You’re probably familiar with the buzz about matcha tea as it has become increasingly trendy on social media and in celebrity circles. This style of green tea isn’t exactly unique, seeing as it has been enjoyed for many centuries in Asia.
In recent years though, it has started to grab the interest of the United States and the rest of the Western world too, and probably for good reason.
It IS kind of special, and the potential health benefits have been closely studied and proven undeniable. In this article, we’re going to look into the origins of matcha, and how you can make it at home.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is made from dried shade-grown tea leaves that are ground into a delicate powder, giving it a very bright vibrant green color and a rich, earthy flavor.
Unlike with regular green tea (where you steep only the tea leaves in hot water), you consume the entire tea leaf when you drink matcha. So, you get all the benefits of its antioxidants and other healthy compounds that can help boost your immune system, improve mental clarity, lower blood pressure and even aid in weight loss, in one cup!
History of Matcha
As we’ve already mentioned, matcha is a type of green tea that Japanese tea drinkers have been enjoying for centuries. Even though people tend to associate it with Japan, that’s not actually where it originated.
Green tea itself originated in China during the 8th century but it wasn’t until a few centuries later that the concept of using powdered green tea leaves became popular. A Japanese Buddhist Monk, Eisai, studying in China, was impressed by how good quality matcha enhanced his Zen meditation sessions (because of the caffeine and L-theanine) and later brought it home to Japan.
This is where the real evolution of matcha began. Matcha later became the center of the Japanese Tea Ceremony which become popular in the 16th century. Even today, the matcha tea ceremony still provides great opportunities for meeting and intellectual exchange!
As the cornerstone of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, the preparation of matcha is an art form that involves a strict step-by-step process, and it’s performed as a way to show respect and hospitality to guests. If you ever visit Japan, there are lots of places for tourists to experience this age-old tradition and cultural phenomenon and it is well worth partaking in the ceremony.
Caffeine in Matcha
While matcha does contain some caffeine (19-44 mg of caffeine per gram according to Healthline.com), the amount of caffeine in matcha acts differently in the body to the caffeine in coffee or energy drinks. This is because it contains the amino acid L-theanine, which works together with caffeine to boost energy levels without causing jitteriness.
Though matcha usually contains less caffeine than coffee (this depends on its concentration and how much you use), people often report feeling more focused and alert after drinking it which can help with things like work and study. Even people with caffeine sensitivity may actually be able to tolerate matcha so it’s worth a try even if you don’t drink coffee.
Are there negative side effects to drinking matcha? Usually, there isn’t as long as you drink in moderation, however, it’s always important to monitor caffeine intake as too much caffeine can cause unpleasant issues such as diarrhea, headaches, and insomnia. And of course, pregnant women should limit their consumption of matcha and other green teas, although it’s not completely prohibited.
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How to Make Matcha
If you’re new to matcha, it’s easy to make and you can get started as soon as you buy your first matcha powder. While you could just put a spoonful into hot water and drink it, there is a “right” way to make matcha involving certain equipment if you want to experience the real matcha at its best.
Matcha powder is available to purchase on online marketplaces such as Amazon, tea websites, and health stores so it’s not hard to find, but you do need to be careful to purchase culinary-grade matcha, preferably produced in Japan. The following are some steps to finding and making the best quality matcha tea!
Find the Right Matcha
The quality of matcha is important, so it’s essential to find a good matcha product. High-quality matcha is bright green (it will probably be greener than you expect!) and has a fine, silky texture, almost like a green powder. If it looks dull or brownish then it may not be pure matcha or it probably isn’t fresh.
The origin also makes a difference. Japanese green tea powder is one of the best quality tea products in the world and is renowned for its superior taste. This is because Japan’s best tea-producing regions have the perfect climate and soil for growing high-quality ceremonial-grade matcha.
Always read the label carefully to make sure that you’re getting pure authentic matcha and not a tea mixed with other ingredients that could dilute its taste and health benefits.
Use the Right Equipment
Making a perfect cup of matcha (the ceremonial way) requires a specific set of equipment. Firstly, you will need a chawan, also known as a matcha bowl, which is a wide, shallow tea bowl that allows for easy whisking of the tea powder. Technically any bowl that you can whisk tea and drink from can be a chawan, but a traditional Japanese chawan for a ceremonial setting is usually a ceramic work of art and a very specific shape and size for whisking effectively.
Next, you will need a chasen, or a matcha whisk, which is made of a single piece of bamboo split into thin springy tines that when used, can create a fine creamy foam. A matcha sifter (fine, double mesh sieve) is also necessary to break up any clumps of tea powder and ensure a smooth texture.
Finally, a bamboo spoon or Japanese tea scoop called a chashaku which holds about 1/3 of a teaspoon is the authentic way to measure the tea powder accurately.
Do you need all these things to make matcha? The short answer is no, you can certainly make your matcha tea using ordinary household items such as an ordinary bowl, measuring spoon, and a mug if you’re making matcha for the first time.
But you may eventually decide to invest in authentic equipment and do it the right way if you want to experience the way of the traditional matcha tea ceremony!
Bring fresh water to boiling point and let it cool to around 80°C (176°F). This is the ideal temperature for making the best matcha. The correct water temperature (water that’s not too hot) makes all the difference to your cup of tea and its flavor.
The general guideline is that you should never, ever use boiling water to make matcha. This is because it’s possible to burn the matcha powder and increase the rate of oxidation. This makes the color change from its bright green color to yellow or brown and also gives it a more bitter taste which doesn’t taste particularly enjoyable.
Sift the Tea
Sift the matcha through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps or grainy particles. This will ensure a smooth and frothy tea and a better consistency for your tea.
Get the Ratio Correct – The Perfect Amount of Matcha
Measure your desired amount of matcha into your tea bowl. If it is your first time making matcha you’ll probably want to start with a small amount. In fact, a half teaspoon is usually enough for most people. Add approximately 1/3 cup of hot water and then you can adjust the matcha to suit your taste. If you prefer a stronger matcha, add more powder. If you prefer a milder matcha, dilute it with some water.
Whisk the Tea
The bamboo matcha whisk, also known as a chasen, is a tool that you may want to invest in if you take up drinking matcha as it helps to create a smooth and frothy texture. To use the bamboo whisk, you need to whisk the matcha powder and water in a zig-zag motion – a “W” or “M” motion to get the right consistency. A good alternative to a chasen, if you don’t want to purchase one, is a milk frother, which can also do a great job of frothing matcha.
How Much Matcha Powder Per Cup?
When it comes to making a perfect cup of matcha, the amount of matcha powder you use is important because using too much or too little powder can significantly affect the taste and texture of your drink. So, how much matcha should you use per cup?
Because you are consuming the entire leaf, matcha can be pretty strong tasting, and using too much powder can result in a bitter taste. Therefore, it’s recommended to start with a half teaspoon (about 1g) and adjust the amount according to your taste when you get used to it.
How to Serve Matcha The Traditional Way
Matcha tea is traditionally served in a small bowl called a chawan. To serve, the tea is poured into a smaller cup called a chataku (a traditional tea saucer). The chataku is then lifted with both hands and presented to the guest.
Matcha tea is often served with sweets, such as wagashi, which are traditional Japanese confections made from mochi, anko (sweet red bean paste), and other ingredients. The sweetness of the wagashi helps to balance the bitterness of the matcha making them a great accompaniment.
Other popular accompaniments to matcha include rice crackers, fruit, and savory snacks like edamame or rice balls.
How Much Matcha Should You Drink Per Day?
We know that matcha is a great source of antioxidants and nutrients and that it’s a healthy drink that the average person can benefit from when drinking it regularly. But how much matcha should you drink per day to get the most out of it?
According to researchers, you should aim to have at least 2 grams or two servings of matcha a day to experience its full range of health benefits. You do need to drink a cup of green tea matcha regularly, but the list of potential benefits makes it more than worth the short time it takes to brew it. Improved brain function, boosted immune system and even a lowered risk of chronic diseases is not something you want to ignore.
Keep in mind that the quality of matcha can also affect how much you should drink per day. High-quality matcha is more potent and flavorful than lower-quality matcha, so you may need to use less powder to achieve the same health benefits. Additionally, storing your matcha properly can help to keep it fresh and potent for longer periods.
You’ll need less matcha powder than you think!
Matcha is a long-standing pillar of Japanese culture and is a drink that is rapidly gaining popularity around the world and with good reason. While some drink this ceremonial tea for its unique flavor (which can be an acquired taste), it has mostly become trendy due to the energy boost it provides.
The caffeine and l-theanine in Japanese matcha combined create a clean energy without the jitteriness you might get with the caffeine alone (e.g. from drinking large amounts of coffee). Plus, this healthy beverage is also said to also boost cognitive performance and alertness, and who wouldn’t want some of that!
If you’re not normally a green tea drinker then might not like matcha straight away, but don’t be put off by the crazy green color or the strong taste which can take some time to get used to (just dilute it a bit!).
If a steaming cup of matcha is not your idea of heaven, then try something a bit different to get a matcha fix, for example, try a matcha latte, add some ice to make iced matcha latte, or even try some matcha ice cream!