Quick Guide to Matcha
By now, matcha has been a full-fledged movement for a number of years. With its vibrant green hue and reputation as a healthy superfood, lifestyle drink, and even as an energy drink, it’s no wonder that this tea powder has captivated Instagram feeds, culinary blogs, and restaurant menus. But it may have you wondering what the fuss is all about.
What is Matcha?
Simply put, matcha is an ultra-premium style of green tea. Good-quality matcha is shade-grown. Three weeks before tea leaves are harvested, the tea plants are covered with a fabric that blocks sunlight. This slows photosynthesis, increases L-theanine, and enhances the flavor of the matcha. When ready for harvest, young leaves are picked and processed, stems and veins are removed, and the leaves are ground by stone mill into a fine powder.
Powdered green tea dates back to the Tang dynasty in China. A buddhist monk, Myoan Eisai, discovered that tea helped him meditate and decided to bring some seeds to Uji (on the outskirts of Kyoto) upon his return to Japan in 1191. Shortly thereafter, Buddhist monks developed cultivating and processing methods that are still used today, like in our ceremonial-grade Uji Matcha.
How to Make Matcha
Matcha tea ceremonies have a long and complex history in Japan dating back to the 1500s, with many variations and names: chanoyu, sado, and ocha. The most formal ceremony can last up to four hours!
But matcha can be prepared simply with just a few tools: A bowl, bamboo whisk, whisk holder, bamboo scoop or chasaku, and a water kettle are the most common. Get all the essentials with our Mini Matcha Kit!
- Before preparing, bring matcha to room temperature and warm your bowl and whisk with warm water.
- Start with ¼ to ¾ teaspoon for 3 oz of matcha powder and 165º F water. Increase amount according to taste
- Sift the matcha powder with a fine-mesh sifter to break up clumps so it easily dissolves in water.
- Rapidly whisk the matcha and the water until an even froth forms.
Tip: If you are having trouble getting a good froth, try creating a paste by adding a little water to the matcha powder before adding the remaining water and whisking. FYI: The more powder you use, the thicker your froth will become.
For a visual aid, watch this video of employee and matcha devotee David.
There is great benefit in taking a few minutes to mindfully prepare tea—a ritual similar to meditation. But sometimes life can get hectic, or you simply don’t want a hot beverage when it's over 100 degrees outside. Another easy method is to drop a couple of scoops of powder in a water bottle, add some water (hot or cold), and shake vigorously. Add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of juice for extra sweetness. We encourage you to experiment when making matcha and to find a unique ritual that works best for you!
Matcha can degrade in flavor faster than full-leaf teas, so you want to take some steps to preserve the goodness. Keep it in an airtight container like this. To extend the shelf life, store the container in the freezer, where the powder can last up to 12 months.
Benefits of Matcha
Matcha has been credited with providing a sense of serenity and focus ever since Eisai brought it to Japan. This is due to the combination of caffeine and an amino acid, L-theanine, which boosts alpha brain wave activity that stimulates tranquility, mental clarity, and alertness. The resulting increase in energy can last from three to six hours without a crash.
Because you are consuming the leaves, you gain insoluble nutrients lost when steeping, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, chlorophyll, and fiber. One bowl of matcha is equivalent to 10 cups of green tea in nutritional value and antioxidant content.
Other benefits include:
- Concentrated amounts of antioxidants, which may help prevent chronic disease
- High amounts (more than 120 times found in other green tea) of EGCG, a catechin that helps protect against bacterial and viral disease, including influenza
- Contains compounds that may inhibit cancer cells
- May reduce cholesterol and promote heart health
- May increase metabolism and aid weight loss
A word of caution: If you are drinking matcha for the health benefits, you may want to avoid lattes or opt for plant-based milk. Casein, an animal protein found in milk, can nullify the absorption of healthy components in matcha.
More Than Just a Drink
Matcha has rich umami and vegetal notes that may seem bitter or unpleasant to some palates. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry: You can still enjoy this magical powder as an ingredient with our affordable culinary-grade Kyoto matcha. It's delicious in salad dressings, smoothies, yogurt, mocktails, chocolate, and more, and adds a visual “wow” factor! Browse all our matcha recipes.