Matcha (抹茶) - A finely milled or pulverized Japanese Green Tea
Matcha (抹茶) is a finely milled or pulverized Japanese green tea that was developed especially for use in the Japanese tea ceremony. The name refers to the brush or whisk that is used for preparing the tea beverage from this variety.
The standard method for preparing the green tea beverage is described elsewhere, but the method for preparing matcha is unique and will be described here. All the steps in the preparation of the matcha tea herb and beverage have become highly stylized. The tea plants are shaded for several weeks prior to harvest, the same as for gyokuro tea. This cultivation technique increases the amino acid content, and produces a sweeter beverage with a deeper flavor. Once harvested, the tea leaves are steamed to denature the enzymes that will cause fermentation, and are then laid out flat to dry which produces tencha (碾茶), a name that means "tea for milling/grinding". Kneading (crumpling) the tea leaves would produce gyokuro tea, but tencha itself was traditionally not brewed for tea as is. Rather, the dried leaves are next destemmed and deveined, and then stone ground to a fine powder in special granite stone mills.
The preparation of the tea beverage begins by passing the matcha through a sieve to break up clumps and ensure an even quality to the powder. A wooden spatula is used to break up the clumps and push them through the sieve. The powder is then placed in the bottom of the teacup, followed by water that is hot but not boiling (70-85°C, or 158-185°F). A matcha whisk is then used to aid the brewing by wetting the matcha powder. One can either use brisk mixing motions to make a frothy consistency, or more rhythmical kneading motions to create a beverage with little or no froth - it is a matter of taste!
The tea beverage is then ready to consume.
Because of its finely powdered state, matcha does not have a long shelf life after the package is opened. Exposure to light, air, and heat will cause it to deteriorate. It should be kept in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, and used promptly.
The flavor of matcha has been described as an initial vegetal, somewhat earthy taste, followed by a lingering sweetness with some astringency. It has a different consistency than other brewed teas because the powered solids are part of the beverage.