Sommelier Secrets: Matcha Demystified


note that this article was previously published on September 27th, 2012

Matcha is a Japanese green tea made by grinding the leaves of a minimally processed tea called tencha into an extremely fine, bright green powder. One of the most delicious and purest expressions of tea, it is also among the least understood outside Japan.

Matcha traces its origin to the powdered tea brought back from China by Japanese monks in the 12th century for use as an aid in meditation. Upon its introduction to Japan, it became the tea of choice for the Emperor and the nobility and rituals surrounding its preparation became codified in the formal Japanese tea ceremony called chanoyu.

Easy steps for preparing great matcha (usucha method):

  1. Preheat the chawan (tea bowl) by pouring very hot, but not boiling, water just enough to fully cover the bottom, or about 1/4 the depth of the bowl. If desired, the chasen (tea whisk) may also be preheated by immersing the tips of the tines in the hot water as the bowl heats
  2. When the bowl is warm to the touch, discard the water and dry the inside.
  3. Holding a fine-mesh sieve over the tea bowl, use a chashaku (bamboo tea scoop) or a matcha teaspoon to place one to two moderately sized scoops into the sieve.
  4. Softly shake the sieve, allowing the matcha to fall into the bowl. Use the tea scoop to gently press any remaining matcha through the sieve and into the bowl.
  5. Slowly add 2-3 oz. of 160-170 degree water to the matcha
  6. Grasp the bowl with one hand to steady it, and with the other hand use the chasen to whisk quickly but lightly in an “M” shape for 10-20 seconds, eliminating larger bubbles as they appear. Be careful not to scrape the bottom of the bowl with the whisk. The goal is to create a uniform layer of extremely small, foam-like bubbles on the surface of the tea.
  7. Admire the beautiful color and fragrance of the tea, sip, and enjoy!

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