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Green Tea, Tea Culture  |  10.22.2019  |  By C. Xu

How to Prepare Matcha: Usucha vs. Koicha


The origin of matcha powdered green tea is rooted in the practices of Chinese Zen Buddhist monks who used it as a meditation drink. Over 800 years ago, matcha was imported then imported to Japan and has since played a very special role in Japanese culture. Today, the traditional matcha green tea preparation originates from the Japanese tea ceremony. Chanoyu (茶の湯) or The Way of the Tea, is an intimate, ritualized setup of the preparation, presentation, and appreciation of a bowl of tea.

The two traditional styles of matcha green tea preparation are Usucha (“thin”) and Koicha (“thick”). Depending on the preparation method you choose, each offers a unique tasting experience and a special moment in your cup.

senbird-organic-ceremonial-matcha-green-tea-whisked-in-a-bowl-with-chashaku-and-chasen

How to Prepare Usucha (薄茶)

Most people are likely familiar with Usucha or “thin tea”, the lighter and more commonly prepared matcha green tea. If you order a matcha green tea latte, it is most likely prepared as Usucha. To prepare Usucha:

  1. Sift 2 Chashaku (1 tsp/2g) of the matcha powder into the Chawan
  2. Pour 70ml at 176°F (80°C) into the Chawan
  3. Whisk the matcha in a fast W motion until a layer of delicate foam bubbles cover the surface
  4. The goal is to produce a smooth, mellow cup of matcha with umami notes throughout. Enjoy!

In traditional tea ceremonies, the Chawan (matcha bowl) and Chasen (bamboo whisk) are pre-heated with hot water and wiped dry before use to ensure a  smooth whisking experience and optimal temperature for the matcha. The trick to good whisking is using only your wrist, not your arm.

Now, Matcha is available worldwide, and the creativity in using matcha is endless whether that’s as a drink or dessert! For your next matcha beverage, consider trying a matcha latte, matcha bubble tea, or even as a sweet treat like a vanilla matcha hot chocolate.

What is Koicha “Thick Tea”?

Koicha, known as “thick tea”, is a different method of preparing matcha that creates a syrupy viscosity. Notably, Koicha uses double the amount of matcha to the equivalent amount of water. In essence, the high matcha powder to water ratio and preparation technique results in a thicker consistency compared to Usucha. Hence, Koicha tea is generally not for beginner matcha drinkers as it takes time to get familiar with the texture and stronger umami flavor. With enough experience, you’ll be able to recognize and savor the natural underlying sweetness in different grades and types of matcha.

The grade of the matcha determines the quality and taste of the Koicha. In fact, unlike Usucha, Koicha comes from leaves of trees that are at least 30 years old. The older trees contribute to the sweetness and full-bodied umami flavor of the matcha tea leaves. The older the tree, the higher grade the matcha is. Ceremonial grade matcha is considered higher quality and is recommended for traditional tea ceremony use or for those looking to enjoy matcha as Koicha.

How to Prepare Koicha (濃茶)

Typically, Japanese tea ceremonies prepare Koicha for drinkers to enjoy the rich texture and complex flavors of the matcha since the umami is more prominent. It is definitely worth trying Koicha preparation the next time you drink your matcha green tea!

  1. Sift 4 Chashaku (2 tsp/4g) of the matcha powder into the Chawan
  2. Pour 50ml at 176°F (80°C) into the Chawan
  3. Slowly knead the matcha using the Chasen, moving left to right, up and down in a gentle rotation around the edge of the bowl
  4. The goal is to produce thick matcha with a smooth syrupy consistency. Enjoy!

For the most part, instead of rapid whisking in a W pattern for Usucha preparation, practice applying a slower kneading action. With this in mind, create thick matcha with smooth consistency resembling the viscosity of warm honey. In addition, enjoy the Koicha with Wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets to serve with tea.

senbird-organic-Japanese-green-tea-field-growing-matcha

In fact, unlike other green teas, matcha is from ground tencha tea leaves that are grown predominantly in shade. The shade growing slows down photosynthesis, increasing the plants’ production of chlorophyll, which gives the matcha is bright emerald color. Altogether, the leaves are hand-picked, deveined, destemmed, and ground into a fine powder. Every step embraces years of tradition, quality, and dedication to appreciating the deep umami flavor not found in other teas.

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Matcha Otome is a ceremonial grade green tea powder that has a fresh aroma and rich, savory notes of sweet grass with slight astringency. From the prestigious Uji region in Kyoto, this matcha is excellent as is or in drinks such as matcha lattes, smoothies and cocktails.

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