The Basics of Preparing Matcha

Matcha is Japanese green tea that has been ground to a fine powder. There are a lot of different places to get matcha – I’ve bought some very inexpensive matcha, and I’ve also gotten my hands on some very expensive matcha. The general rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for – meaning that the higher the quality, the higher the price is likely going to be. I tend to reserve the less expensive (read: lower quality) matcha for baking purposes, and I’ve also bought flavoured matcha blends before, which are great for drinking straight, or as a latte.

But how do you prepare it? I have tried preparing matcha without a bamboo whisk before – and let me tell you, the result was less than desirable. Ideally, the traditional tools you’ll have are as follows:

Fine sifter
Bamboo whisk (chasen)

Sifting the matcha is important. It helps break up any clumps in the powder and makes the whisking part of your matcha preparation a lot easier. Even if you are preparing matcha in a blender bottle (and let’s face it, if you’re adding matcha to a smoothie or making a matcha latte on-the-go, this is a viable option), sifting the matcha powder will help it blend a lot easier.

I start by spooning the matcha powder into the sifter that’s sitting in my bowl. Then I use the spoon to push the powder through the sifter, getting rid of any unsightly clumps that may exist. I find with ‘older’ matcha powder or flavoured matcha powders (that have sugar), they’re more likely to be clumped. Sifting it helps a lot in getting a smoother drink.

Once the matcha has been sifted, I add a small amount of warm water. Then the whisking begins! For those who do not have a bamboo whisk, I found that using a fork or a regular (small) whisk can sometimes work, but takes a longer time to get the powder well suspended. I’ve heard from many people that you should whisk in either a M motion (M for matcha) or W motion (W for whisk). Whichever letter you decide on, just keep doing it repeatedly in the bowl. The more vigorous you whisk, the faster the matcha powder is suspended in the water. It becomes a thick green (smooth!) paste in the bowl – I generally wind up with something that reminds of a syrup consistency.

Then I add more water so it’s closer to the top of my bowl, and continue whisking in an M or W motion. Once I’m satisfied with my whisking, which happens when there’s some foam on the top, I will either drink directly from the bowl, or pour into a larger cup if I’m making a matcha latte.

Take care of your whisk! I rinse out my bowl with warm water, and whisk the water to help clean off the whisk. There are whisk holders that you can purchase which help keep the whisk’s shape and you can pop the whisk onto the holder to dry.

Lastly, practice makes perfect! The first time I tried to whisk matcha, it was pretty terrible. But I also did not sift the powder beforehand because I didn’t think it was necessary (not-a-spoiler: it was and it is important to sift your matcha!). I have gotten a lot better with my whisking skills now, although I don’t always get a crazy amount of foam on top – which is okay too!

Steeping Blooming Teas

Blooming teas, or flowering teas, are bundled tea leaves around dried flowers. Typically when you pick up a blooming tea ball, you only see the tea leaves because the flowers are meant to be a surprise. During the steeping process, the ball opens up, unfurls, and the dried flower ‘blooms’ as it is hydrated in the steeping process. Commonly found flowers in blooming teas include globe amaranth, chrysanthemum, and jasmine flowers.

Blooming teas are typically made with white or green teas, as these teas are light in colour and allow you to visualize the floral blooms better. You will want to steep a blooming tea in either a clear glass teapot or cup in order to take in the whole ‘show’, as I like to call it.

Some people find that it’s difficult to steep blooming teas properly, or they wind up oversteeping blooming teas because the teas can be delicate and sensitive to oversteeping. I thought I’d share some of my methods of steeping a blooming tea to make a good cup of tea! Blooming teas can be expensive per pot, so it’s important to steep it properly to make it worth it!

I use a clear glass teapot, I find this best to see the blooms and to watch the ball of tea itself as it steeps. It just makes for a more beautiful tea experience.

The kettle I use has preset temperature settings (the Breville IQ Kettle, I’ve had it for 2+ years and it’s still going strong with daily use!) and I use the lowest temperature setting which is meant for green teas, 175°F (80°C). After the kettle has finished reaching the temperature, I let the water sit for about 5 minutes prior to pouring the water into my teapot. If you have a standard kettle that only boils (100°C/212°F) water, you’ll want to let the water sit for longer to cool down – open the lid or taking off the lid will help the water cool down faster.

Lowering the temperature of the water reduces the likelihood of scalding or burning the tea leaves and causing a bitter flavour. Some companies will provide steeping recommendations, but I find sometimes that their recommended water temperature is too high given the fact that there’s a longer steeping period for the blooming tea to fully open.

Each blooming tea will steep for a different amount of time, I consider it to be ready when the ball has opened up and the flowers have ‘bloomed’ as well – some blooming teas will have the flowers floating up to the surface. Often the process of blooming can take up to 5 minutes or more. I find that blooming teas with a white tea base are far more forgiving and less likely to result in a bitter cup of tea than one with green tea base. Blooming teas can also be resteeped! Because the flavours come from the tea leaves and blossoms, there’s generally no added flavouring and the tea leaves can be resteeped usually once or twice. The flavouring may be a bit weaker than the initial steep, but you can get more bang for your buck by resteeping the tea leaves.

DIY Tea Advent Calendar

I have been on the hunt for the perfect tea advent calendar. While my local dollar store has a chocolate advent calendar for the low, low price of $1, there are many tea advent calendars available out there that are full of tea. Tea sachets, loose leaf tea, matcha – the sky is the limit, but there is no limit on price! I’ve come across tea advent calendars that vary anywhere from $35 to $150 (after currency conversion, although I did not take into account the shipping costs or potential customs & duties). But goodness gracious, I just don’t have it in me to drop $150 on a calendar, regardless of how good it may or may not be.

It may not surprise you that I have a lot of tea in my tea stash. So when faced with the idea of buying a $150 advent calendar, which was really enticing, it was pointed out to me that I had enough teas to come up with my very own custom DIY Tea Advent Calendar.

At first I protested, because there was just no way that I had 24 teas to have for the first 24 days of December. And then, upon reevaluation of my tea stash, I realized that I doth protest too much. I could easily come up with 24 teas that I would love to have over the course of the month. And that’s not even including the new-to-me tea that I purchased at the Vancouver Tea Festival earlier this month – should I be embarrassed at this point? Should I just embrace my tea enthusiast lifestyle? Anyways, I opted to do a 24 day Tea Advent Calendar because I’m going to be having Christmas morning at my parents’ house, and having tea with them (and they have a huge tea stash too! The apple does not fall far from the tree). I do love the idea of having a tea designated for Christmas morning, so if you’re wanting to do a 25 day Tea Advent Calendar that is totally okay too!

Of course, since I am putting together a tea calendar for myself, I know exactly what teas will be appearing throughout the month (if you continue to scroll down, I list out the teas that will be featured throughout the month of December – not in order).

For your very own DIY Tea Advent Calendar, you will need:

24 or 25 teas in sachet format or loose leaf
24 or 25 filter bags to fill yourself (if the tea is not in sachet format)*
24 or 25 envelopes
Number stickers, number stamps, or a marker
Holiday-themed stickers
Box or tray to hold everything

* If you’re going this route, don’t forget to include information about the tea on a piece of paper and tuck it into the envelope unless you’re into the idea of mystery tea! Some information you’ll probably want to know: type of tea, steeping temperature, steeping time. If the tea company doesn’t provide you with steeping instructions, check out my guide to Steeping Times for Different Teas!

I am using a mix of commercially made tea sachets and loose leaf teas. My first task was to decorate the 24 envelopes, because I consider that to be the more ‘fun’ aspect of this project. I stacked the envelopes and shuffled them with the number side facing down so I was blissfully unaware of which date I was filling. I stuffed the envelopes, sealed them with an appropriate holiday sticker, and then arranged them in numerical order. My DIY Tea Advent Calendar is now sitting by my kettle, waiting eagerly for December 1st so I can drink my daily cup of tea.

You still have time to put together your very own DIY Tea Advent Calendar! Or give as a gift to your favourite person! This whole process took me about half an hour – not including the purchasing of the tea.

If you’re short on tea, I recommend picking up a sampler box of tea sachets from your local tea shop or grocery store as it’ll help round out your 24 (25) teas. You can find envelopes, stickers, and markers at your local dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or you can raid your favourite child’s arts & crafts box for the goods.

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