Brewing Tea at Home: Japanese Matcha

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Japanese Matcha is one of those teas that may be intimidating to make at home for most daily drinkers, even for those of us who adore drinking loose leaf tea. But consider this, powdered tea was one of the original ways that humans drank tea! All you need to make this deliciously rich tea are some basic tools and a willingness to experiment. Check out the video below that we produced in the tea shop. Here we make Matcha influenced by a traditional style. If you have the tools ( bamboo whisk, strainer, matcha bowl, tea scoop, and water scoop) that is truly great. If you do not have them and want to purchase them, see the our matcha supplies…we have two really cool starter sets that are worth checking out! But if you want to use what you have in your kitchen to make matcha at home, then keep reading this blog. Also scroll down for some history of Matcha!

Making Matcha at home:

  • Materials: 1 whisk, 1 small bowl, hot water, matcha powder
  • Warm your bowl (and warm your whisk if you have a bamboo one)
  • Add 1 teaspoon of matcha powder (per 1 cup of water) to your warmed bowl. (if you can sift the powder first, this will allow for less residue)
  • Add 1 cup of water that has boiled but left to slightly cool (80-90c is best)
  • Add this water to your powder then whisk using a “w” motion with your wrist
  • Drink and enjoy!

To experiment in my kitchen I used a little metal whisk that I typically use to make pancakes or crepes. Often common home whisks can leave clumps in your bowl, but in this case it worked fairly well for my Matcha. The traditional bamboo whisk worked way better for getting a nice froth and evenly distributing the tea. But, the metal whisk did the basic job so I was happy.

Pro Matcha Making Tips:

  • When you try at home, if it is too strong, try less matcha…a little goes a long way
  • A more traditional bowl of matcha is with a smaller amount of water (think an espresso of tea!), try 1/2 tsp matcha and 4 oz water
  • If don’t like clumps in your bowl of matcha, we’ll say it again…get a bamboo whisk! Choose the functional lower priced option, or the Japanese master crafted work of art!
  • If you’re looking to make a “Matcha Latte” (adding milk and/or sweet), there are a few options!
    1. Whisk the tea with water first, as per directions above. You may want to half the amount of water, then add equal amount of hot milk
    2. Make “Hot Chocolate Style”: put everything in a saucepan and whisk until the milk starts to steam

Now for a little background. Infusing full tea leaves was not widely done until 1391 a.c.e. (over 800 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty in what we now know as China) when the Hongwu emperor outlawed the commonly drunk powdered milled wax tea because it “overtaxed the people.” Below is a neat illustration of how powdered tea was steeped before being outlawed during the Song Dynasty. Wax tea was made by picking the leaves, grading them, washing, steaming, pressing, then grinding and pressing into a mold where it was roasted over a slow fire and topped by sealing it with camphor.

While whisking powdered tea was invented in China during the Song Dynasty, this practice took root and became a part of the institution of Japanese Chanoyu ceremony (literally this translates as “boiled water for tea”). Whisking powdered tea may have its roots in China but it is now uniquely expressive of Japanese culture. I will not write about the ornate Chanoyu ceremony in this post but if you are curious to learn more about this ancient art check out The Japanese Tea Ceremony by A.L. Sadler. What I will leave you with are the words of the famous buddhist monk Sen Rikyu who contributed greatly to the philosophy and art of Chanoyu. Sen Rikyu says:

Chanoyu of the small room is above all a matter or performing practice and attaining realization in accord with the Buddhist path. To delight in the refined splendor of a dwelling or taste the delicacies belongs to the worldly life. There is shelter enough when the roof does not leak, food enough when it staves off hunger. This is the Buddhist teaching and the fundamental meaning of Chanoyu. We draw water, gather firewood, boil the water, and make tea.”

And he wrote:

“Tea is nought but this, first you make the water boil, then prepare the tea.

Then you drink it properly. That is all you need to know.”

For now, try making Matcha in your homes. Perhaps try creating a bit of your own ritual with some of this rich history in mind. If you are interested in learning more about Japanese Sencha please read my blog on the topic.

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