Drinking Matcha for the First Time

Drinking Matcha for the First Time

I was really delighted when Gavin from Vitalife sent me a sample of their matcha green tea powder. Here’s a close-up of what the matcha powder looks like straight from the bag. It’s very fine and powdered.

What is Matcha

For those of you who are unfamiliar with matcha, it’s a powdered green tea made from ground green tea. Unlike other forms of green tea, the tea bushes are covered with shade cloth three weeks prior to harvest. This causes the tea to react by developing larger, thinner leaves with enhanced sweetness.

The green teas go through minimal processing before being ground into a fine powder. Vitalife’s matcha is grown in the Kyoto Prefecture, and you can read more about their story here.

Preparing Traditional Matcha

The idea of how to prepare matcha seems easy enough. You mix one teaspoon of matcha powder into a small amount of hot water to make a paste, and then whisk until boiling. The Vitalife site states simply, “Simply mix 1 gram of Matcha powder with 300ml of hot water using a whisk. That’s it.”

I’ve been waiting to review this until I had a chance to pick up a bamboo chasen. A chasen is a bamboo whisk for preparing matcha.

Armed with my new bamboo chasen, I was ready.

Experimenting with Matcha

Vitalife’s matcha was very finely ground, almost talc-like in its fineness. According to their website, it takes one hour to grind just 30 grams of matcha. After opening the foil packet, I found the matcha powder to a bright, vibrant green.

In experimenting with matcha, I realize very important to try to get the ratio of matcha to hot water correct. Basically, 1 gram is approximately 1/4th tsp of matcha powder, and 300 ml is 1.25 cups. I put a rough approximation of this, and my initial matcha came out somewhat watery and bitter.

Online, I found a few other ratios. One site suggested “thin style tea” as 1 tsp of matcha to 3 ounces of water. For a “thick style tea”, 1-2 teaspoons to 1.5 ounces of water. I did the suggested amount for thin style tea, and tried whisking it.

It’s also a little trickier to get the matcha into a rich froth like pictured, despite how easy the how-to videos on Youtube make it look. The chasen yielded some foamy little bubbles, but hardly the creamy foam that is often pictured with matcha. My solution was basically to throw everything into a lidded Nalgene bottle, and shake it like crazy for a minute.

Maybe that makes me a matcha tea heretic, but this time the matcha came out beautifully foamy.

The Verdict

The taste is not exactly what I was expecting. I’ll confess that my normal experiences with matcha have been with matcha-flavored baking, or the occasional matcha latte at a cafe. Those are often very sweet and creamy. The tea is thick and full-bodied, which makes it a very refreshing tea.

Vitalife’s matcha was grassy, vegetal and surprisingly bitter with a lingering sweet aftertaste. It caught me offguard with its initial astringency, but that actually seemed to accentuate the sweetness of the finish.

I’m planning to try the rest of the matcha with soymilk for a smoothie. Stay tuned!

You can check out Vitalife’s website here to try matcha for yourself, and also find them on Twitter as @vitalifematcha. There’s a sale on right now, so you can buy a 30g tin for $16.99.

What was your first experience with a new tea like? Does anyone have any advice on how to mix matcha?