A bamboo whisk next to a bowl of frothy matcha tea with matcha powder spread in a semicircle on a dark wooden surface

What is matcha: Tea Ceremony, Culture, and Benefits. Here's what you want to know

by: Hideo Takahashi



Time to read 4 min

What is Matcha?

Matcha, pronounced 抹茶"ma-cha," is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. The term "抹茶" in Japanese translates to "rubbed tea," highlighting the unique method of production where the leaves are carefully ground into a fine powder. Unlike regular green tea, where leaves are steeped and discarded, matcha involves consuming the entire leaf. This practice provides a more intense flavor and a higher concentration of nutrients.

Japanese kanji characters for Matcha with English translation in red brackets underneath

The history of matcha

The history of matcha dates back to the Tang Dynasty in China, where tea leaves were steamed and formed into bricks for easy transport and trade. This method of tea production eventually made its way to Japan in the 12th century, brought by Buddhist monks who had studied in China. These monks, particularly Eisai, introduced the powdered tea form to Japan, where it became an integral part of Zen monasteries. Over time, the practice of drinking matcha spread from the monasteries to the samurai class and eventually to the broader Japanese society.

Person using a bamboo whisk to prepare matcha tea in a bowl for a tea ceremony

The symbol of matcha in Japanese culture

In Japan, matcha holds a significant and revered place among tea varieties. It is the cornerstone of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, also known as "chanoyu" or "sado." This ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha are deeply rooted in Zen Buddhism, where it was used by monks to help maintain calm alertness during meditation.The Japanese tea ceremony is more than just about drinking tea; it is a spiritual and philosophical experience. The host of the tea ceremony meticulously prepares the setting, from the arrangement of the tea utensils to the decoration of the tea room, often with seasonal flowers or calligraphy. Every movement in the tea ceremony is deliberate and precise, designed to create a serene and contemplative atmosphere. The guests, in turn, engage in a mindful appreciation of the tea, the utensils, and the ambiance, fostering a deep sense of presence and connection.

How to make Matcha

Everything You Need to Prepare Before Drinking MatchaBefore you can enjoy matcha, you need to gather specific tools and learn the proper techniques.

The essential tools include

Chawan (茶碗): A wide-mouthed bowl used to whisk and drink the matcha.

Pottery tea cup with visible gold repair lines, placed on a tatami mat with other tea utensils in the background

Chasen (茶筅): A bamboo whisk designed to blend the matcha powder with water, creating a smooth, frothy texture.

Bamboo matcha tea whisk on a white background

Chashaku (茶杓): A bamboo scoop used to measure the matcha powder.

Traditional Japanese Matcha Powder and Chashaku

To prepare matcha, follow these steps:

  1. Sift the Matcha: Sifting the matcha powder through a fine sieve helps prevent clumps and ensures a smooth, consistent texture.
  2. Measure the Matcha: Use the chashaku to scoop 1-2 grams of matcha powder into the chawan.
  3. Add Water: Pour a small amount of hot water (not boiling, ideally around 80°C or 176°F) into the chawan.
  4. Whisk: Use the chasen to whisk the matcha and water in a zigzag motion until a frothy layer forms on the surface.
  5. Enjopy your matcha tea!

The Relationship Between "Ichigo Ichie" and Matcha

Person in traditional Japanese attire preparing tea with a ladle and other tea ceremony utensils

"Ichigo Ichie" (一期一会) is a Japanese concept that translates to "one time, one meeting." It embodies the idea that each moment is unique and should be treasured, as it will never occur again in exactly the same way. This philosophy is closely tied to the Japanese tea ceremony, where the act of serving and receiving tea is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime event, deserving of full attention and appreciation.

While Ichigo Ichie is not exclusive to matcha, the tea ceremony provides a perfect setting for practicing this principle. The preparation and consumption of matcha become a meditative and mindful experience, allowing participants to fully engage with the present moment and the people they are with. This approach to hospitality, known as "omotenashi," emphasizes sincerity, attentiveness, and the desire to make each guest feel honored and valued.

The concept of Ichigo Ichie reminds us to savor each moment as if it were the first and last. In the context of a tea ceremony, this means appreciating the subtle details—the sound of the water boiling, the aroma of the tea, the texture of the chawan, and the gentle whisking motion. Each element contributes to a unique experience that cannot be replicated, encouraging participants to be fully present and mindful.

In conclusion, matcha is more than just a type of tea; it is a vital part of Japanese culture, embodying centuries-old traditions and values. From the precise tools and techniques required for its preparation to the philosophical principles of Ichigo Ichie and the numerous health benefits it offers, matcha provides a rich and multifaceted experience.

Popular Matcha-Infused Foods

Matcha Latte

A glass of matcha latte with layers of green matcha and white frothy milk, placed on a tray on a marble surface

A creamy, delicious alternative to your regular coffee, matcha lattes blend the earthy flavor of matcha with the smoothness of milk. It's a perfect way to start your day with a boost of energy and calm focus.

Matcha Ice Cream

A cone of matcha soft serve ice cream with a wooden spoon, held in a waffle cone

This delightful treat combines the refreshing taste of green tea with the sweetness of ice cream. Matcha ice cream is popular in both Japan and around the world for its unique flavor profile and beautiful green color.

Matcha Cookies

A cone of matcha soft serve ice cream with a wooden spoon, held in a waffle cone

Matcha cookies offer a delightful twist on traditional cookies. They are typically soft and chewy, with a slightly bitter matcha flavor that balances perfectly with the sweetness of the dough.Matcha Cake

Matcha cakes are a favorite among dessert lovers. Whether it’s a light and fluffy sponge cake or a rich cheesecake, the addition of matcha provides a unique taste and a stunning green hue.

Matcha Mochi

Close-up of delicious matcha cookies on a wooden table

Mochi, a traditional Japanese rice cake, gets a delicious upgrade with the addition of matcha. The chewy texture of mochi combined with the earthy taste of matcha makes for a delightful snack or dessert.

japanese matcha,world matcha

Thanks to the growing awareness of its health benefits and the rise in tourism to Japan, matcha has gained popularity worldwide, becoming a favorite among tea enthusiasts and fans of Japanese snacks.

Author Bio

Hideo Takahashi

Hideo Takahashi

Born in Tokyo in 1990. Founder of JAPANBITE and CEO of its operating company, GRID Start, Ltd.
Established the company in 2023 after being an IT engineer.
Inspired by his travels to 15 countries and a deep love for Japanese food, he launched a service to contribute to small local Japanese manufacturers' businesses and allow many foreigners to enjoy Japanese culture.

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