Thick Tea - What's the difference?
The differences in thin and thick grade matcha teas are subtle. If you are new to whisking matcha with a bamboo whisk, thin grade (usucha) is the perfect place to begin and stay a while. Thick grade (koicha) is the ideal for the Japanese Tea Ceremony practitioner or the tea connoisseur already familiar with whisking matcha. How this relates to the grades of matcha is simple. Thick grade is used to make thin or thick tea. It may go against logic, but thick grade is more delicate, it can be used in various matcha to water ratios and still maintain its flavor balance. If your interest is adding a green tea flavor and/or health benefits to a recipe, ingredient grade is perfect. It is the most pungent of the grades and will hold up to other ingredients.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Japanese refined drinking the powdered tea so that it became a elaborate manifestation of Zen buddhism. The more superficial aspects are the physical acts of the tea ceremony and exchanges of hospitality and appreciation whereas the spiritual side (cha-no-yu) concerns Zen practice and quest for a pure state of mind.
A full tea ceremony can take four hours and includes a meal, sweets, and tea served two times. Thick tea is made with three bamboo spoonfuls (chashaku), or about 3.5 grams of tea which then has the hot water added to it. The bamboo whisk (chasen) is moved back and forth slowly, only enough to blend the tea into a smooth, thick liquid. The exact temperature of the water varies according to the season and and can range from nearly boiling down to about 190 degrees. The exact amount of water to make the perfect tea comes from experience.
Why Matcha Is Stone Ground
Grinding tea by stone was the method used in China when a Japanese Zen
priest, Myoan Eisai, brought the tradition back to Japan in 1191. Eisai
carried with him tea seeds and the knowledge of how to grow, process,
and drink the tea. By the thirteenth century tea was being cultivated
in Uji, Japan, where our matcha grows today. It is still ground using
stone wheels that have been specially chiseled for this express
purpose, made by craftsmen whose families have been making these
grinders for generations.
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea - as Described by Dr. Andrew Weil M.D.
to providing trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K),
matcha is rich in catechin polyphenols - compounds with high
antioxidant activity. These compounds offer protection against many
kinds of cancer, help prevent cardiovascular disease and slow the aging
process. They also reduce harmful cholesterol in the blood, stabilize
blood sugar levels, help reduce high blood pressure and enhance the
resistance of the body to many toxins. The most important polyphenol in
matcha is EGCG (epigallo-catechin gallate), which is the subject of
many medical studies. Matcha has a significant amount of dietary fiber
and practically no calories. - Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. (Read more about health benefits of tea by Dr. Andrew Weil M.D.