How to Make a Perfect Bowl of Matcha
Making a bowl of matcha is easy. Making the perfect bowl of matcha, not so much. It takes practice, practice, practice.
There are two traditional ways of preparing matcha — thin (Usucha) and thick (Koicha). I’m going to show you, step-by-step, how to make thin matcha which is an everyday drink and whisked until you get a froth. Thick matcha (no froth on this one) is usually reserved for special occasions and ceremonies — the taste is way more intense.
I had seen it made in front of my eyes many times so I was fooled into thinking it was super easy to get that nice froth but it wasn’t until I tried it making it at home that I realized how hard it actually is. BUT! Have no fear, my matcha tricks and tips are here!
I Present to You, Me Preparing Matcha
What Makes a Perfect Bowl of Matcha
Shall we talk about what makes a perfect bowl of matcha? We shall.
You want the matcha to be clump-free, vibrant green, and with a smooth froth with tiny tiny bubbles. Seeing a lot of big bubbles in your matcha? No bueno.
You can make matcha with very little froth or foam and it’s not wrong to serve it that way if the person drinking it prefers it.
To make it at home the traditional way, you need a few essential tools and good quality matcha. Here’s what you need:
Matcha Bowl (Matcha Chawan)
A matcha bowl is a slightly flat bottomed bowl with a wide opening. It’s meant to be sipped using both hands and traditionally, matcha bowls are unique in shape and color to denote beauty in the imperfect.
Bamboo Whisk (Chasen)
A chasen is a matcha whisk made from one piece of bamboo. The highest quality ones (they last longer) are made in Japan and cost $20+ while the ones made in China cost around $10. The most popular chasen is the 80-tip (the number of tips on the bamboo) but you’ll also find 100-tip and 120-tip.
TIP: When you first use your whisk, make sure to soak it in warm water for about 5 minutes to soften the tips. Don’t store your whisk in the plastic container it came it. You need to let it air dry properly so either leave it upright or get a matcha whisk holder.
Bamboo Scoop (Chashaku)
A bamboo scoop/ladle is used to measure matcha out into your bowl. You can use a teaspoon instead if you don’t have one, although it’s usually included in most matcha sets. It’s up to you how much matcha you want but I go with the recommended 2 grams, or one and a half heaping scoops or one teaspoon.
TIP: Never get the bamboo scoop wet. Wipe it clean using a paper towel or cloth.
Most matcha kits don’t include a stainer but this is key to making a clump-free bowl of matcha. The quality of my matcha improved a ton after I started using a strainer.
Good Quality Matcha
In the US, you’ll see matcha labeled as Ceremonial grade or Culinary/Cooking grade. These labels don’t exist in Japan, although they do have different levels or grades of matcha. It’s purely a marketing tactic for us novices here in the States but it does help in telling the difference between good quality and not-so-great quality matcha.
The more expensive matcha is usually Ceremonial grade and that’s the one you want when drinking it straight with just hot water. The better quality matcha is not very bitter and tastes somewhat sweet.
The color is the true indicator — it should be vibrant green. The duller the green, the lower in grade and quality.
When using matcha in recipes or drinks with milk, go with cooking or culinary grade since the subtle flavors in the Ceremonial grade will get lost when added to anything other than water.
Have all your tools and matcha ready? Let’s start making matcha!
STEP 1 – The warming
I like to warm the bowl and soften the whisk tips first. Pour hot water into the bowl halfway and move the whisk around to soak the tips. Move and swirl the hot water around in the bowl gently to completely warm up the bowl. Pour out the water and dry the bowl using a clean cloth or paper towel.
STEP 2 – The sift
Place a strainer over the dry matcha bowl and using the tea ladle, put in one to two scoops of matcha into the strainer, depending on how strong you want your matcha to be. Sift matcha.
The recommended water temperature for matcha is 175°F. You don’t want super hot boiling water here since it’ll make the matcha bitter, no matter the quality. You can take simmered water then let it sit for a couple of minutes or pour the water into another vessel to cool it down and to get it closer to 175°F if you don’t have an electric kettle that indicates temperature.
STEP 3 – The initial pour
Pour about three tablespoons of water into the bowl. We’re going to make a thick matcha to fully incorporate the matcha and water before starting the froth. Move the whisk around slowly in half circles until all clumps are gone.
STEP 4 – The whisk
Add more water into the bowl until it’s a third of the way full. You never want to fill up the bowl all the way.
Time to whisk! The entire movement should come from the wrist. Briskly move the whisk in a zig-zag or a “W” shape. You want to make around 10-15 W’s. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the whisk so that it’s scraping the bottom of the bowl which will ruin the tips. If all things are aligned perfectly (the sifting, the water temperature, the amount of water, the whisking, and so on) you should have a lovely froth on the surface of the matcha.
TIP: Move the whisk around to move the big bubbles to the edges and pop them!
Enjoy your matcha straight from the bowl it was prepared in using both hands. One hand around the side of the bowl and the other placed at the bottom.
With ceremonial grade matcha, there shouldn’t be a need to add any sugar, honey, or milk. It should be delicious and full of umami on its own.
You should drink the matcha in three sips which explains why there isn’t a lot of water that goes into making this.
STEP 5 – The clean up
When cleaning up, rinse the whisk, no dish detergent, then store it upright or on a matcha whisk holder. Wipe the tea scoop with a dry cloth or paper towel. Store the matcha in a tightly sealed container. You can leave it out at room temperature or store in the fridge and use within 6–8 weeks.
Make your own matcha at home these recommended products:
Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated with new content and photos.