April 11, 2016
The first time I learned how to make matcha was from my grandmother, Baba-chan, in Tokyo. I was in second grade when she first showed me how to make matcha. I quickly forgot about it when I moved back to California in fourth grade.
Oddly enough, while I was listening to industrial music in my teens in Cupertino, I asked my dad to bring me back a whisk and matcha scoop from his monthly trips back to Japan. I am not really sure what my train of thought was back then, but I must have thought that the whisk was cool or something.
He brought back a whisk, bowl, scooper and some matcha for me. As is the story with many teenagers, by the time he brought back the set to the U.S., I had forgotten that I asked him in the first place to bring it back. I made it once and the tools just sat there in my mom’s kitchen until I moved out for college.
During one of my visits to Tokyo in college, my dad’s second wife took me to a sado demonstration. It looked much too complicated for me but made an impact. The tea master was serious and I was really nervous when it was my turn to sip. And then I forgot about matcha again for a few years.
I moved back to Japan in my mid-twenties and it was during that time that I worked at a little wafu (Japanese-style) restaurant in Yoyogi-uehara in Tokyo. On the menu were obanzai, yakimono (grilled foods), nimono (stewed dishes), sashimi, shochu, sake and a pretty extensive dessert and tea list. Among the most popular items was matcha.
It was there that I reunited with matcha, and it’s never left me since. My boss, a sophisticated lady from Tokyo, showed me the proper technique. And from there, I loved it when customers ordered matcha. Even though I am left-handed, and the proper (more attractive) way to prepare matcha is with a right hand, I became the go-to staff person to make matcha.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Matcha tea scooper (optional but recommended)
2 tsp of matcha
1. Start with a matcha bowl. I am lucky enough to be using a hand thrown matcha bowl by Studio Arhoj. These beauties are made in Copenhagen! The glaze really highlights the color of matcha.
2. Using the matcha scooper, scoop one heaping spoonful. If you don’t have this bamboo scooper, measure out 2 teaspoons, making sure not to pack it tight.
3. Put the powder into the middle of the bowl and tap the scooper on the side of the bowl to make sure all the powder releases from the scooper. Make sure you have some hot water in a kettle ready to go. You can also sift the tea through a strainer.
4. Add 2 oz of hot water to the bowl in a circular motion.
5. You’ll end up with a liquid that looks dark green like this. Make sure you start whisking right away.
6. Whisk in a “W” motion back and forth using only your wrist and not your whole arm.
Use quick “flicking” motions rather than a “mixing” motion with your arm. Keep firm contact between the bottom of bowl and whisk. Keeping that contact with the whisk and bowl makes it easier to create bubbles.
7. Continuously whisk for about 30 seconds to a minute until it starts to get really frothy.
8. Lift the whisk up from the middle when you are done. This creates a slight peak in the bowl, emulating a lush green hill.
9. Drink straight from the bowl!
10. After you drink up, rinse the bowl and add 2 ounces of hot water back into the bowl.
11. Whisk the water to clean the whisk. You do not need to use soap to clean the whisk, just hot water and the same “W” motion you used when making the matcha.
12. The bamboo scooper can be rinsed with warm water and dried off with a clean towel.
I enjoy a bowl of matcha instead of coffee when I feel like I need a little extra energy but not a jolt. I also like to introduce people to green tea if they are unsure of what “umami” tastes like. It is a distilled example of umami. And we all don’t need to be convinced of the health benefits of green tea.
Matcha has weaved in and out of my life in mysterious ways. These days I don’t think my grandma is making matcha, but there’s always a Zojirushi hot water dispenser at her side for sencha. Next time I visit her, I may whip up a bowl as a “thank you” for being the first person to introduce me to matcha way back when I was seven years old.