It has been said that "the transformation of green tea leaves into matcha requires a gentle hand and the skill of an artisan." This according to an article from Sweet Paul magazine, anyway. (More on the joys of Sweet Paul in another post.) Realizing this didn't bode well for my usual laissez-faire approach to food prep, I researched the techniques, and stumbled through a lesson from Jane's cousin from Kanazawa. I won't claim my efforts were artisanal, but a few pointers should allow even the clumsiest of us to whisk up a pleasing bowl of this most excellent tea.
First, some background: Matcha is a powdered green tea with a rich fragrance and umami flavor. Ours is harvested from Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Once picked from the bush, the leaves are dried in the sun until the edges begin to crumble. The stems and veins are removed, and the remaining parts are ground into a fine, sweet, and brilliantly green powder. Tea aficionados recognize the quality of matcha by its hue.
Now, here's the rub: High quality tea is worth taking the time to brew correctly.
1. To prepare matcha, heat water. Don't boil it though - boiling water brings out a bitter flavor we want to avoid.
2. Place the contents of one matcha packet into the ceramic bowl. (If the matcha has developed clumps, sift it first.)
3. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of hot water, and using a bamboo whisk, whisk in a gentle yet quick back and forth motion until the mixture becomes frothy.
4. This is where the artistry comes into play: The whisk should be vertical and barely touching the bottom of the bowl.
5. When a soft, light foam has developed, slowly lift the whisk from the center of the bowl.
6. Strive to avoid creating large bubbles.
Practice, practice, practice: a great matcha is a smooth, elegant affair, and is worth mastering the technique. Matcha pairs wonderfully with sweets. It's delicious over ice, perhaps with some almond milk, and is especially delicious poured over vanilla ice cream!