What is Matcha?

Matcha is a popular Japanese green tea style where, in the simplest form possible, the tea is made by grinding the leaves into a fine powder, and then whisking them into hot water. The method is actually one of the oldest ways tea was enjoyed, and most teas during the Chinese Tang and Song Dynasties were ground into a powder and dissolved into water. It was around this time that tea culture first spread to Japan, and while powdered tea had begun to fall out of fashion in China by the end of the Song Dynasty, in Japan tea diverged into a unique branch.

Modern Japanese Matcha is not just simply any powdered green tea, though. During the last few weeks before harvesting the plants are covered with a sun shade to reduce the amount of light getting to the leaves and increase the amount of chlorophyll in them. The result is an intense green colour and a rich, vegetal and sweet flavour.  

Matcha is made by first steaming the leaves after allowing them to oxidise. After the steaming, the leaves are spread to dry and passed through a cooling oven. The tea leaves are then put through small grinding mills which grind the leaves into a fine powder. Traditionally this grinding process was done by hand, but in the modern world, this part of the process is often automated. Care has to be taken to grind the tea leaves slowly enough to keep the grinder as cool as possible to prevent it from heating the Matcha.

Matcha is traditionally served in fairly large ceramic bowls, with the powder first being put through a sieve to break up any clumps and to ensure that the powder is all uniform size. A wooden spatula called a chashaku is used to scoop the matcha into the sieve. 70-85°C water is used, with the mixture being whipped using a bamboo whisk called a chasen. The mixture is whipped to a uniform consistency ensuring that no lumps are left and a light froth is created on the surface. This process forms the core of the Japanese tea ceremonies.