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The traditional preparation of matcha green tea originated during the Japanese tea ceremony, or chanoyu (茶の湯). The art of Japanese tea ceremony derives from an intimate, ritualized setup of preparation and presentation of a bowl of tea. The two traditional styles of matcha green tea preparation are Koicha (“thick”) and Usucha (“thin”). Depending on the preparation method, each offers a unique matcha tasting experience.
Usucha is the most common form of matcha green tea preparation. If you have ever ordered a matcha green tea latte, chances are they prepared it as Usucha. To prepare Usucha, you need 2-3 grams (1 teaspoon) of matcha and 70ml (2.4oz) of water. Then, using a bamboo whisk, or chasen, whisk the matcha in a W motion until foam covers the top. The end result is a mellow, smooth, and slightly bitter cup of matcha with umami tones throughout.
Koicha, also known as “thick tea” is thick and slimy, similar to syrup. It may take some getting used to, especially if it is your first time tasting matcha green tea in this form. The reason for its high viscosity is due to the water-to-matcha powder ratio. In comparison to preparing Usucha, you use double the amount of matcha powder, while using less than half the normal water quantity.
However, it is important to note that the grade of the matcha determines the quality and taste of the Koicha. Unlike Usucha, Koicha is made with leaves from trees that are at least 30 years old. In fact, 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.
During the Japanese tea ceremonies, Koicha was the preferred form of preparation since it allows you to strongly taste the umami and enjoy the rich, complex flavors of matcha. It is definitely worth trying Koicha preparation the next time you drink your matcha green tea!
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