Why are people are talking so much about Matcha lately? Firstly, it tastes good, and has been popularized with Western tastes in Macha Lattes.  Secondly, there are health benefits.  Matcha is ground into powder and completely dissolved in water when brewed. Therefore you drink all of the healthy nutrients and antioxidants without throwing away the leaves as one does with other tea.

Matcha was originally used only for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Today, Matcha has become more popular not only for the Tea Ceremony but also as a casual everyday healthy drink.

High quality Matcha has a distinctive sweetness, with a rich and creamy texture with umami and the highest quality Matcha is less bitter.

(but you just discussed Matcha before this so you are contradicting yourself?)
Tencha is the dried green tea before being ground into Matcha.  Tencha also becomes Gyokuro, which is the highest grade of Green Tea.

For tea to be classified as a Tencha, tea leaves need to be shaded for 20 days or more in the field.  The light-blocking process inhibits photosynthesis in the tea bush, boosting chlorophyll levels and creating a deep green leaf color.  This process provides levels of natural plant sugars, amino acids and caffeine, along with decreased levels of catechin.

The quality of Matcha greatly depends on the tea bush cultivator, shading technique and picking standards employed by the farmer in order to produce Tencha.

The main geographic area in Japan where Matcha is cultivated is generally in the South.  Uji, Kyoto,   Nishio, Aichi and Yame, as well as Fukuoka are  the most well known regions to produce Matcha.

Traditionally, there are two ways to prepare Matcha. Usucha (thin Matcha) and Koicha (thick Matcha).  In the West a frothy milk has been added to the Matcha with sugar to create Matcha Latte which is not a traditional Japanese drink, but is an interesting fusion of Western and Eastern tastes.   Just like Cappuccino the bitterness of Matcha is counterbalanced by the milk and sugar.

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Koicha

To prepare Koicha, one must use twice as much Matcha powder with less water than Usucha.

Therefore, Matcha powder for the Koicha meethod requires the highest quality kind, which means a more vibrant color, loads of natural sweetness, and maximum umami. The plants need to be more mature as well.

It could be described as a “tea espresso”; due to the very high concentration of Matcha to water.

Making Koicha with good Matcha will produce an incredibly bright green color.

Here is the recommend way to make Koicha:

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Put 4g of Matcha powder into the tea bowl.  Its recommend to use sifter to remove any clumps of powder

Pour 30 to 40 ml hot water (80℃)

Start kneading action from left to right, up and down to make a thick consistency. The resulting tea should be reasonably thick, smooth without froth.

The Koicha will be very strong, with a sweet leaf-like flavor.

Usucha is a more casual way to drink Matcha. People who start to learn Japanese Tea ceremony, will start learn how to whisk Usucha.

momoteaUsucha

Usucha requires more water and less Matcha powder. This is the standard way to make Usucha.

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Put 2g of Matcha powder into the tea bowl. It is recommended to use a sifter to remove any clumps of powder

Pour 60 ml hot water (80℃)

Whisk the Matcha briskly in a ‘W’ motion using bamboo whisk until there’s form on the surface.

Usucha grade Matcha used can be of a lower grade than the Koicha grades.

Koicha tasting method at the tea ceremony is to drink tea prepared in one bowl for several guests by passing it from the main guest to the other guests. Therefore, Koicha is not for the big group. Usucha is an informal way to have Matcha.

After whisking the tea well with a bamboo whisk, Usucha shows bright frothy green foam with a creamy beautiful light green color.

MomoteaBamboo Whisk for Matcha

However, the distinction of Koicha and Usucha was not clear until Azuchi-Momoyama period (around 1615), It is considered that Usucha was originally prepared to empty the residual tea leftover from  the Tea Ceremony.

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Left: Omogashi / Right: Higashi

Normally, dried sweets called Higashi (干菓子) is eaten when partaking of Usucha, fresh sweets called Omogashi (主菓子)  are provided with Koicha.


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