An Introduction to Japanese Matcha (ft. Momo Tea) | TEA 103

by Tea in Spoons

Two months ago I restarted my TEA 101 series that I originally began to explore teas more in depth! I enjoyed the Question and Answer format of the last post, so I wanted to do one specifically about Japanese matchas with Momo Tea, a Canada based company!

I’ve known Momo from Momo Tea for many years. I originally met her at the Toronto Tea Festival. Momo is extremely sweet, has a sunny disposition, and is very passionate about Japanese teas. Therefore, I knew she would be the perfect person to talk to. It also gave me an excuse to buy some new 2021 matcha!

This post will primarily focus on the basics of matcha in an interview-style format. I feel conversational posts are accessible and readers can jump to questions that they are most interested in! In my previous post with Momo, we discussed what made Japanese teas unique and one tea she pointed out was matcha. It has been some time since I went in-depth about this green tea powder, so I thought a refresher would be nice!

Top to bottom: Momo Tea’s Usucha Matcha & Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms’ Tencha (leaf) and Mejiro Kukicha (steams and stalks)

What is matcha?

Momo: Matcha is grounded green tea powder. The leaves used to make matcha need to be shaded grown for a certain period. That shaded grown green tea called “tencha.”  Tencha is simply dried and steamed leaves without a rolling process, then the veins are removed. Only tencha is able to become Matcha. Sencha powder is green tea powder, not Matcha.

What are the different types/grades of matcha?

Momo: The first grade is tea ceremony grade. There is a variety of styles under the tea ceremony grade but simply, you can divide it into two types which is koicha and usucha style. Both are whisked during the tea ceremony. You can make usucha with koicha grade but you can’t make koicha from usucha grade. Koicha is like tea cappuccino, you use more matcha and less water.

The second grade is casual matcha and is good quality to drink as an everyday beverage. It’s not used for tea ceremony. The third grade is baking matcha or latte grade. It’s too bitter to drink on its own as is but perfect to make the latte because there’s a nice kick to complete your matcha latte.

Matcha bowl (Chawan), bamboo whisk (Chasen) and tea scoop (Chashaku)

How is matcha prepared?  

Momo: You traditionally use a bamboo whisk (call Chasen 茶筅) to whisk your matcha. Also, nice to have a good size matcha bowl (called Chawan 抹茶茶碗) or you can replace it with a small bowl too. Ideally, it is better to sift the matcha before you whisk. By sifting, you will avoid all the clumps and it will be easier to whisk and have a smooth texture in your mouth. For a matcha latte, if you have a small electric whisker, it will work too!

What does matcha taste like?  

Momo: With higher grade matcha, you get smooth, mild, sweet and almost creamy taste notes. The lower the grade, you will get more bitterness. However, it should be bitter matcha. Not green tea powder bitter as there should be a difference because the way the tea grown is different.

Wazuka Tea Ceremony Demonstration
Nodate Tea Ceremony in Wazuka

What is a Japanese tea ceremony?

Momo: The Tea Ceremony is basically making a cup of tea in a certain format/rules. To be a good host and a good guest, proper manners is very important. Also, suitable tools based on the season and scene of that gathering are also important, including what type of kimono pattern you will wear, how to enter the tea room, how to bow properly and more. Zen philosophy is also a big key to the tea ceremony. There’s so much to tell but at the end of the day, I think enjoying the moment and appreciating the fact that you share the tea is the best part of the tea ceremony.

What would you recommend to people who are new to drinking matcha?

Momo: I definitely want to recommend trying tea ceremony grade matcha from the right tea resource. Good matcha is not bitter. Whisking matcha is almost like meditation to me. Finding your own “spark joy matcha bowl” and whisk your matcha is my favourite thing to do! I recommend to do the comparison tasting. It’s fun and you will definitely notice the difference between grades. 

Final Thoughts

First and foremost, thank you to Momo for all the time she spent with me working on this post! She was so much fun to work and chat with.

If you would like to learn more about matchas from Momo, she is holding two online matcha workshops on June 26th and June 27th. Momo will be exploring and comparing different grades of matcha and is also offering special tea flavoured sweets that are custom to her workshop! For more information please reach out to Momo via Instagram/Facebook or email!

The matcha bowl featured is from 3rd generation potter, Kuniki Kato. The bowl is kiyomizu-yaki style Japanese pottery that dates back to the 15th century and merged with Thailand’s Benjaron style of using bright colours and gold patterns! I purchased it up when I was an intern at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms a few years back. That is also where the tencha and kukich are from!

Lastly, if you would like to learn more about matcha, I have a three-part series about matcha relating to the Obon Temae tea ceremony (pictured above), utensils needed for Obon Temae ceremony, and an overview of matcha. It has been personally great to dive back into matcha and I am excited to write more TEA 101 posts in the future!

The question of the post: What else would you like to learn about matcha?

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Eustacia | Eustea Reads June 5, 2021 - 8:37 pm

Great post! I think it would be fun/useful if there was a guide on how to buy matcha online, since we can’t see it and there are several different grades? So how can we tell if we’re buying the matcha that we want to get.

teainspoons June 6, 2021 - 7:25 pm

That’s a good idea! I’ll keep that in mind for future posts! Thanks for the suggestion.

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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!