Matcha, also maccha, refers to finely milled or fine powder green tea. The Japanese tea ceremony centres on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. In modern times, matcha has also come to be used to flavour and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confectionery). Blends of matcha are given poetic names called chamei (“tea names”) either by the producing plantation, shop or creator of the blend, or by the grand master of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grand master of some tea ceremony lineage, it becomes known as the master’s konomi, or favoured blend.
There are two main ways of preparing matcha: thick (濃茶 koicha ) and thin (薄茶 usucha ). Prior to use, the matcha is often forced through a sieve in order to break up clumps. There are special sieves available for this purpose, which are usually stainless steel and combine a fine wire mesh sieve and a temporary storage container. A special wooden spatula is used to force the tea through the sieve, or a small, smooth stone may be placed on top of the sieve and the device shaken gently. If the sieved matcha is to be served at a Japanese tea ceremony it will then be placed into a small tea caddy known as a chaki. Otherwise, it can be scooped directly from the sieve into a tea bowl. A small amount of matcha is placed into the bowl, traditionally using a bamboo scoop called a chashaku, then a modicum of hot (not boiling: 70–85°C) water is added. The mixture is then whisked to a uniform consistency, using a bamboo whisk known as a chasen. There must be no lumps left in the liquid, and no ground tea should remain on the sides of the bowl. Because matcha can be bitter, it is traditionally served with a small wagashi sweet (intended to be consumed before drinking), and without added milk or sugar. It is usually considered that 40 g of matcha will provide for 20 bowls of usucha or 10 bowls of koicha: Usucha, or thin tea, is prepared with approximately 1.75 grams (amounting to 1.5 heaping chashaku scoop, or about half a teaspoon) of matcha and approximately 75 ml (2.5 oz) of hot water per serving, which can be whisked to produce froth or not, according to the drinker’s preference (or to the traditions of the particular school of tea). Usucha creates a lighter and slightly more bitter tea. Koicha, or thick tea, requires significantly more matcha (usually about doubling the powder and halving the water): approximately 3.75 grams (amounting to 3 heaping chashaku scoops, or about one teaspoon) of matcha and approximately 40 ml (1.3 oz) of hot water per serving, or as many as six teaspoons to ¾ cup of water. Because the resulting mixture is significantly thicker (about like liquid honey), blending it requires a slower, stirring motion which does not produce foam. Koicha is normally made with more expensive matcha from older tea trees (exceeding thirty years) and thus actually produces a milder and sweeter tea than usucha; it is served almost exclusively as part of Japanese tea ceremonies.
It is used in castella, manjū, and monaka; as a topping for kakigori; mixed with milk and sugar as a drink; and mixed with salt and used to flavour tempura in a mixture known as matcha-jio. It is also used as flavouring in many Western-style chocolates, candy, and desserts, such as cakes and pastries (including Swiss rolls and cheesecake), cookies, pudding, mousse, and green tea ice cream. The Japanese snack Pocky has a matcha-flavoured version. Matcha may also be mixed into other forms of tea. For example it is added to genmaicha to form what is called matcha-iri genmaicha (literally roasted brown rice and green tea with added matcha).