Apr 12, 2008

Making a good bowl of matcha tea

Matcha tea is the powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony but more people are beginning to drink matcha. Starbucks has a drink called a matcha latte (sorry, I did not finish mine, it’s just not my cup of tea). You can get matcha mixed with sugar and milk and matcha ice cream is often served in Japanese restaurants, plus there are any number of matcha baked goods, candies and other food you can get now days. I even bought a pack of some matcha gum.

I made matcha for my brother-in-law and he said that it was so different when I make it for him. So I thought I would post a little bit here on how to make a good bowl of matcha.

There are different grades of matcha, so if you are making a bowl of matcha to drink, you should get matcha of good quality. Drinking grade matcha is sold in quantities of 40 grams or less (about one and a half ounces) and usually costs from $18- $50 or even more in that quantity. I recommend getting it on the internet from www.tea-circle.com, they have a good selection, or www.matchaandmore.com. (or if you’d like to support me, you can buy it from my site www.SweetPersimmon.com. I only have one kind of matcha, though).

When exposed to air, matcha goes bad quickly. So buy it fresh, and store it in the freezer until you unseal it. When it is opened, it can last for about a month if you put it in the refrigerator. When you first open a can or container of matcha it should be brilliant green and have a good fragrance. If you have a dull green and it doesn’t smell, or smells off, the tea is not good for drinking (you can still use it for cooking or ice cream, though). I usually put it through a sieve or strainer to remove the lumps.

Having a good tea bowl helps in making tea. If you don’t have a tea bowl, a ceramic bowl that is three and a half to four inches in diameter (9-10 cm) and about three inches tall can do. You will also need a bamboo whisk (they can be had from the two places above). It helps to have a bamboo tea scoop, but it isn’t essential.

Make sure you have good water. I use filtered water (don’t use bottled water) and bring it to a boil. I don’t know exactly what the temperature of the water is, but I can tell it is right by the sound of it boiling in my iron kettle. The sound is matsu kaze, (the sound of the wind in the pines). If you don’t have an iron kettle to sing to you, just before it comes to a roiling boil – when there are lots of small bubbles rising to the surface is about right. Heat the bowl by pouring hot water in it and letting it sit for about a minute. Empty the water and wipe the bowl dry.

If you have a bamboo scoop, put two scoops of the powdered tea into the bottom of the bowl. I had to go measure it, but it is between one half to a full teaspoon of matcha depending on how strong you like it. Then add water. Most people who are beginning to make tea put too much hot water in the bowl. I would say that you should pour about one quarter cup (2 oz. or 75 ml) into the bowl with tea in it. I try to pour down the side of the bowl because if you pour hot water directly on the tea powder it splashes up on the sides of the bowl and it’s hard to incorporate it and it looks messy.

Now whisk the tea to a froth. The technique I learned is to put the whisk into the tea bowl and whisk vigorously from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, not around in a circle. Just whisk straight across the bowl as fast as you can. You will start to get a bouncing action and the bubbles should start to come up. Use your wrist as well as your whole arm. It helps if the bowl is a lower than your elbow. (I use a low table like a coffee table if I can). You don’t need to move the whisk across the bowl, just whisk at the widest part of the bowl until the foam covers the surface. (that is why you need a big bowl for so little tea, it has to accommodate the whisking action). Bring the whisk to the top of the foam and whisk more slowly to break up the larger bubbles. If you have a good head of foam, it will form a hill as you pull the whisk out of the tea bowl. Now you can enjoy!

Matcha, tea bowls and tea sets for making matcha are now available at www.SweetPersimmon.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment