Product review – a kit to prepare matcha in the traditional way
Having acquired my first teapot not more than a month ago, it’s fair to say that I’m new to the very serious business of drinking proper tea, and even more so to the concept of Matcha. The Japanese Matcha Set from Canton Tea Co is a great way to explore this new territory, as it comes with all of the necessary accessories and tools to make matcha.
Matcha is said to have been born in the 10th century Chinese Song Dynasty, where the idea to make powdered tea from dried leaves became a ritual of sorts for Zen Buddhists. It then crossed into Japan and gained popularity with the higher echelons of society, before evolving into the tradition of the Japanese Tea Ceremony which revolved around the preparation, serving and drinking of matcha.
It’s historical potency is matched by the numerous health benefits of drinking matcha, which include glorious levels of antioxidants (including the powerful EGCg) that outnumber those in superfoods like goji and acai berries, as well as being rich in fiber, chlorophyll and vitamins. Matcha is also thought to be helpful in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, and in boosting metabolism. One point to note is that matcha has higher lead levels than other teas, and should only be drunk once a day.
Matcha is produced from green tea which is grown in the shade, hand-picked, dried, de-veined, de-stemmed, and then stone-ground into a fine, emerald-coloured powder. The highest grades of matcha use only the softest and most supple tea leaves and are known as ‘Ceremonial Matcha’, and are suitable for use in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The coarser leaves constitute a cheaper grade of matcha which is suitable to be used in cooking. There is no universal standard as to what constitutes the higher grade matcha, and each company has their own standard.
In terms of taste, matcha has a unique umami-rich flavour profile, and Ceremonial grade matcha is said to have the best taste as a result higher levels of nutrients being directed to the fine, growing leaves of the plant. Both the taste and health properties of matcha can only fully be realized when the matcha is prepared in the traditional manner – no milky, sugar-laden matcha lattes then.
The Canton Tea Co matcha set is great for a matcha novice as it contains all of the basic items that you need to make matcha, which includes a bamboo scoop (茶杓, chashaku), a bamboo whisk (茶筅, chasen), a tea bowl (茶碗, chawan) and a 30g resealable tin pot of ‘high grade’ matcha.
Traditionally, there are two ways to prepare matcha: usucha and koicha. Slightly creamier than regular tea, usucha is the most common, whilst Koicha has a far thicker, honey-like consistency and is only served in tea ceremonies. Both usucha and koicha contain only matcha powder and water.
The Canton Tea Co matcha set contains instructions to make the thinner and more common usucha matcha. First, measure out two bamboo scoops of matcha into the tea bowl, and then add 100ml of water at around 75°C. Use the bamboo whisk in a brisk W motion to create a frothy top layer, and then drink directly from the tea bowl.
Cupping the bowl up and onto your lips so that it domes over your mouth and nose ensures that the whole fragrance of the tea surrounds you as you take that first, tentative sip. I’m loving the whole ritual-like nature of preparing matcha, and the matcha set from Canton Tea Co is a good way to start out.
At £58 the whole matcha set is not cheap, but then quality is key when it comes to matcha. The Canton Tea Co also sells the matcha on its own, as well as each matcha tool and accessory. If you’d like to try it out then use the code WRAP15 on checkout to get a 15% discount!
I was sent the products to review