Making homemade matcha is a satisfying experience. Before sharing how to make matcha at home, here are the elements of quality Matcha: bright color, creamy and smooth texture, and naturally sweet and savory Umami taste. Matcha making usually involves a high level of skills to create the qualities, which involves 11 stages:
- Cover tea fields
- Dry while kneading
- Cut and sort
- Dry again
- Pack as final products
In this article, you will find simplified 7 steps to make your own homemade Matcha tea. It is a great way to understand the basic principles of matcha production. Making Matcha at home will make a fun family or classroom project, or a unique tea tasting experience for anybody who would appreciate its culture and benefits.
You will need the following items for this fun and educational project.
Time: about 1-2 hours.
What you need: Camellia Sinensis plant or freshly picked leaves,
a cookie sheet
oven (preheat to 175F)
a mortar or coffee bean grinder
a sifter with fine mesh
a measuring spoon
hot water (to make tea with) About 145 F.
1. Harvest leaf
Pick the leaves you would like to use. Quality matcha uses tender young leaves of the plant: two leaves and a bud as shown in the picture below:
I used a mix of tender buds and big mature leaves, but mostly mature leaves. Below is the tea leaf I used. The white stains are from mineral-rich well water. We do not use pesticides or herbicides!
2. Steam leaf
Put leaves into a steamer and steam for about 1-2 minutes. The tea leaf gets soggy but this process is important to keep the beautiful green color after you dry the leaf.
This steaming process was invented by a tea merchant in Kyoto, Soen Nagatani, during the 18th century. Before then, tea leaves were “roasted” over a heated pan, which is the traditional Chinese method to stop the oxidation process of leaves. That heating process adds a distinctive toasted aroma and brownish color to the leaves. On the other hand, the invention of the “steaming method” made green tea with bright green color and fresh aroma. Nagatani also introduced a new kneading step into the tea-making process. This new method was named the “Sencha method.” Since then, this method has been used to make most of the Japanese green teas, including Gyokuro and Matcha. Modern science discovered this steaming method retains vital antioxidants in the leaf better than the traditional Chinese method.
Below photo shows withered leaves after steaming at a Japanese tea factory:
3. Cool leaf
Spread leaves in one layer on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels for 10 minutes or so.
While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 175F, as we will dry the leaf in the next step. The below photo shows leaves being air-dried in a factory.
4. Dry leaf
Spread leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and dry them in a preheated 175 F oven for 5-10 minutes. (Watch carefully so they don’t get brown.)
5. Remove veins, sort leaf, and crush leaf
When leaves are cool, carefully remove veins and stems.
Crush leaf using fingers so the pieces would fit in the grinding tool you are going to use.
At this point, the pieces look like commercially dried herb pieces you would find packed in a spice jar. These flat leaves are called “Tencha.” Tencha is never a “final product”–it is supposed to be ground and then become matcha.
In the 11 steps shown at the beginning of this article, the leaves ready for step #8 is called Tencha.
6. Grind leaf into powder
You can use a coffee grinder and herb mortar, if you don’t have a “tea leaf mill.”
If you are a Matcha fan, you may have tried to grind loose leaf tea into “matcha” tea powder. I’m one of them. I experimented with a coffee bean grinder and food processor, but neither of them ground leaf as fine as real matcha. Even if you use a fine sieve, the particles are noticeable easily by both eyes and throat.
This time, I used a “tea leaf mill,” which I bought at a Japanese grocery store, Uwajimaya, many years ago. This is what it looks like (the left handside is a small tea cup for scale):
I was curious if it’s available at Amazon now, and it is. Kyocera and a few other companies are selling this type of mill for the specific purpose of grinding tea leaves.
How does matcha get ground?
The traditional way to grind Tencha is a stone mill method. This method is preferred to make a bowl of matcha that’s served during a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. A stone mill looks like this:
Stone mill grinds leaf slowly so it doesn’t generate heat, which ruins color. This slow process produces only a few ounces of powder in one hour. If you have wondered why matcha is so expensive, this is one of the reasons. This matcha is known as “ceremonial grade.”
A Piece of Art
Furthermore, the process takes more sophisticated finesse: In order to derive fragrant aroma from leaf, grinding does need to generate the proper amount of heat. How can it be possible?! There must be a fine line, which only skilled professionals can achieve. This is one of the reasons why I believe we should appreciate quality matcha like a piece of art. The fine balance varies day by day, yet the stone mill keeps turning to create smooth fine particles every day so that we can enjoy delicious matcha tea.
Quality matcha’s creamy texture contributes to its deliciousness. When you look at the particles with a microscope, they are beautifully round and mostly identical in size. The uniformly round particles create a scrumptious, creamy texture.
No wonder matcha fans are particular about the stone mill method. However, the stone mill method has a few drawbacks as well.
Perfectly round particles of uniform size make heavenly matcha—especially when it’s frothed with a traditional bamboo whisk. The uniform tiny particles, about 10 microns, tend to “clump up” in the water, especially with cooler temperature water. A traditional bamboo whisk is the very best tool to mix the particles evenly and create a smooth froth layer on the surface. If you have good quality matcha, you should invest in a bamboo whisk as well. The resulting creamy texture and smooth flavor will bring a blissful satisfaction.
Ball Mill Method
If you are a matcha fan, but mostly use matcha in smoothies or other foods, a more modern cutting technique will give the edge. This method is called the “ball mill method” or “bead mill method,” as it uses small balls or beads to crush the leaf into powder. This method can make the particles as fine as the traditional stone mill, but the powder is less clumpy. In addition, it grinds the leaf faster. Thus, a lower price. This is often referred to as culinary or cooking grade matcha. It’s a great matcha for smoothie fans.
7. Sift powder
Before I dried the leaf, stems and big veins were removed. Still, I found lots of vein pieces were left in the tea powder. You would want to use a very fine sifter to sift this powder. The powder may not be as fine as real matcha. You can use a mortar if you have one.
Now it’s time to make a cup of tea! I scooped a 1/2 tsp. of powder into a tea cup. From the amount of the leaves shown in the above photo of Step 1, I only had enough powder to make 2 cups.
When Matcha powder is made at a factory, the final powder product they get is about one fifth or sixth of the original leaf weight.
I poured warm water from the water dispenser, about 145F.
The color of the liquid was a deep rich green, forest green, like wrapping paper you would use for a Christmas gift. It’s promising. I should have used a bamboo whisk to see if it frothed up, but I didn’t. The intense green color made me so excited and I simply didn’t think of using a whisk.
I took the first sip. The flavor was like none of the tea I had tasted before. It was very mild, smooth, and a lot sweeter and more savory than tea I had ever tasted. Maybe because the tea plant had never been exposed to direct sunlight. That means–probably the tea had lots of L-theanine, a natural relaxant. Maybe that’s why I felt super blissful.
Did I feel the particles? Nope! They sank to the bottom and made a bright jade green settlement. So, I added more water and enjoyed it to the last drop.
I was very happy I did the whole process and enjoyed my own cup of matcha tea. I hope you will enjoy yours too. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us!
If you would like to become an owner of a Camellia Sinensis plant, it is available online. You can “google” to find it and you can discover if the climate in your area is suitable for the plant. We have to grow ours indoors, so it has never been exposed to direct sunlight. That could be the reason for the high Umami flavor that we tasted in this tea. Click here to find what differences sun exposure makes in green tea’s taste and nutrition.
Making matcha at home is fun and I hope you’ve had a fun experience. But it is time-consuming to do it every day, so if you would like to enjoy fine matcha grown organically and made professionally, shop at our online store!