Matcha Green Tea
Ahhh… matcha green tea. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…. to the depth and color and flavor and feeling of height….
I couldn’t help but borrow some of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words for that description because they come to mind when I think about how to describe how much I love a good cup of matcha (look here if you would like to read her sonnet from which I borrow).
If you haven’t experienced this type of green tea before, you are in for a treat! In fact, if you are a green tea hater and want to learn to like green tea, then you might even consider making this your next experience with it.
Let’s start at the beginning though- what is matcha green tea powder?? Maybe you have seen it mentioned in online articles, or noticed it on tea or food labels, recipes, or in magazines. In the simplest terms, it is a powdered Japanese green tea. It comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, that every green tea comes from. However, the tea bushes used to produce the best matchas are older plants (20+ years) and are shaded for several weeks prior to harvest which results in a smoother, more flavorful cup. The tea leaves are then stone ground into a fine powder which is whisked into hot water (around 170F) to make a cup of this wonderful and uniquely savory green tea. (By the way, anyone can learn to make a good cup of matcha green tea!)
One of the hallmark differences, then, between matcha tea and every other kind of tea (green, black, white) is that instead of simply steeping the leaves in water and extracting tea from them, you actually consume the leaves (with stems and veins removed during processing) when you drink a cup of matcha green tea.
If I had not tasted it myself, I’m not sure that this description (powdered leaves whisked into hot water) would maybe sound all that great. I understand if that is what you are thinking. But don’t be fooled- matcha green tea is the tea of the Japanese Chanoyu ceremony– an extremely elaborate ritual comprised of literally hundreds of different steps that can last three to four hours. It is SPECIAL tea. And after you taste it, I think you will understand why. The taste can be creamy, rich, sweet, earthy, and green.
Water Temperature for Matcha
Whisk the matcha green tea powder into water heated to around 170 degrees F. Higher temperatures can contribute to bitterness.
Be aware of grades of matcha
Matcha designated as 1st harvest or “ceremonial” is best for drinking, while “culinary” grades are best for smoothies or other recipes.
Unique quality of matcha green tea
Unlike other types of tea where the tea leaves are discarded after brewing, the tea leaves themselves are consumed when drinking matcha green tea.
Finding Genuine Matcha
The tea leaves grown for true premium matcha powder are referred to as “tencha”. They are shade grown, hand-picked leaves, and are the same leaves that are used to produce gyokuro tea.
Before you head off to purchase your first container of matcha though, a few words about quality. It is important to pay attention to labels as there are varying grades of matcha- only a few of which will make a really great cup of tea. For drinking tea, look for “ceremonial” grade matcha as opposed to culinary grade which is more suited for recipes.
There are so many more things to learn about the history and manufacture of a good matcha, but there is no better way to learn about matcha than to simply experience it for yourself. (If you want to start with a couple of my favorites, read the matcha green tea reviews on this page).
Regardless of where you find your favorite, I hope you begin a long love affair with matcha green tea, starting now 🙂