There are infinite tea varieties out there, but matcha is one of the most fascinating, with its vibrant green hue and unique backstory. It infuses drinkers with energy and has a creamy, decadent nature when prepared properly.
Matcha also contains a treasure trove of health benefits, but its effect is what has us hooked. Coffee might leave you feeling on edge, but you’ll never crash after consuming a cup of matcha. Apart from the long-lasting energy effects, this tea has an equally enticing (and some would say acquired) taste.
Some people are on the fence when it comes to the taste or price of matcha. But if you invest in the right variety and learn the history behind this carefully cultivated plant along with the tools used to correctly make a cup of matcha, you’ll come to appreciate this precious powder for its true value. We’re here to help out with each step along the way, from choosing the right matcha to getting the perfect flavor balance in your own recipe. Here’s the most vital info to enhance every sip, for amateurs and matcha lovers alike.
What is Matcha?
You’ve probably seen the mysterious powder lining the shelves of a tea shop, or maybe you’ve read about it on healthy eating blogs. Traditionally, matcha has been considered a sacred tea and was used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
Unlike other forms of green tea which are steeped and then brewed, this powder is derived by grinding whole green tea leaves, which increases potency. Nearly a month before harvesting, farmers extract the highest quality leaves of the green tea plant, shading them so that they grow more slowly.
This shading increases chlorophyll, which is responsible for the bright green color. It also boosts L-theanine, an amino acid naturally found in tea that has memory and learning benefits. It has extremely relaxing properties but doesn’t induce sleepiness. When ready, these leaves are hand-picked and steamed to stop the process of oxidization. Then, veins and stems of leaves are individually removed in a meticulous process.
How To Choose Quality Matcha
We suggest purchasing organic matcha, since the leaves are being directly consumed rather than brewed, and non-organic varieties could contain pesticides.
When picking your matcha, pay attention to color. The more it takes on that magical green hue, the purer it is. When browner tones seep in, it can meet that leaves weren’t shaded enough, or were harvested too late. A muddier color means a more bitter and muddy taste as opposed to the sweet nuttiness of a well-harvested batch. For texture, look for a fine and powdery feel over a sandy or grainy one.
Don’t buy matcha that has come from a bulk-style store, as air-tight storage is necessary to ward off the oxygen and moisture that oxidizes matcha and degrades its quality.
There are three different matcha grades, including ceremonial grade, latte grade, and culinary grade.
Ceremonial: The best for those who plan on drinking their tea with just hot water, ceremonial blends are made from the finest leaves.
Latte: The most available grade of matcha you’ll find, these leaves are slightly less expensive than ceremonial blends, and come from the first harvest leaves. They’re premium quality but taste best with milk.
Culinary: If you plan on adding your matcha to a smoothie or baked goods, invest in culinary grade, which is more budget-friendly as it’s made from later harvests. However, when drunk, it will have a distinctly bitter taste.
What Does Matcha Taste Like?
Some people are on the fence about its slightly green taste when compared to a rich espresso. Different kinds of matcha offer a range of nuanced tastes, but they all carry elements of bitterness, nuttiness and grassiness.
However, that taste can vary based on how you prepare your matcha tea — dairy and sweeteners can all affect the final taste. Origin also has to do with taste — the higher grade matcha you invest in, the more likely you are to experience a higher amount of creaminess and a lower amount of bitterness.
Does Matcha Have Caffeine?
Because of the L-theanine we mentioned previously, you get a peaceful overtone to your caffeinated experience. The effect of matcha’s caffeine is one of revitalized zen, rather than jittery anxiety.
As matcha is cultivating by creating a stone-ground powder, it has a higher caffeine level than similar green teas that are brewed. There are approximately 60-70 milligrams of caffeine per teaspoon of matcha, which has about 70% of the strength of an average cup of coffee. You can always experiment with tolerance and increase dosage if you like a strongly caffeinated jolt to start your day.
Users love the calm energy that matcha creates and maintains throughout the day, unlike coffee, which sends you into a downward spiral as the day goes on.
How Do You Drink Matcha?
Preparing with water is the traditional way of preparing matcha, but many tea drinkers prefer to drink it as a latte, which tastes creamier. If you’re preparing with water, whisk the powder directly into the hot water and drink it as you would a black coffee.
If you prefer some milk and sugar with your morning drink, you can add steamed milk for a delicious take on a hot latte. Preparing it cold removes bitterness from the profile and brings out the natural sweetness. When preparing cold, consider adding the powder to a very small amount of hot water first, so that the clumps can dissipate.
There’s nothing more unpleasant than getting a chalky ball of dry matcha in your drink. The best way to eliminate this is to use a wooden matcha whisk, dabbing the matcha before distributing it by moving the whisk in circles until some foam froths at the top.
Figuring out the right dosage of matcha powder can be tricky, but we suggest starting with 1/2 a teaspoon to a teaspoon per cup, which contains a similar amount of caffeine to a small coffee.
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
Filled with anti-inflammatory goodies, antioxidants, and nutrients, matcha’s effects go way further than bringing you a peaceful state of mind. The unsung hero in this tea is an antioxidant known as catechin, which contains EGCG, or Epigallocatechin gallate. This is a powerful plant compound that acts as a preventative measure against diseases and obesity. For this reason, many people consume matcha to encourage fat burning, glowing skin, along with a boosted immune system and memory. These are just a few of the many benefits that consuming this superfood can have on your body.
Things You Need for the Ultimate Cup of Matcha
Bamboo whisk: Your whisk, or “chasen,” Is a delicate bamboo whisk that mixes matcha’s very fine particles in liquid with multiple bamboo prongs. Clean with hot water and air dry.
Whisk holder: Usually made of a ceramic base, this helps your brush maintain its shape which will extend its life.
Tea bowl: Traditionally referred to as “chawan,” this is the bowl where you both whisk and consume your tea.
Bamboo spoon: Your spoon, or “chashaku” measures your dosage, but you can also use measuring spoons at home.
Fine strainer: Used to sift your matcha, this is optional for your recipe but reduces clumps.
Tea towel: Used for cleaning up matcha spills, because that green hue really does stick to things! The tea towel also your dries tea bowl,
Matcha kit (optional): If buying the right kind of tea and materials separately seems overwhelming, purchase a kit like this that has all the materials you need, minus the tea.
How to Make Matcha Tea
1. Preheat tea bowl with hot water, and moisten your whisk. Empty the water and use a towel to dry bowl.
2. Scoop 1/4 teaspoon to a teaspoon of matcha per cup of hot water. Replace with milk for lattes. If making iced, create a paste with the powder with a small amount of water, then stir.
3. If a mesh strainer is available, you can pour your tea or latte through the strainer to remove clumps.
3. Firmly hold the bowl and whisk in a circular motion until a froth appears. Use the tip of the whisk to dismantle clumps and enhance creaminess.
4. Place the whisk in the center of the foam. Wait until the excess liquid drips off into the bowl and then remove it.
5. Pour into a fresh cup and enjoy!