to find outside of Japan. You might find some in specialty tea shops or through a few online vendors. With this tea, you want to look at the color—it should be bright green. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Matcha
The method of preparation is completely different from other teas and requires a number of specialized implements. The basic equipment required is (with acceptable substitutes in parentheses):
Chawan or Tea Bowl (any similar sized bowl will work)
Chasen or Tea Whisk (a regular whisk will work, but not nearly as well)
Chashaku or Bamboo Tea Scoop (you can use a regular teaspoon, but it is NOT the same size; I’ll let you know in the instructions how much powder to use in tsp)
Matcha Tea Sifter (any fine strainer will work)
If you do plan on getting some of the implements used to prepare powdered green tea, you could save a lot of money by getting a set, which usually includes a tin of ceremony grade tea as well. This one from Art of Tea is a good choice:
Matcha, like most green teas, should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong teas, so you are going to need a way to accurately measure the water temperature.
A thermometer will work just fine for this, but heating water to the desired temperature becomes much simpler if you use a water boiler/warmer or even just an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend the utiliTEA kettle by Adagio Teas:
There are two main ways of preparing matcha: koicha (thick) and usucha (thin). Koicha is generally prepared with only the highest quality (ceremonial grade) powder and is used almost exclusively in the Japanese tea ceremony. Nevertheless, I will cover both methods here.
- Fill the matcha bowl about 1/3 with water to preheat it. Place the whisk facing down into the water to get the tips of the prongs wet, but avoid getting water on the handle. Set the whisk askide.
- Once the bowl has been heated, pour out the water and dry the bowl.
- Use the bamboo scoop to put 2 scoops (slightly less than 1 tsp) of powder in the bowl for usucha or 3-4 scoops (about 1.5 tsp) for koicha. If you are making usucha, I highly recommend using a sifter to sift the powder into the bowl to remove the clumps. For koicha, sifting is pretty much a necessity.
- Now you’ll need some water that is 70-80°C(158-176°F). For usucha, add 70ml (about 2.3oz) to the bowl. For koicha, add 40ml (about 1.3oz).
- Take the whisk in one hand and hold the bowl steady with the other. For usucha, whisk briskly with your wrist and not your arm in an ‘M’ motion, until the liquid develops a thick froth with many little bubbles covering the surface.
- For koicha, you want to avoid the frothiness of usucha, so you need to slowly knead the tea left to right and front to back, mixing in some occasional circular motions around the bowl until you get a thick consistency. The resulting tea should be thick and smooth, without any froth or bubbles.
- When whisking both teas, try not to scrape the whisk along the bottom of the bowl, but to let it float just above it.
- That’s it. Enjoy your tea!
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too bitter, you either used water that was too hot, too much green tea powder, or you did not whisk correctly. If you find your tea too mild, try increasing the water temperature or using more powder.
Basically, you’ll want to keep experimenting until you come up with the perfect brew for your particular taste. When you do, all that work will be worth it. A perfectly brewed cup of matcha is arguably the best cup of tea you will ever enjoy.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. The first two teas below are very good, but they can’t quite compare with those from some of the specialty shops I’ve listed underneath. The third one has a lot of good recommendations and two bad ones that have nothing to do with the quality of the tea, but I haven’t actually tried it yet myself.
Very good quality for a second harvest. 2.82oz.
Not the best I’ve had, but still very good. 1oz.
Ceremonial grade, but I haven’t tried it. 1.1oz
The best place I’ve found to buy matcha green tea powder online is Matcha Source. If you plan on making koicha, you’ll need a Ceremony Grade Matcha and Matcha Source sells the best I’ve ever had outside of Japan. They also have an outstanding Classic Grade Organic Matcha which is well-suited for making usucha.
Art of Tea also offer both a Ceremonial Matcha and a Classic Grade Matcha for a slightly lower price than Matcha Source. I haven’t tried either of these myself, but I’ve been very happy with all the other teas I’ve purchased from their site.