Matcha, the focal point of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, is a fine powder made by grinding green tea leaves. Only the finest, young, shade-grown gyokuro tea leaves are used to create matcha. The leaves are plucked and laid out flat to dry. Veins are removed and the leaves, now called tencha, are carefully ground in granite mills until they become the precious powder. Easy preparation is achieved by placing 1 teaspoon of matcha per cup (or to taste) in a cup, adding a few drops of hot water (160-180F) and stirring with a spoon until a paste forms. Add the rest of the water and stir.
Steep at 170° for 2 minutes.
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In this traditional Japanese preparation, the powder is sifted through a fine mesh sieve and measured into a special bowl called a chawan. Hot water is added slowly while whisking briskly in a W pattern with a bamboo whisk called a chasen until smooth with a foamy froth on top. Matcha can have a slight astringent note and is usually served with a small sweet confection called a wagashi. Because of this complementary relationship with sweets and reputed green tea health benefits, it has become a favorite ingredient for chefs and confectioners.
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Traditional matcha preparation requires the use of a bamboo whisk
to evenly distribute the powdered tea until a foam appears.