Sunday, 25 January 2009


Sometimes I just can’t resist a bargain. I made a brief trip to an Asian grocery store in the Melbourne CBD while I was there at Christmas time – didn’t have time to go to the more comprehensive range of Asian grocery shops in Box Hill, although I’d recommend them highly for variety and price – to see what kind of tea or teawares I might be able to pick up. When I saw some Japanese matcha (actually Japanese, I presume, given that the packaging said ‘product of Japan’), at 20gm for only $8, I just had to get some.

I didn’t buy it without some trepidation. I am not very experienced with using matcha, but from what I have read in The Story of Tea, the really good stuff is mind-blowingly expensive. A 40g tin from The Tea Centre retails for $20 (these are Australian dollars I’m talking here, obviously) and I understand that the cost generally only goes up from there.

Matcha is powdered green tea, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. It is the stuff used in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). The use of powdered tea, whipped with water, was in common use in China at the time that tea and its preparation were passed on to the Japanese. Powdered tea gradually fell out of use in China, but it remained central to Japanese tea culture (although steeping unground, whole leaves, such as sencha, is obviously also very popular now in Japan as well).

When you drink matcha, you are consuming the whole leaf (minus the stems, that is); consequently, brewed matcha packs a relatively high caffeine punch. However, it’s also the richest in the polyphenols and other goodies that make green tea so healthy for you in the first place. Also, according to The Story of Tea, tea grown under shade – as the tea which will be processed into matcha is – produces higher amounts of the reputedly-calming amino acid theanine, and this balances out the effects of the caffeine. 

Apparently, because of the increased popularity of green tea food products (ice cream, cakes, smoothies and so on), these days a substantial quantity of matcha is grown and produced in China, but the top quality ceremonial tea is still grown - and the bulk of it consumed - in Japan.

So, given that it only cost me $8 I wasn’t expecting this to be the highest quality matcha, but I figured that it would be useful for practicing whisking (my sister brought me back a cha sen, or tea whisk, from her trip to Japan last year) and could be used culinarily if no good for drinking.

I brewed myself a bowl of the matcha last weekend, and I wasn’t rapt; the powder settled to the bottom of the bowl, and the taste was quite bitter on the tongue while I was drinking, although a beautiful herbal sweetness came through in the aftertaste. I may have used too much powder to too little water, and I am sure that my whisking technique is far from optimal. So I will need to try again.

However, the last couple of mornings, which have been hot, have seen me craving something cool to drink with my breakfast. Enter the matcha milkshake: I combined about a teaspoon of matcha with a teaspoon of sugar, mixed them to a relatively smooth paste with a little water, then topped the glass up with soy milk and added a dash of vanilla. Delicious!

For more info on matcha, see this page at WikiCha... or just hit Google.


  1. I have found -in the few times that I have made matcha at home- that indeed using less matcha powder than what the instructions calls for ( I actually used just 1/2 the amount) yields a much better brew, not so bitter as you have experienced.

    Just a thought...

  2. That's interesting and good to know - thanks Cha Sen, I will try it that way next time!


Thanks for taking the time to comment... I appreciate it!


Related Posts with Thumbnails