Compared to traditional green tea that uses water to extract nutrition from tea leaves, matcha is "eaten" whole.
By ingesting the entire tea leaf, you get far more nutrition than traditional green tea--matcha is like drinking 10 cups of brewed green tea!
Once learning how matcha is made, many assume you can take any green tea and grind it into a matcha powder, but that's not the case. Matcha is specialty grown and requires a specific climate, plenty of labor and an expert farmer.
This is why the best matchas in the world are always expensive; there's simply no way to produce good matcha cheaply.
A few weeks before harvest, tea plants are covered in shade. This causes the tea leaves to increase their chlorophyll and amino acid content. Glutamate molecules are concentrated, which increases the umami flavor profile.
Some matchas are introduced into a set level of shade for the last few weeks before harvest while other matchas, almost always higher quality, are introduced to more shade on a gradual basis leading up to the final harvest. By gradually reducing the exposure to sun, the tea leaves are constantly coaxed into developing more of the beneficial compounds, which results in developing more flavor and nutrition. Some of the best matchas in the world are in near darkness by harvest time.
Good matcha requires tea plants that are at least 50 years old, with many in the 75-100 year old range. In fact, the farm where Wild Matcha grows has been growing matcha for 109 years!
Matcha comes in various "grades" or "harvests." The problem with these grades is there is no regulation in labeling, nor any set guidelines for grades. Typically, a "1st harvest" is a "ceremonial" grade, and is considered the highest quality grade of matcha.
Next usually comes a "2nd harvest" and sometimes a third--at which point you start getting into the realm of "culinary" matcha.
Harvest relates to the timeline that the leaves are removed, usually by hand, in the tea growing process. The leaves that are harvested first (first flush) are considered the best tasting and usually consist of the small and delicate leaves picked from the tips of a leaf shoot.
Once the leaves are picked during a harvest, they are preserved through steaming then drying. After the leaves are dried, they are sorted into grades. The smallest, greenest leaves end up with the highest rating. Next the leaves must be destemmed and deveined--a process that is very labor intensive.
All matcha destemmed and deveined tea leaves that make it through this process are now called "tencha." Tencha is kept refrigerated until the grinding process.
Tencha is ground using granite wheels that rotate slowly to avoid burning the tea leaves.
It takes about an hour to grind only 30 grams of matcha.
The ground matcha is then ready for sale.
If you are new to matcha, yet know a bit about regular tea, you might experience sticker shock when you first encounter the cost of a premium matcha. This makes sense considering matcha is a form of tea, and you will probably compare it to the average price of regular loose leaf tea.
Of course, comparing matcha to loose leaf tea is like comparing oranges to apples.
Matcha is similar to wine in that each wine is unique and the quality determined by the multitude of variables including terroir--the conditions of local climate and soil--crop quality and attention to processing and growing methods.
Like wine, a matcha producer will produce a distinctive product. And just like wine, you'll find good, bad and average matchas.
The color of matcha is your first method of determining quality. Matcha should be as bright and grassy green as possible. Matcha that is brackish, dark green, and in some cases brown, is usually going to taste exactly how it looks; bitter and yucky.
Next comes taste. Good matcha will have a sweet grassy profile with an absence of bitterness. The lower in quality you go, the more you will get a bitter, astringent flavor profile and a lack of sweetness.
Not only does bright green matcha taste better, it also includes more amino acid and antioxidant content.
Drinking one cup of matcha is like drinking 10 cups of brewed green tea.
Matcha is also a natural fat burner and metabolism stoker! Matcha contains the rare polyphenol ECGG, a thermogenic ingredient known to boost metabolism.
Matcha is a natural mood and energy enhancer. With ~35mg of caffeine per cup (espresso is ~60mg), the caffeine in matcha is unique because it releases into the bloodstream slowly, providing a sustained release of energy that can last from 4 to 6 hours.
The amino acid L-Theanine that is prevalent in Matcha helps the production of alpha brain waves, which makes it great for working and studying. Monks have used it for centuries to aid in meditation and prayer.
Matcha is full of vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, chromium and selenium, all of which promote overall health while fighting inflammation.
Matcha is a natural detoxifier rich in chlorophyll and fiber. Chlorophyll is the green in plants and is a natural detoxifier that helps remove chemicals and heavy metals from the body.
It's best to sort matcha use by grades.
Typically, the highest grades are best saved for tea ceremony, which for us Westerners basically means drinking straight with hot water.
Because the highest quality matchas taste the best--and because they cost more--we recommend drinking them the traditional way and not for baking or other recipes that will mask the flavor of the matcha.
There's no reason to use a ceremonial grade matcha for making a matcha smoothie when you won't be able to decipher the higher quality flavor profile anyways. For baking and making matcha recipes that include sweetener or other ingredients such as cream or milk, it's best to use a 2nd harvest or culinary grade matcha.
Matcha is very sensitive to heat, moisture and light. We recommend you store matcha in a dark container in a cool, dry place if you plan on using it often.
If you plan to use your matcha only occasionally, it would be best stored in the freezer sealed and placed inside a ziplock bag. Then, before opening, let the bag come to room temperature to thwart any condensation from getting into your matcha.
Matcha is a superfine powder that will clump when it comes into contact with liquid. The best way to avoid this is to gently press the matcha through a fine sieve into your bowl before adding water. Or you can use a matcha whisk to carefully stir it in a bowl like here.
First things first, never add boiling water to your matcha!
If you pour water that is too hot over matcha, you'll destroy all the beneficial nutrition in the matcha. You'll also make it taste bitter.
We recommend water that is 165° - 175°. Use a thermometer or remove your boiling water from heat and let sit for at least three minutes.
Another way to protect your matcha from being damaged by hot water is to use cold water to make the initial matcha paste called for in the traditional way preparation. The cold water helps temper the hot water that will be added later.
Optional Ingredients (get creative):
There are hundreds of methods of making matcha floating around the Internet. Some don't specify how much water to use and some do. Some suggest you have to sieve your matcha and some don't. Some tell you to make a thick paste first before adding more water and some add more water initially.
I want you to keep this in mind should you come across a method that looks a bit different than the Wild method below.
Luckily for you, the following method for preparing matcha is the result of testing the many methods I'm referring to. And not only have we done the testing for you, but we've also figured out the best way to make matcha while protecting matcha's benefits.
You see, the first and foremost consideration to us at Wild Foods is preserving the quality of the matcha (or any ingredient).
And as far as matcha goes, if you are going to spend a healthy amount of money (pun intended) on a premium product such as Wild Matcha, you want to make sure you are getting every iota of nutrition out of it, right?
After nutrition, we want to produce the best tasting matcha experience possible. And lucky for us all, there's a way to make matcha taste delicious while still maintaining the nutritional integrity of the ingredient.
Let's look at how to do that.
But first, there's a rule of matcha that you should learn. It's this: matcha is extremely sensitive to heat and light. Never ever pour boiling water over matcha. (Or any green tea, for that matter.)
Water that is too hot not only destroys the delicate nutrition in your matcha powder, but it also fails to bring out the the best umami flavor that is part of the matcha flavor experience while turning your beautiful matcha into a cup of liquid bitterness.
This is why we recommend a maximum water temperature of 175°, with 165° being then ideal temperature for preparing matcha.
Another thing I see lacking in matcha recipes around the world wide web is exact measurements. I like exact measurements. I like to know, by weight, how much of an ingredient I should be using. This probably comes from my coffee and espresso disciplines, but either way, our method requires a scale and a thermometer to get everything just right. These are essential kitchen tools and you should invest in each.
The last point I want to make about preparing matcha relates to cold water. Some Japanese tea masters only use cold water to prepare their matcha because they feel it brings out the best umami flavor. We are going to use a hybrid of this recommendation to make our matcha.
Using cold water in the initial water pour is not just for umami, it's also for protecting the matcha from the hot water you are going to use to finish the drink. I'm not going to take credit for this technique, and I actually don't remember where I read it initially, but I do remember it making so much sense to me that I knew I was going to use this step in my matcha method from then on.
Without further ado, let's make some Wild Matcha!
Ratio used: 1.5g matcha (~1/2 tsp) to 4 ounce water (113g)
4. Add 1.5g matcha - about 1 and a half chashaku ladle scoops
4a. Choose: Sift matcha through sieve into bowl or take bamboo whisk or frother and gently flatten out the matcha. You want to remove clumps.
5. Pour 1 ounce (28g) cold water over matcha (This helps protect the matcha from the hot water in step 7)
6. Use your whisk in a circular motion to make a thick paste.
7. After all matcha is incorporated, add 3 ounces of 165° water.
8. If using bamboo whisk: whisk matcha using a "W" and "M" path up and down utilizing your wrist. If using a electric frother: place it at the bottom of the bowl and start with short pulses to make sure you don't spill any precious matcha.
9. Whisk until frothy and you have a nice white crema with small bubbles.
10. It is now ready to drink! You can stir in some honey or preferred sweetener or add steamed milk for a matcha latte. You can also add more water to increase the yield (it will dilute) or can finish with cream or frothed milk.
There are many ways to prepare matcha traditionally and a matcha latte is no different.
As with most recipes, the final product is going to depend heavily on the ingredients used. Instead of offering one recipe and saying "this is the one," I'd much rather offer a few recipes that you can experiment with.
Try each one of these and choose which one works for you. Then add your own spin to it and adjust ratios and ingredients until you find the perfect recipe.
I love cold drinks.
Over the years, I've had time to ponder why this is.
The conclusion I've come to is this: I'm too impatient to wait for hot drinks to cool, which is why I burn my tongue each and every time a tasty hot brew is sitting in front of me. Then, when the drink is cool enough to drink, I can't even taste the thing because my taste buds are scorched.
Like I said, I've had time to figure this out.
As it stands, I like my drinks colder than the North Pole. So, as you might guess, a cup full of ice is my favorite way to start a beverage.
Most of the time this ends up being a frosty Wild Cold Brew in a mason jar. But this can be easily overdone, which I've learned the hard way.
That's when I turn to a smooth cold brew matcha.
There are two versions of iced Wild Matcha I use often, interchanging each depending on the mood. The first version is iced matcha in its purest form; just ice, water and matcha.
The second method is similar to a traditional cold brew coffee; cream or milk, ice and matcha.