The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to prepare matcha?

Prepared matcha with a Japanese sweet. Wikimedia Commons.
I've been a fan of Japanese food and tea since I was 8, but I've never had matcha except in cookies and things. One of these days I've gotta get myself some matcha and a proper tea whisk and see if I can make it properly!

So what is matcha anyway? The region around Kyoto, Japan, is the most important region for the growing and production of matcha, which is made from gyokuro tea leaves that have been steamed before drying, and retain their fresh green color, vegetal flavor and aroma. The tea is also grown differently, kept in the shade just before harvesting. According to In Pursuit of Tea: “The vibrant green color in matcha comes from careful cultivation. Tea plants are covered with mats several weeks prior to harvest, making it difficult for them to receive nutrients. In this struggle, the plant produces more chlorophyll and its leaves become supple.” The tea leaves are de-veined and ground into powder between two stones, before being packaged for sale.

Traditional Japanese preparation of matcha can involve the beautiful and meditative Japanese tea ceremony, or a modified technique more suited to everyday life. The modernized way to make a cup of matcha calls for a few more tools than are necessary for standard tea-making: a fine wire strainer, a small bowl, and a small whisk. The normal kettle, tea cup and tea spoon are perfectly fine for matcha, although it ads to the ambiance to use real Japanese ones. Matcha powder is whisked into hot water until it is frothy, and the tea leaf powder is left in the cup, to be consumed with the liquor. Since the entire tea leaf is ingested, matcha provides a higher level of Vitamin C and antioxidants than the standard tea infusion does. Here is the simplified way to prepare matcha:

Fill the kettle with fresh water and bring it almost to the boil, or bring the water to the boil, and then pour it into an empty teapot and let it sit for a minute or two. Set the wire strainer over the bowl and measure two teaspoons of matcha powder into it, then sift the matcha into the bowl. Measure one heaping teaspoon of sifted matcha and add it to the empty teacup (put the rest in an airtight container for later). Fill the teacup about ¾ of the way with hot water. Use the whisk to break up the clumps of matcha powder, then use rapid back-and-forth motions to whisk the matcha into the water and make it frothy. When the surface of the matcha is covered with froth, drink and enjoy!

For a different experience, why not try adding some matcha powder to a vanilla milkshake, sprinkling it over some vanilla or chocolate ice cream, or working it into a batch of shortbread dough? You’ll have a delicious new treat!

“Japanese tea from San Jose’s Japantown”
“Tea tasting 101: characteristics of good quality green tea”
“Matcha magic: the health benefits of green tea”
In Pursuit of Tea newsletter and website
“Matcha Green Tea – What is it?” Youtube video
“How to prepare matcha” YouTube video
Japanese tea ceremony YouTube video
another Japanese Tea Ceremony video on YouTube
Tea ceremony put on by teachers in Shizuoka
Casual home-style Japanese tea ceremony

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)