Matcha is trending! We have no idea why. Matcha has been trendy since the Song Dynasty, so why all the attention now? Luckily, we don’t have to answer that question. We only have to give our opinion about how this ancient art translates into today’s lifestyle.
Matcha is an undeniably sensitive tea. This may be the cause of some of the mystique surrounding the emerald foam: one misstep and it comes out bitter, clumpy, or just plain weak. As a result, most home matcha makers give up and leave it to the experts.
Your author is one such person. I rely on others to make my matcha. When I say “others,” I mean Julien-Pier, one of our experts at Bar a Thé. Julien-Pier is a natural handyman who, when he applies his dexterity to a bowl of matcha, can make an exceptional brew. I asked him to make me a bowl and share his secrets.
Turns out the main secret to matcha is to rid yourself of the idea that there is a secret. He began by measuring out two spoonfuls of matcha into the large bowl. Many matcha fans advocate sifting the powder at this stage to prevent clumping. If you have lots of matcha blobs you might want to start sifting. Julien-Pier insists that adding the powder first and whisking as soon as you pour the water is enough.
The real controversy surrounds the whisking method. Traditional Japanese matcha makers insist on a brisk but controlled back and forth motion, basically writing the letter “M” over and over in the bowl (it stands for mmmm, delicious). We in the West, however, are much more accustomed to the circular whipping motion of scrambled eggs. You know what happens when you beat your matcha like a French chef instead of a Japanese one? It comes out fine.
“I know this is criminal in the tea world,” says Julien-Pier, “but I whisk it like this and no one complains, so…” Some vigorous wrist action will aerate the matcha quickly and dissolve the powder. Since this action is more familiar to North Americans, odds are you’ll approach it with more confidence than staring at some diagram on the internet and whisking with limp-wristed worry that you’re making more of a “3” than an “M.” When the Japanese ambassador visits your house, you can be concerned about whisking the traditional way. For now, just mix it in.
To use this method, according to Julien-Pier, you should fill your bowl with only half the water at first. This has two important consequences. First, the bowl isn’t as full, allowing you whisk without worry of splatter. Second, making a matcha concentrate, then slowly adding whisking in the remaining water, allows you to make it more to your taste.
Your matcha is bitter because you didn’t whisk it right? We don’t buy it. Your culprit is probably too much powder or too hot water. It takes a few tries to get the ratios right. My matcha maker has given it more than a few tries, and the tea he poured into my cup was frothy, creamy, and satisfying.
And what explanation does Julien-Pier have for matcha’s newfound fame? “A lot of articles are coming out about the high concentrations of antioxidants in matcha,” he said, “but a cup of matcha isn’t going to save your life.” It might make your afternoon a little nicer, however, as long as you don’t worry too much sticking to the traditional method and just enjoy it.