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When people find out that I am a “tea practitioner” they often think I must know a lot about all kinds of different teas when actually we only use one type of tea in chadō: matcha.

Of course, matcha has gotten pretty popular in the last few years as a barista-style beverage, so lots of people have had matcha in lattes, smoothies, or ice cream now.

As you may already know, matcha is the same leaf as other forms of tea: the camellia sinensis shrub. But instead of leaves dried (green and white tea) or dried and oxidized (as in black tea), for matcha, fresh new baby leaves that were grown under partial shade covers are picked, steamed and then dried to keep their bright green color, then ground to powder. By mixing that powder into water (or milk, as in a matcha latte) you end up actually ingesting the powdered leaves, unlike in steeped tea where the leaf is discarded after infusing. Actually, matcha is an older preparation style than steeped tea, but it fell out of favor after being invented in China and only survived the centuries through its use in chadō.

In chadō, we prepare matcha in two main ways: thick tea (koicha) and thin tea (usucha). There’s just water and matcha tea powder, combined in different proportions– less tea, more hot water for usucha, and more tea, less hot water for koicha. Because koicha is so concentrated, the highest quality matcha is used in koicha blends and you can get away with a bit more bitterness in usucha. Within those two broad categories though, there are dozens of matcha companies and hundreds of different blends and the different blends each have their own poetic names. We’ll mostly be using tea from the company Marukyu Koyamaen, based in Uji, Japan, for practice, but hopefully we’ll be able to try other teas from other plantations at different times. You can see more about Koyamaen and their teas here:

~ Prof. Michelle Liu Carriger

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