Matcha has become very popular recently because of how unique it is as a tea and how healthy it is considered to be. It is high in antioxidants and as you consume the tea leaves, not just the infusion, it is better for you than other green teas. I drink tea purely for taste and enjoyment so this is not the reason I love Matcha. I love the taste, I love the way it is prepared and I love how versatile it is. Matcha is perfect if you need some energy in the morning or as an early afternoon pick me up. It gives slow releasing energy that can supposedly last up to 6 hours, rather than the burst, and then crash, of energy that coffee or energy drinks give.
I drink ceremonial grade Matcha because it is the highest grade available. It is stone-milled and is prepared in very small batches. Ceremonial grade Matcha is the grade of tea used in the Japanese ‘Way of Tea’, which is their tea ceremony. I have seen a tea ceremony rein-acted at the British Museum and would highly recommend it if you get the chance as it really helps you to appreciate the history of Matcha and how it is intended to be prepared and drunk. Matcha is an expensive tea and you need to be prepared to look around and spend the money in order to get the best quality.
I have ceremonial grade tea for drinking and a lower grade to use for cooking. The difference in quality is reflected by the difference in colour. Good quality Matcha should be a vibrant green rather than the dull green that the lower quality is. I have seen low grade Matcha sold as high grade so don’t let yourself get caught out! The best way to ensure you buy good quality tea of any kind is to buy tea that is easily traceable.
The best place to store Matcha is in the fridge or freezer as it does not keep as well as other loose leaf teas because of the way it is produced. Matcha is a strong and very unique tasting green tea which makes sense as you are consuming the tea leaf. I don’t agree with those who mask the taste and drink it for just health benefits. You just need to prepare the tea well to make the most of the taste.
Matcha is prepared in a unique way using the same teaware as the Japanese ‘Way of Tea’. Matcha is drunk out of a tea bowl (chawan) rather than from a cup and is whisked into water, rather than brewed, using a chasen which is carved from a single piece of bamboo and should have 120 tines. Using the correct whisk does affect how well the tea is made. The chawan should have steep sides so you are able to whisk the tea in the correct manner. The correct amount of Matcha is measured by using a tea scoop (chasaku) although a teaspoon would suffice.
Traditional Matcha Method
Matcha should be prepared using filtered water which has been boiled and then cooled to between 75- 80C. I usually use 80C water as it cools quickly when the Matcha is being prepared. 1-2 teaspoons (or 2-3 chasaku scoops) of Matcha should be used per bowl depending on how strong you want it. I sieve the tea into the bowl using a tea strainer in the same way you would sieve flour when baking. I put a touch of the 80C water into the bowl and use the whisk to make a paste as this helps with whisking and ensures the Matcha has a good consistency. I then add one quarter of the water (50ml as my bowl holds 200ml) and whisk quickly and consistently in a ‘w’ shape.
Do not put the whisk to the bottom of the bowl as you only need to whisk on top of the water. When the tea is mixed well and has a good froth I then add the remainder of the water and whisk again. The frothier the tea the better! The tea is then ready to drink. A bowl can not be filled to the top as space is needed for whisking.
The preparation of Matcha takes practice as the whisking action and getting a good froth doesn’t usually come first time. Also, I have found that I have had to adjust the quantities of water I whisk with depending on the Matcha used. This means that there can be a bit of trial and error involved!
Matcha Latte Method
A Matcha latte is prepared in the same way as the traditional method… except with milk rather than water. I use full fat milk as I think it tastes better. I warm the milk in a pan until it is around 80C (I use a cooking thermometer) and whisk the Matcha in the same method as above. I have one whisk to use with water and one to use with milk. You can stir a teaspoon of honey into the milk when it is warm to make a sweeter latte but if the matcha is good quality it doesn’t need it.
If you want Matcha ‘on the go’ it may not be practical with all the teaware involved but there other ways. You can use cold water or milk to prepare it with and mix together instead of whisking. You can also add a spoonful to fruit smoothies or to yoghurts. If you decide to prepare it at home to take with you, make sure you don’t use a metal thermos as it will really taint the taste of the tea. Matcha is really versatile so just experiment! It can also be used in cooking for both sweet and savoury dishes.
I mostly buy my Matcha from Postcard Teas because it is ceremonial grade and can be traced all the way back to the field in which it was grown.