How to Make a Proper Cup of Matcha Green Tea

One of my goals in Japan was to learn to make matcha green tea the right way, with all the extra fixing and finagling involved. Okay, maybe not all of it. A proper sa-do, or Japanese tea ceremony, lasts anywhere from one hour to four and takes years to master.

I didn’t have years, but I did have twenty minutes. To the best of my memory, these are the main points you should keep in mind for matcha tea.

1. It’s essential that all your tools are immaculate and have been properly cleaned. In a proper ceremony, there’s a complicated, elegant process of wiping things down with a silk handkerchief and checking them at eye level, but I think for the sake of everyday tea-drinking, all you need to do is pay attention to the tools you’re using. Be sure to rinse tea cups with boiling water before use to remove any lingering scents or flavors.

2. Make sure everything is arranged neatly in front you. Add about half a teaspoon of matcha (depending on what strength you want, what kind of tea you’re using, etc.) for every half cup of boiling water you use.

3. Whisk. Two clockwise circles first, then some figure-eights, then some furious up-down motions until its frothy, then small M-shapes along the surface to create tiny bubbles.

4. Take some time to be grateful for what you’ve been given- the master told me to raise my tea cup near the level of my eyes in the gesture of an offering. Take the teacup firmly in both hands and enjoy.

Bitter, frothy, and a lurid, waxy shade of dark green- not an appealing description but an accurate one. If I could describe a taste as down-to-earth, matcha would fit that description.


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