Matcha - What am I doing wrong?


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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Taleri » Jun 12th, '14, 01:01

Hello all.
First, some background. I've just recently started drinking decent tea and am finding my way though the options. Up until roughly a month ago, the best tea I'd ever had was gyokuro imperial from teavana. I then ordered a tea at an upscale restaurant here that just blew my mind. I was told that it was made with matcha. In an attempt to recreate that experience, I read though a ton of reviews, a huge chunk of this board, and the websites of a lot of the vendors that came recommended here. I ordered the necessary tools (chashaku and bamboo whisk, I didn't need a chawan since I already had a similar style bowl/cup at home and a sifter) and matcha. I also ordered tea from another popular vendor here who was nice enough to include a sample of his matcha as well.

Now on to the tea. When the tea and accessories all arrived, I set it all out on the counter and admired it for a moment. That done, I heated filtered water to 180, used some to heat the bowl, rinsed the whisk, dried the bowl, used the chashaku to measure out the matcha, dumped the matcha into the sifter over the cup and sifted the matcha through. I poured 3oz of the heated water into the cup and whisked in an M shape for 30 seconds or so. The top had a light green film of bubbles over most, but not all of the tea. When I drank the tea, it lacked the creamy taste I was expecting and was actually faintly bitter. It honestly tasted weak and flat, if theres a way for tea to go flat like sodas do.

On attempt number 2, I thought that maybe the water I used the 1st time was too hot so I heated it to 160, rinsed the whisk, heated and dried the bowl, measured and sifted the matcha, added the water and whisked again. This time there was even less of the green bubble film so I whisked some more and there was no improvement. Thinking that this was the best I was going to get, I drank the tea. On the plus side, the bitterness was gone. On the negative side, the tea was a bit grainy and still lacked that creamy factor. It still seemed flat to me. This cup gave me a massive headache.

With attempt number 3, I switched the brand of matcha I was using. I went back to the directions, heated water to 180 and went though it all again. This one didn't foam at all after 2 minutes (which seemed like an eternity) and I finally just gave up and drank it. It was also slightly bitter but at least it tasted a bit fuller/richer than my first attempt.

Obviously I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know what. I'd appreciate any tips/ advice on how to go about doing this correctly.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby entropyembrace » Jun 12th, '14, 02:41

Matcha should be fairly simple to make...I can think of a few potential problems

First what matchas are you using? it needs to be fresh and of good quality. Matcha degrades quickly and sometimes lesser powdered teas are sold as matcha.

Second is your cup wide wnough to give you space to whisk properly?

Or are you whisking quickly enough to develop a good consistency?

I found a few videos of matcha prep 2/3 don't sift but I find that helpful to avoid lumps.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUfnS4IFS0k most explanation but overly elaborated

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adrG4k44rc4 best whisking technique

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NVhugeSn08 simple matcha routine explained :)
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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Pig Hog » Jun 12th, '14, 03:47

A couple of things one to mind here.

1. Good matcha prep does take a bit of practice. Correct technique and a perfectly whisked bowl with no lumps will come with time (and practice).

2. Your matcha may not be the same matcha as they use at the restaurant -- as with any tea, different matcha will vary in taste and a lot may well not have the creaminess you're after. Shop around and you'll find one you like. Also, matcha is naturally bitter.

3. You say you were told your tea was made with matcha. Being made with matcha is not the same as it actually being matcha...
There are plenty of 'matcha-iri cha' where teas like sencha or genmaicha are dusted with matcha to improve the colour and flavour, and I wonder whether you are mistaking the two types.

EDIT: can you remember specifically what you ordered at the restaurant?
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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby blairswhitaker » Jun 12th, '14, 10:22

1. You need a chawan, their are some subtle points your bowl/cup may be missing.

2.the water has to be hot enough, I make matcha every day multiple times a day with water from a kettle that is over live coals, it is nearly always hotter than 180f and the tea is never bitter.

3."creamy" matcha comes in no small part from the foam. You have to whisk a lot of tea to get decent foam, however if your cup/bowl is not up to snuff, no amount of whisking is going to fix it.

4. The tea itself. Assuming you have the proper equipment on hand, nothing is more important except for the quality of the water. I can not turn a low quality grade of tea into something wonderful even if I were to give it a perfect whisking. It might look pretty but the taste will not be there. Also make sure you are using enough tea, two heaping chashaku full of tea for usucha.

I would post the two types of tea you have been working with so someone can tell you if you are ever going to get what you are looking for from them.

5.practice, practice, practice...
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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Pig Hog » Jun 12th, '14, 11:16

Post some pics, if you can. It'd be good to see your equipment and results. Plus pics are always fun!
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Taleri » Jun 13th, '14, 05:22

Thank you all for your replies.

I'm certain it isnt the tea. The two I had arrived about a week ago. One was Matcha Kaze from Dens and the other was Uji Matcha Kiri no Mori from o-cha.

It's entirely possible I'm not whisking fast enough. I didn't have any lumps at all, but I do have some medical issues that limit my physical capabilities. Entropyembrace, I saw the second video you had linked before, but this time I tried to mimic the timing of the gentleman whisking in the video. I definately cant get my hand to move that fast.

Pig Hog - I can see how I may have given the impression of confusing the two. What I had at the restaurant wasn't straight matcha. It was, as you say, most likely a "matcha-iri cha". I consciously decided to start with the straight matcha first as it seemed to be a more interesting, different, and fun first foray into tea than trying to hunt down the blend, which could potentially be very frustrating. If straight matcha turns out to not be my thing, then at least I gave it a try. Unfortunately, I don't have a way to take/post photos.
The restaurant version was literally just called green tea on the menu, and when I asked for something more specific they wouldn't tell me. "Made with matcha" was the best I could get out of them.

blairswhitaker - Thank you for your tips. I'll probably end up buying the chawan, I can make the water hotter, whisking faster may be a problem so I'll have to try to figure out how to achieve that, and the water is as good as I can make it. I don't use tap water, we have bottled filtered water that we get. I can also use more tea to see if that makes a difference.

It sounds like I have a lot of work to do, so I'll keep at it and see if I improve.
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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Pig Hog » Jun 13th, '14, 07:58

Don't worry about whisking as fast as that video. Your technique will become faster and more natural with practice. I remember it being really awkward when I started.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby entropyembrace » Jun 13th, '14, 15:42

The matcha shouldn't a problem at least :) The Kiri No Mono is what I would have recommended. :)

Sounds like you need to practice a bit, make sure you're not dragging the whisk along the bottom while you whisk, that will slow you down a lot.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Senchamatcha » Jun 13th, '14, 20:09

What type of water are you using? Tap (bad), distilled (dull/flat), spring (metallic taste)?
The best water i have found for teas are either distilled with a splash of a good spring water or whatever comes in the water jugs from the water people (which tastes the same to me as distilled with a splash of spring water).
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Taleri » Jun 14th, '14, 03:36

Senchamatcha - the water I use is the stuff in the water jugs from the water people :D Its the best water we have around here.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby gunbuster363 » Jun 15th, '14, 06:53

For the creamy texture - 4 spoonful of the bamboo spoon, 180F, 40ml water

For normal watery texture - 2 spoonful of the bamboo spoon, 180F, 70ml water

For the foam - you need a real Japanese whisk. The chinese made one simply isn't enough. Also use your wrist. Also the chawan is important, a U shape bowl will allow your whisk to bounce back and forth quickly within the bowl.

Preheat the bowl. Wet the whisk before use.
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Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby Pig Hog » Jun 15th, '14, 12:10

I don't think that's the 'creaminess' he means. Making koicha won't solve much if your matcha isn't of the right quality -- using usucha grade matcha to make koicha, I would think will just result in undrinkable tea (and a waste of 4 chashaku of matcha).

I used to use a Chinese-made chasen and never had issues. Technique is the key. And practice.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby entropyembrace » Jun 15th, '14, 13:56

gunbuster363 wrote:For the creamy texture - 4 spoonful of the bamboo spoon, 180F, 40ml water


Don't do this neither matcha that you have it inteded for koicha and they will be too intense prepared this way. Besides that koicha doesn't have foam on top and has more the texture of wet paint.

Also Chinese whisk (chasen) can be fine. The one O-cha sells for example is good.
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Re: Matcha - What am I doing wrong?

Postby gunbuster363 » Jun 15th, '14, 21:44

Maybe the tea was made with honey or syrup so that it was creamy?
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