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On the hunt for the world's best spices and blends

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Ask the Experts: Everyday Matcha Making

Posted on by Steve

Japanese Matcha Powder - Épices de cru

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.

Julien-Pier whipping matcha - Épices de cru

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.

Whipping matcha - Épices de cru

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.

3 Responses to Ask the Experts: Everyday Matcha Making

Steven says: February 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Author’s note:

This was a shockingly controversial piece amongst the staff at our Tea Bar. It turns out a lot of people didn’t like the idea that I was trying to show how easy it is to make matcha without actually making it myself. If anyone can be an expert, why do I need Julien-Pier to make my matcha?

That’s a really good point. I had never really sat down and tried to make a thick, creamy matcha for myself. Last week I finally did.

It took three solid tries. I was surprised at how terrible my first matcha bowl was. Watered down and bitter at the same time. For the second I realized what I had done wrong. For the third I actually had fun whisking it.

Wouldn’t you know it, I ended up doing the zig zag method, not the circular whipping I said was OK. You really do just kind of feel out your preferred method. Of course, now I wanna do it again.

Matcha and me says: May 21, 2015 at 8:01 am

I totally agree, whisking until dissolve is good enough as long as the tea is clearly dissolve I don’t see the issue. I like to use the cappuccino frother to mix it rather than the bamboo whisk, it’s just easier.

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