Matcha is a bright-green Japanese powdered tea that boasts both caffeinating and calming powers. And while it's been a part of traditional tea ceremonies for centuries, there are many home brewers who have yet to whip up their own cups. To learn more about the earthy-tasting tea, we spoke to Rona Tison from Ito En Tea's Matcha Love. Here's what she had to say:
Food52: How is matcha different from other green teas?
RT: Matcha is finely milled, powdered whole-leaf green tea. Created from shade-grown tea leaves called tencha, it is different from other green teas in that the whole leaf is dissolved and consumed, rather than steeped. Farmers adhere to traditional techniques, like the critical shaded growth period, which draws vital nutrients from the roots into the tea leaf prior to harvest. The high-quality green tea leaves are carefully picked, steamed, and dried out to preserve their vibrant color and concentrated nutrients. From there, dried leaves are then finely ground, preserving the full health benefits and vitality of the entire green tea leaf.
Food52: What are tools used to brew and serve matcha?
RT: Matcha is traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony, chado or chanoyu. It is whisked in a tea bowl, rather than steeped with these tools:
- Chasen (Bamboo Whisk)
- Chashaku (Bamboo Tea Scoop)
- Chawan (Tea Bowl)
- Natsume (Tea Caddy to store the matcha)
To prepare a traditional bowl of matcha, heat the water to just below the boiling point—180° F. Scoop 2 chashaku's worth of matcha (about 1 teaspoon) into the chawan, then pour 2 to 3 ounces of the warm water over the tea, depending on your preferred strength. Whisk vigorously in a forward and backward motion to create a fine foam.
Food52: Is there a traditional time to drink matcha?
RT: Matcha can be enjoyed anytime, though we recommend drinking it earlier in the day to benefit from its sustained energy boost.
Food52: What should matcha taste like?
RT: It has the perfect balance of a crisp sweetness with a savory, herbaceous finish.
Food52: Does matcha have any health benefits that other green teas don’t?
RT: With loose leaf teas, the leaves are steeped and then discarded. With matcha you get the benefit of the full vitality of the tea leaf, since you're consuming ground tencha leaves (that have had the stems and veins removed). Matcha contains vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, and potassium. It also contains EGCg, a special kind of free-radical-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant that is associated with cardiovascular health and weight loss.
Matcha delivers an invigorating boost of energy and nutrients, with a “calm alertness” attributed to an amino acid called L-Theanine. It is known to give mental clarity and a heightened awareness. The calm of the L-Theanine, helps counter the jitters that caffeine often gives, and only has 1/3 of the caffeine content of coffee.
Food52: Is there a difference between matcha used in cooking, baking, and drinking?
RT: There are many grades of matcha. The highest grade matcha powders are ceremonial, which must be made in Japan. Generally, ceremonial matcha is made with younger tea leaves, whereas cooking-grade is made from more mature tea leaves. This gives it greater versatility for baking or cooking while maintaining its taste quality. Plus it's more affordable.
What's your favorite way to eat or drink matcha? Let us know below!