Matcha: A good afternoon pickup

For some time I’ve been having an afternoon pick-me-up in the form of matcha, or powdered Japanese green tea. Although when prepared in the ceremonial manner (I don’t do the ceremony proper) it makes only three sips of tea, I find it energizing, stimulating, and, most of all, tasty. (There are said to be numerous health benefits, as the tea is high in antioxidants, but I don’t consider food or drink as medicine.)

You need a few things to make the stuff. Here are four of the five devices I have: a strainer to get the lumps out of the tea, a chashuku, or bamboo tea scoop, a chasen, or whisk (to froth up and mix the tea and hot water), and the matcha itself. I use ceremonial grade, which is about $20 for one of those little cans, and it lasts about twenty days. My pick-me-up thus costs about a buck a throw.  The blue-green ceramic thing is the holder onto which you invert the chasen to dry.


The tea. The brighter green the better. It will have some lumps, but that’s what the strainer is for: you simply strain the tea through the sieve into a matcha bowl, which is the fifth object in the process. Real matcha bowls, which can be works of art, can cost hundreds of dollars, but you can use an ordinary bowl. I do have a matcha bowl, but it cost only about $20 (see below).


I love the chasen, which is carved out of a single piece of bamboo. It has an inner layer of prongs and then an outer layer. It’s used, as I said, to froth up the tea, but you can see that in the video below.


Here’s a dose of matcha: about 75 ml of liquid (I use a measuring beaker in a microwave to heat up the water). It provides exactly three decent sips. A good bowl of matcha is properly frothy. This is an early effort by me; the big air bubbles are considered unsightly and should be popped with the chasen before serving.


And here’s how to make it. I recommend this if you like matcha (it’s not like regular tea since you consume the leaves along with the water, and it has a herbaceous flavor that some don’t like—but I love). Ask questions below if you want, or share your own matcha experience. By the way, matcha of lesser grades are used to make those Starbuck’s matcha lattes, as well as to flavor green tea ice cream and other goodies.

The preparation itself begins around 1:20. The water temperature, below boiling but very hot, is important.


  1. geckzilla
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I just make it like any dry mix, by adding a tiny amount of water until and mixing with a chopstick until it is like a thick batter, and then adding just a little more water while stirring continuously until it thins out enough to be safe to pour all the boiling water in. I pour the thin mixture through a tiny sieve into a teapot and add boiling water. Ta-da!

    I’m sure the chasen, which functions similarly to a whisk, adds a little extra luxury to the experience by foaming it up, though. To further adulterate the whole thing, we use cheap matcha and make a whole tea pot of the stuff. Heh!

  2. Jiten
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I will try it. I’m always willing to try new things. I also heard recently about kombucha tea which I also want to try.

  3. Amy
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Every time I see weed grow on the finger, I start to laugh…

  4. Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Matcha is delightful!

    Not long ago I started to investigate tea grinders. It’s not hard to get high quality loose leaf green tea, and, just as coffee quickly looses its character after it’s ground, so, too, does tea. But it seems the options are either monstrous stone grinders or pocket contraptions that are not-so-thinly veiled as being designed for marijuana — and I’m dubious about how well such would work for matcha, for obvious reasons.

    Anybody here have any real-world experience with grinding tea for matcha?



  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    That is interesting, and I would be curious to try it.
    My favorite tea is Tai iced tea, which is pretty strong stuff but also very sweet. For a time I was so into it that I bought a bag of it to make at home.

  6. Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Not sure I’m interested enough to go through all that rigamarole; I’m the sort of barbarian who puts a tea bag in a cold mug of water and heats the whole thing in the microwave.

    I will admit to recently learning about how different teas require different water temperatures for optimum flavor. I now brew my black and herb teas in almost-boiling water, and find them much more flavorful. Green tea likes slightly cooler brewing water. I’ve worked out the optimal times on my microwave for each tea type in my favorite mugs. Does that make me an enlightened barbarian?

    • Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I’ve worked out the optimal times on my microwave for each tea type in my favorite mugs.

      As the great man almost said, if it tastes good, it is good!

      But a good starting point is about 2 grams / 1 ounce of leaves per 250 ml / 1 cup of water regardless of tea type…and then about 80°C / 175°F for two minutes for green, 90°C / 195°F for four minutes for oolong, and boiling for six minutes for black.

      I’ve become quite a fan of using a French press coffee pot to brew tea, and then decant it into either a thermos or decorative pot. It combines the best of both worlds…the best way to brew and the best way to serve.

      Similar for coffee. French press, course grind, 10:1 water:beans (e.g., 25 g beans per cup of water, grind the beans coarsely and sift out the fines with a cheap 1 mm sieve, pour 92°C / 198°F water, depress the plunger just barely enough to submerge the bloom, brew for 8 minutes, decant to serving vessel (without further plunging).




      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        French press coffee pot

        I’ve seen that term before … but where?
        Oh, you mean a cafetiere (with various selections of accents to taste). Yeah, we’ve used them from time to time, depending on taste and availability of other devices.

        • Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          I’m not familiar with that term…and, curiously enough, the entirety of its definition in the OS X Dictionary is, “a French press coffee pot.” Must be one of those wacky things you Brits say, like, “open the bunny on the Laurie to fill the petrie tank.”



  7. Barb
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I love my 2 cups of green tea every morning.
    I use the ceremonial macha and pay 25.00 a small tin (Canada) but I don’t make it full strength. It should be made with a lower temperature of water.

  8. Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    We have a kit at home as well. I must admit, though, that I save most of the powder for making green tea ice cream.

  9. Kevin
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Huge matcha used though I use a polymer silicone brush to wick mine.

  10. Christopher
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ll have to find a good tea house and have a professional make it for the first go. Better to taste before I plunk down my hard earned dosh for something I may not like and would probably screw up so bad it would taste as if I used lawn clippings. I’m both fascinated and annoyed by traditions that are complex and time consuming. That goes for wine, beer, tea, coffee, and other things that people obsess and fuss over. I guess what I mean is, I love the history and culture of it all but my lazy working class American roots (not to mention terminal bachelorhood) drag me back towards To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.
    Now, the burning question: isn’t this (Gasp!) “cultural appropriation”?! 😁

    • Christopher
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure what happened but the part of my post about Twitter seems to have inserted itself from I don’t know where! Good grief, for a second I thought I was losing my mind! Apologies for that bit of weirdness!

  11. Posted July 6, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    How dare you? This is cultural appropriation! My snowflake feelings got hurt.

    • Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      If it makes you feel better, the Japanese appropriated their tea culture from the Chinese, who appropriated it from the Indians.

      …and it goes all directions, too. Dinner one night last week, in anticipation of the Fourth, was Wafu Hambagu (和風ハンバーグ), which the Japanese got from us Americans — and which we ourselves got from the Germans of Hamburg. So whose culture was I appropriating when I, a blue-eyed pink-skinned northern European mutt (Russian-Polish Jew / English WASP), made it for my Japanese fiancée to celebrate American independence?

      (Incidentally, I have to add that the Japanese version is significantly superior to the American…in no small part because it’s more of a meatloaf than a burger — and don’t ask me who appropriated meatloaf from whom, because I’ve no clue.)

      …and, now, if you’ll excuse me…I need to go appropriate myself some matcha from the cupboard….




      • Posted July 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I’m reading The Satanic Verses right now and I stopped to ponder a description of potato fields in India. I love chicken vindaloo (my go to dish in most Indian restaurants) and it is usually prepared with chicken and potato. It never occurred to me before that those treacherous Indians were appropriating Incan/Peruvian culture all this time and therefore my favorite “Indian” dish is not authentically Indian after all!

        (Sarcasm, in case anyone can’t tell.)

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    The traditions and accoutrements of matcha seem to recall the rococo rituals and paraphernalia that surround opium-smoking.

  13. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Not a matcha fan myself; the high caffeine content disagrees with me. Regular black tea is more my cuppa.

    But since we’re on the subject, I’m puzzled by the distinction you’re making between drinking caffeinated beverages for their stimulating and energizing effect, versus treating them as medicine. Isn’t self-medication part of the point?

    • Posted July 6, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Medicine is stuff that heals illnesses or pains. Caffeine isn’t medicine in that sense.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        I first arrived in Sweden one afternoon long ago, horribly jet-lagged (first trip across the pond, to boot) for my post-doc. It was afternoon coffee time, and I was happy when they offered me some. But I had been used to drinking midwestern coffee, and recoiled.

        Seeing that, my mentor said, “Oh, that’s right. Where you come from, coffee is a drink. Here, it is a medicine.”

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        My urologist recommends lemonade for kidney stones, and cranberry juice for urinary infections. Food or medicine?

        • Hele
          Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          Common aspirin is willow bark. Chew on that!

        • Posted July 7, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Food can both be, or contain, medicine depending on the circumstances. I’m sure even Jerry would agree that to a diabetic who’s blood glucose level has dropped too low, a packet of sugar is medicine.

  14. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a big fan of matcha – it smells like grass clippings to me. I quite like the taste, but I can’t get over the smell.

    I think a lot of people drink green tea because they think it’s better for them than black tea – not that i’m accusing Jerry or anyone else here of that. But in reality there’s almost no difference in the benefits. (My brother owns a tea company and I used to write for it’s website when he first started the company: )

    I’ll stick to my Earl Grey.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      its, not it’s – I hate it when I do that!

      • bluemaas
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Ms Hastie, for your savvy to nota bene that errant apostrophe.

        And for correcting it posthaste.

        I, hardly myself any sort of grammar queen, appreciate, however, .the. correct usage of the Scrabble – worthy its. Its cousin, that other one, is so not at all meritorious of any Scrabble tiles or their placement thereupon its board !


    • somer
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t tried matcha but it looks like that powdered wheat grass stuff. Hope its a lot nicer as that tastes pretty much like algae – you mix wheat grass powder with other things like tomato or orange juice and its then fairly nice.

      Wheat grass is supposed to be nutritious and cleansing as it were

      Most of the herb teas are really very nice, but after a while a soon hanker for the caffeine and the tannin!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 7, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        I suspect the wheat grass concoction tastes better than Matcha once the other stuff is added! Imo it’s a bit of an acquired taste.

        I like most herb teas too – peppermint, ginger, lemon, raspberry.

        As you probably know, there is caffeine and tannin in tea too, just not as much. Iirc on average 4 cups coffee = seven cups of tea for caffeine. I can’t remember the tannin ratio.

        • Posted July 7, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Dump in a pot suitable for brewing:

          * 8 grams whole fennel seeds, lightly bruised in a mortar and pestle

          * 16 grams fresh ginger, cut into small pieces

          * 16 grams honey

          * 1/4 lemon (Meyer lemon preferred), squeezed into the pot and then the rind tossed in, too

          Pour 1/2 liter boiling water over everything and steep for 8 minutes before serving.

          …but only if you’re willing to have an experience that will demonstrate to you that all those bagged herbal teas are very pale imitations, indeed.

          (There’s obviously lots of room for variation and experimentation…fresh mint leaves would be a nice addition, for example, but I’d have to play around to find the right variety and ratio.)




          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 7, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            Sounds delicious! Thanks. 🙂

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      Love me some Earl Grey! Was at a party years ago where tea was being served and orders were taken. I was asked to check off which tea I wanted. I checked off Earl Grey and was given a cup with a cute little decorated tag that read Lady Grey. Not the same at all, but it was not a bad cup of tea. It reminded me of a shopping trip where I saw cheap ink pens that were marketed as “pen for her”

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted July 7, 2016 at 5:40 am | Permalink

        Bic For Her pens available from Amazon. You must check out the questions and reviews – hilarious!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 7, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I’ve had Lady Grey, and it’s quite nice as you say, but not the same at all.

        Coincidentally, I saw a YouTube video recently of Ellen mocking Bic pens for ladies – it’s hilarious. I’m on the wrong device to find and add a link, but I’ll do it in a few hours.

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Never heard of the stuff. But, even tho late to this party, maybe someone here can answer something that has confounded me for decades. When I was a grad student (late ’70s), the Chinese post-doc in the adjacent lab returned from a trip to China with some very expensive tea that was consumed from maybe 2″ tall thimbles. You sorta inhaled it across your tongue. It was extraordinary. But I failed to write the name down.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      PS – the leaves were large, too – about the size of postage stamps. Not shredded like tea usually is.

  16. jrhs
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Matcha shortbread cookies are delicious. Just need to add a tablespoon of Matcha to the normal 2-cups-flour-2-sticks-butter-sugar recipe.

  17. Posted July 7, 2016 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Interesting. But does it taste like more ordinary green tea? I tried that — for about 2 weeks — and gave up. Taste is too acid for me. Thanks for telling us about.

  18. Posted July 7, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Matcha powder is also the key to making your own green tea ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm!

  19. Posted July 7, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    My wife won’t let me make it any more if she’s around because she says I don’t know the proper procedure (she cringed the few times she saw me try). So she makes it for me. I make it when she’s not around anyway because I like the procedure (however poorly executed). So the difficulty for me is explaining why there’s always so little left in the can.

  20. Posted July 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Matcha is very lovely, and so are your photos, PCC(E).

  21. Benjamin
    Posted July 8, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    When I visited Kyoto several years ago I visited Okochi-Sanso – a beautiful garden created by a Okochi Denjiro (a famous Japanese actor).

    As part of the ticket price you got a cup of ice cold thick (a milkshake-like consistency) matcha to drink. It was one of the nicest drinks I’ve ever had, in one of the nicest places I;ve ever been!

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