How to make the perfect cup of Japanese Matcha green tea


Matcha tea (抹茶) has been grown and cultivated in Japan for centuries to maximize health benefits. To brew the perfect cup of matcha, one has to start at the source -- in our case, the tea farmers of Kansai region of Japan.

matcha harvest 

 

Growing Matcha

The Kansai region of Japan has been a source of matcha green tea since before the Edo period of Japanese history, spanning some 500 years and several generation of farmers, merchants and consumers. Over time, the Uji district just outside of Kyoto developed into the heartland of matcha tea farming, cultivation and distribution.

 

Harvesting Matcha

Japanese farmers harvest matcha green tea in the early summer months, after a special regimen of fertilization and preparation whereby the crops are shaded from the sun using kanreisha (寒冷紗) curtains in order to enhance both the flavor and an increase in the beneficial amino-acid L-theanine. We believe that the best tasting and healthiest matcha tea is harvested in narrow window of time from when the first leaf sprouts appear in early summer. The matcha harvest is an intense time when farmers work furiously to gather the best matcha tea leaves from the whole crop within a few days.

 

Processing

Matcha green tea is processed from leaves to the luxurious green powder in a four step process first developed in 1763 by Nagatani Sohen in the Uji district of Kansai, Japan. The leaves are first steamed for 30 minutes, then kneaded for an hour or more. Afterwards, the leaves are rolled into thin strips and then finally dried before cutting and sorting for packaging.

 

Tea Preparation

Preparing the perfect cup of matcha green tea is both a process and a ritual.  Japanese save their matcha tea in an air-tight (typically stainless steel) container called a 'Chazutsu' (茶筒). This helps to keep the tea fresh, but also to help keep it in electro-static powdered form, which helps enhance the flavor of the matcha tea. Keep your powder dry. Refrigerate as needed. Bring your matcha tea powder to room temperature before brewing.

 

(1) Brewing

Now you have a choice to make - are you going for a weaker matcha called 'Usucha' (薄茶) that is light bodied, and served with a  thick froth, or do you prefer a stronger matcha called 'Koicha' (濃茶) that is bolder with a creamy texture? For usucha, you will need about 80ml of hot water for a single cup of tea, and for koicha you will need about half of that or 40ml for one cup of tea.

Boil filtered or slightly hard spring water to a temperature between 180F and 200F degrees -- slightly lower than ideal coffee brewing temperatures. Fill a cast iron kettle for serving the water, and to keep the water at the right temperature while you prepare the tea mix.

 

(2) Mixing

Matcha is a powder based tea, although some of our tea kits do include tea bags for convenience, we recommend using a matcha powder. For the best results, you should use the driest, fresh powder. If needed, some of our kits include a sifter which can be used to remove any clumps from the matcha powder.

Into the chasen tea cup, pour two scoops (or about 1 teaspoon) of dry matcha powder.  For usucha, you may want to use less matcha powder. And for koicha, try using more generous amounts of matcha powder. 

Using the cast iron kettle, pour the hot water into the tea cup, slowly, fully saturating the matcha powder. Again, for usucha, about 80ml will be sufficient, and for koicha, about half that amount or 40ml will do.

Finally, using a 'Chasen' (茶筅) bamboo whisk, stir up the saturated matcha powder. For usucha, you will want to whisk more briskly to break up the proteins of the tea and create a rich foam head. For koicha, you will want to whisk more slowly and evenly to enhance the flavor of the natural tannins in the tea. 

 

(3) Serving

 Setting the chasen whisk and kettle aside, serve yourself, or, even better, your guest a hot cup of matcha green tea. Traditional Japanese tea rituals are rich in ceremony, cultural ennui and heritage. However, their social and contemplative nature is available to all. Most of all, enjoy your healthy cup of matcha -- slowly. After all, it's been a long journey!