How to Make Matcha Tea

May 20, 2010

Sixth months ago my sister-in-law sent me toddling off to their guest casita with a mug of steamy, frothy, green matcha tea, just the type of unexpected culinary experience one comes to expect from Los Angeles. The flavor was beguiling: vegetal, bitter, a little sweet at the finish.  It’s not the type of flavor one loves immediately; it’s the kind one tastes and says, “I would like to learn to love you.”

If you’re looking for a reason to learn to love it, they abound.  Matcha is made of pulverized green tea leaves, so you’re actually consuming the plant matter, not just steeping it in water.  Every cup has ten times the antioxidants of regular green tea.  We know regular green tea is great for your skin, so increasing the antioxidants by the tenth power can’t hurt.  Matcha’s high chlorophyll content helps rid your body of toxins, it’s crammed with cancer-fighting catechins, and mood enhancing amino-acids (which incidentally contribute to its umami creaminess).  Read more about the growing process and health benefits.

Another benefit to ingesting the leaf itself is the steady caffeine drip once it’s in your system.  I never feel shaky, sweaty or amped up after a cup.  The mild, prolonged energy boost leaves me feeling bright and ready to focus.

So that’s WHY you might want to drink matcha.  What about the how?

First, look for Japanese organic, shade-grown matcha.  I tried three teas:  DoMatcha (you may have seen that one at WholeFoods), O-Cha’s Organic Matcha Kaoru Supreme, and Yuuki-Cha’s Organic Uji Matcha Tenkei Tori.  I prefer the Yuuki-Cha (to me it tastes grassy and clean), but I happily drink all of them.

You’ll need the tea, a bowl, a small scoop, a sifter, and a bamboo whisk, known as a chasen:

The chasen is critical to getting the  right froth.  If you’re buying the tea it’s worth buying the chasen.  This one comes with a handy bamboo scoop.

1. Using the bamboo scooper, scoop 1 1/2 scoops (about 1 tsp) onto the sifter over the bowl.

2. After shaking the sifter back and forth, small pebbles of tea will remain.  Break these gently with the back of the bamboo scoop until they’re small enough to pass through the sifter.

3. Add a small amount of hot water, just enough to make a paste with the sifted tea.  (It should not be boiling.  Boil it and then allow it to cool a bit.)

4. Once the matcha is mostly dissolved, add water to about 2/3 the bowl’s capacity.  You’ll need plenty of space for whisking.

5. Briskly whisk, making M or W shapes in the bowl.  It’s helpful not to drag the whisk across the bottom; you’ll be able to whisk faster if you’re just agitating the liquid.  Whisk until you have an even covering of small bubbles.

Need to see the whisking in action? See video here.

Although it’s not at all traditional, you can add milk or soy milk and use an electric frother to make a latte.  I add a few drops of agave syrup, which would also be frowned upon by traditionalists.  But hey, it’s tasty.

Enjoy your matcha and if you get serious consider Yukka-Cha’s beautiful bowls.  Winter bowls have vertical sides to retain heat, while summer bowls have sloped sides for cooling.

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