The first thing you will notice is the depth of flavor. It’s rich and full-bodied. For such a small amount of powder, it packs quite a punch. Matcha tea is not bitter like some green teas, it needs no sugar and actually has a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. It smells slightly of freshly mown grass, probably due to the high chlorophyll and amino acid content.
Traditionalists may balk at adding milk, but matcha latte is popular too. So, if you like your hot drinks with milk, you may prefer the taste with matcha made this way. Just add milk (animal or your favorite plant milk) and make in the same way.
How it’s grown and harvested affects the taste
Although it is a variety of green tea, and although it comes from the same plant variety, there are numerous differences, which all affect the taste.
For a start, matcha tea spends some of its time (usually the last three weeks before picking) grown in the shade, not the sun which increases the chlorophyll content. This is the green pigment that helps plants to process the sun’s rays (photosynthesis) to give them energy. Chlorophyll contains antioxidants (that help to fight free radicals in the body) and vitamins that are believed to be beneficial to health.
High-quality matcha powder is made from young leaves without the stems or veins. Our organic Kenko tea is grown in the pure air and unpolluted soils of the Nishio region of southern Japan, and free from pesticides.
The matcha tea leaves are carefully dried and then gently stone ground to produce a vibrant jade-like powdery substance similar in texture to icing sugar. Care has to be taken to make sure the leaves never become too hot in the grinding process. This procedure is labor-intensive but necessary to preserve both the flavor and the vitamin and antioxidant content. Research suggests that matcha contains 20 times the antioxidants present in a normal cup of green tea.
Finally, the tea is packed in an airtight metal tin, again to preserve its integrity and to stop foreign flavors penetrating the tea. This ceremonial grade matcha tea is now ready to be enjoyed.
How do you make matcha tea so it tastes delicious?
Unlike conventional green tea, which is prepared by steeping the tea, (where boiling water is poured on the leaves and then after brewing for a few minutes, the leaves are discarded), with matcha tea, you drink all the tea – the whole powder – maximizing the health benefits. Matcha green tea powder contains caffeine (but the good stuff, not the sort that makes you jittery) and as mentioned before, is packed with antioxidants.
How you prefer to drink your matcha tea is the next step to consider as this will affect the taste. You can have it as it is, hot or cold, or add milk. It’s best the first time to make it hot on its own and see how you get on.
It is easy to make, but you do have to follow a few rules to get the best result. Have a tea bowl ready for your tea. This should be at room temperature i.e. not too cold. Matcha is not served boiling hot, so you should be able to clasp your fingers around the bowl and gently sip your tea. Although it would not be out of the question to use a conventional cup or mug – and many people do – a drinking vessel with handles encourages you to swig and with matcha you need to sip. As you sip, you also smell, which enhances the overall taste experience. Maybe try a bowl first and see how it works for you; you should get the optimum flavor this way.
So, you need to assemble the items you need to make a bowl of ceremonial quality matcha tea. (As the name suggests, ceremonial tea is used in Japanese tea ceremonies, where only the best tea is used. Matcha has such a delicious taste and striking natural green color.
Tea bowl, Kenko organic tea, bamboo scoop, bamboo whisk and strainer.
It may seem a bit over the top to use these specific items but if you want to get the best taste, it’s really worth following. Bamboo is used in preference to metal tools, again to preserve the taste of the tea. Just simply rinse the items under the cold tap after use and pop them on the draining board.
First boil a kettle of water. You must use fresh hot water at around 80•C or 175 F.. Boiling water is 100•C degrees and too hot for matcha: it could burn it and make it taste bitter. For the rest of us, there is some guess work involved. I have estimated that if I leave my kettle for four minutes after boiling, the temperature is about right.
Measure a teaspoon of matcha powder into the strainer held over the bowl, and using the bamboo scoop, gently encourage the tea through. Add water to half full and then whisk gently using a ‘W’ motion for a few seconds until you have a pleasing pale green foam.
Then putting both hands around the bowl, sip the matcha tea.
Other ways to enjoy matcha
During hot weather, matcha tea is refreshing drunk cold. Make it as usual and put it in the fridge for a short time. Serve with one ice cube and maybe a slice of fresh lemon or lime.
When it comes down to it, taste is a very personal thing. One thing is for sure – you are bound to like matcha tea once you have found out which way of making it is best for you.