Matcha is a special type of shade-grown green tea that is ground into a very fine powder. Rather than steeping tea leaves in hot water to extract the flavor, matcha powder is whisked into the water, so you're actually consuming the tea. The serving is generally just 2 to 4 ounces and contains a concentrated amount of caffeine. It's also more flavorful, deliciously rich with a vegetal, umami taste, and a luscious foam on top.
The technique for making matcha is used in a Japanese tea ceremony which is designed to be a meditative process. It uses specific tools, including a small bowl and bamboo whisk (chasen) and scoop (chashaku), often sold in matcha sets. While not entirely necessary, it is enjoyable to slow down and follow the traditional method, which includes warming and wiping the bowl dry.
For the best cup of tea, choose ceremonial grade matcha powder. It is the highest quality and does not require any sweetener or flavor additives to create a great drink. Culinary grade matcha will work. It's less expensive, not as vibrantly colored, and good for lattes and other drinks, as well as cooking. With either grade, you can use the whipped matcha method to create a hot or cold matcha latte by switching to milk.
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water (filtered or distilled; plus 1/2 cup for warming bowl)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon matcha green tea
Gather the ingredients and tools.
Bring about 1 cup of water to a near boil; measure out 1/4 to 1/2 cup and reserve for making the tea. Fill the matcha bowl about halfway with the remaining hot water. Gently move the bamboo whisk around in the water to soak while the water warms the bowl (about 30 seconds). Discard the water, in the bowl then wipe the bowl dry with a clean towel.
Place a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl. Using the bamboo scoop, sift 2 to 4 heaping piles of matcha into the bowl. Sifting produces a fluffier powder that helps ensure your tea is free of clumps and reduces the amount of whisking required. Any fine-mesh strainer (including a metal tea ball) will work.
Ideally, the reserved water should have cooled down to about 175 F after a few minutes. Pour a couple of tablespoons into the bowl and over the matcha.
Using your thumb and index finger, grasp the bamboo whisk with your dominant hand just above the strings (use the other fingers for support). Hold the bowl with your other hand. Whisk gently in circles to dissolve all the matcha and eliminate clumps.
Pour the remaining water into the bowl and whisk in a "W" pattern until a foam with tiny bubbles forms on the entire surface. When whisking, the ultimate goal is to create a foam with tiny bubbles that are almost unnoticeable. At first, it may take a couple of minutes for the foam to form and it takes practice to master the technique.
Drink the matcha directly from the bowl or pour it into a small cup. It should be drunk immediately and, traditionally, in three sips while cupping the bowl with both hands.
- Matcha is best when the powder is as fresh as possible. Purchase it from reputable stores with a high turn around. Store the tea container in a cool, dark place and plan to use it within a few months, if not sooner.
- Take special care when cleaning the bamboo tools. The scoop may warp if it gets wet, so simply wipe it off with a dry towel. Swish the end of the whisk in hot water but avoid getting water on the handle. If you don't have a whisk holder, always stand it upright on the handle to protect the delicate tines.
- Use a small, wide bowl, teaspoon, and a small whisk, spoon, or fork if you don't have a matcha set. The foam may not form as well without the bamboo whisk, but the taste will be similar.
- When cleaning up wet or dry spills, avoid white towels because matcha powder will stain the fabric.
- You can vary the thickness and flavor intensity of your matcha to suit your taste. The thin, drinkable matcha is called usucha. To make thin matcha: Use 1/2 cup water or 2 scoops (about 1/2 teaspoon) of tea.
- When matcha is mixed to a really thick, almost paste-like consistency, it has no foam. This is called koicha and it's typically reserved for ceremonies and special occasions. To make thick matcha: Use 1/4 cup water or 3 to 4 scoops (about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon) of tea.
- For cold matcha, prepare it with hot water, then pour over ice.
- To make a matcha latte, replace the hot water with steamed milk (e.g., dairy, soy, almond, etc.) and whisk until frothy. You may find that the matcha dissolves better in hot water (as in the recipe) before whisking in the milk. Add a sweetener if you like. Chill it for a few minutes and serve over ice for an iced matcha latte.