How to Make Matcha Tea at Home, According to This RD

Asako Miyashita, a New York-based registered dietitian originally from Japan, shares her tips on how to make matcha tea at home to maximize its health benefits.

The growing popularity of matcha

Matcha has been popular for centuries in Japan, where it plays a starring role in traditional tea ceremonies.

In recent decades, though, people all over the world have begun discovering the magic of matcha, helping make this ancient drink an increasingly common source of energy and antioxidants.

It may not yet rival the global cachet of coffee or non-matcha green tea, but it’s growing quickly. The global matcha tea market is projected to be worth $2.69 billion by 2026, according to marketing research firm Research and Markets, representing an increase of 65 percent in less than a decade.

Matcha is a type of green tea, but there are important differences in the way it’s grown, produced, and prepared. Even for some experienced tea drinkers, trying to choose the right matcha—and then figuring out how to turn this green powder into tea—can feel intimidating.

To get the most out of matcha, here is a closer look at matcha itself, its potential health benefits, and how to make it.

What is matcha?

Matcha, like other tea, is made from leaves and buds of Camellia sinensis, a plant native to China and introduced to Japan in the 8th century.

Unlike most tea, however, matcha is made from plants grown under sunlight-blocking covers for three to four weeks in April and May, explains Asako Miyashita, a registered dietitian based in New York, originally from Japan.

“This process increases chlorophyll content and amino acids content (mainly composed of umami and theanine), and gives a darker green color,” she says, noting it also confers a less bitter, astringent taste.

These shade-grown leaves undergo special harvesting and processing methods, resulting in a vivid green powder. But there is still one more major difference between matcha and other green tea: how you make the tea itself.

While most teas are infusions, made by steeping leaves in hot water and then removing them, matcha powder is whisked directly into warm water to create a suspension.

“Because matcha is powdered green tea leaves, it is not extracted,” Miyashita says. “So you can consume all nutrients, including water-soluble nutrients.”

Health benefits of matcha

Green tea has a long history of medicinal use, and although research on its health effects has often yielded inconsistent results, at least some of its reputed benefits are increasingly supported by scientific evidence.

One key to those potential benefits is a group of polyphenolic compounds known as catechins, which act as antioxidants in the body.

Green tea is especially high in a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), Miyashita says, and matcha is even higher, per a study in the Journal of Chromatography A.

“Matcha has twice EGCG the total content than regular green tea,” she says, “because matcha contains all nutrients from the entire green tea leaves.”

EGCG has been associated with anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, according to a 2018 research review in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, along with lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

It has been linked to other potential benefits, too, Miyashita notes, from improved brain function to better breath.

Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid associated with reduced stress, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep.

It moderates the effects of caffeine on the nervous system and may help explain why green tea—including matcha, which can have relatively high caffeine—tends to instill a calmer, less jittery alertness than coffee.

“If you want to avoid a caffeine crash, you can try matcha instead of coffee,” Miyashita suggests. “Matcha contains caffeine but also contains antioxidants which help promote relaxation.” Levels of L-theanine are generally higher in matcha, she adds, in some cases by a factor of 10 or more.

Matcha features saponins, too, a family of organic compounds with foaming properties. These can be found in the iconic bubbles of a frothy matcha bowl, Miyashita says, and have been associated with antibacterial and antiviral effects, among other possible health benefits.

(Find out more about the benefits of matcha.)

How to select matcha

There are different grades of matcha distinguished by when the leaves are harvested.

The highest-quality matcha, ceremonial grade, is harvested in spring. This is traditionally considered the best matcha to use for making tea, and it can be expensive.

Matcha harvested later in the year is generally cheaper, and while it’s often used in cooking (and sometimes known as culinary grade), it’s still a high-quality matcha that can be used to make tea.

Matcha from later harvests tend to be rich in antioxidants, but may have an earthy or even bitter taste compared with ceremonial grade.

The source of your matcha can make a big difference in quality, too.

“If it is possible, it is better to buy matcha that is organic and hand-picked,” Miyashita says.

The label may offer other clues about the matcha’s quality, she adds, such as the involvement of a certified Chashi master tea maker. Check for the country of origin, too—Miyashita recommends only buying matcha from Japan, which is known for the highest and most consistent quality.

Matcha drinks are now common at many tea and coffee shops, and they may be a good option in some cases, as long as they’re made with high-quality matcha and without added sweeteners.

(Here’s the healthy way to make a matcha latte.)

Even if so, however, you have more control over the ingredients and preparation if you make it yourself, and Miyashita notes that if you drink matcha every day, making it at home will likely save money.

“If you know how to make matcha at home, such as using a bamboo whisk, it is also a part of meditation,” she adds.

(Find out if olive leaf tea is the new matcha.)

Anonymous Woman Making Matcha TeaFreshSplash/Getty Images

How to make matcha tea

Matcha tea is traditionally made by adding hot or warm water to a bowl with matcha powder, then mixing them together with a chasen, or bamboo whisk.

Many people sift the powder first, since matcha has a tendency to clump together.

Opt for a whisk

You can use a spoon if necessary, Miyashita says, but whisking offers a unique taste and consistency.

Some whisks have as few as 16 strings, but 80 to 120 is more common. More strings make it easier to whisk matcha and create foam, Miyashita says, while fewer strings require more whisking time.

Aside from stirring or whisking, matcha can also be made in a thermos by adding powder and water, closing tightly, and shaking.

Choose your water carefully

Water is another important factor in the outcome of your matcha.

You can try to optimize the pH or mineral content of your water, but the easiest and possibly most relevant variable to control is temperature. Don’t make matcha with boiling water, and consider using a thermometer to check the temperature first.

“If you brew matcha in hot water quickly, the astringent compounds will come out all at once—then you will taste a bitter matcha tea,” Miyashita says. ”

Check your brewing temperature

When you brew matcha slowly at a low temperature, the taste is mild because you get more theanine (amino acid, umami components).

If you worry about caffeine or want to relax, heat water to 86 °F to 104 °F. Pour water slowly. You will get more L-theanine.”

Warmer water could offer some advantages in terms of antioxidants, though, at least according to research on matcha infusions.

For a 2020 study in the journal Foods, a team of researchers tested the antioxidant levels of infusions made with different matcha types at different water temperatures. Using matcha from the first, second, third, and fourth harvests of the year, the researchers brewed infusions at 77°F, 158°F, 176°F, and 194°F. For most antioxidants, they found the highest levels in infusions prepared at 194°F using third- or fourth-harvest matcha.

Quick tips to keep in mind

Here are a few more tips from Miyashita on making better matcha:

Heat 2 or 3 ounces of water to 176°F.

Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha into a cup and add a splash of hot water (not boiling water).

Mix thoroughly with a spoon to remove lumps of matcha. If you have a bamboo whisk, mix matcha with it until frothy.

Next, here’s a matcha smoothie recipe this dietitian loves.

Sources

Russell McLendon
I am a science journalist with more than a decade of experience covering a variety of topics related to environmental and human health. I am especially focused on humans' connections with nature, from biophilia and home gardening to our roles in the climate crisis and wildlife declines.