Maccha Madness

A few weeks ago, I decided to check out the Japanese supermarket at Isetan (in Orchard Road). One of the things I enjoy doing when visiting a supermarket is to check out its selection of coffees and teas to see if they have anything interesting to offer. Sure enough, they had something unique! And of course, I had to buy it to try!

Let me introduce you to powdered Green Tea (also known as Maccha)!

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I got this for about $13. It’s really tasty. You should give it a try! My entire family loves it!

I’m quite excited about this particular type of tea. It’s been recorded in the Book of Tea (茶經 Ch’a-ching) that this was the prevalent way of brewing tea during the Sung Dynasty. This method of brewing tea is, thankfully, still preserved by the Japanese in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

It’s interesting. We take it for granted but the way we’re accustomed to brewing tea today (the steeping method) is relatively new when compared to the whole history of tea brewing. Apparently, before the Sung Dynasty, tea was brewed by boiling leaves in hot water, and adding salt, ginger, orange peels, and other ingredients. I forgot where I read it from, but the article I read was talking about how the Mongols still brew tea in the pre-Sung dynasty style.

Anyway, this tea is made by adding a little bit of powdered tea into a bowl (or cup) of hot water.

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You can’t put too much. The instruction says “put a small amount.” Unfortuantely, it didn’t specify how small an amount small was. When I first made it, I put a teaspoon. What horror! The tea was so thick, it was like drinking Cream of Green Tea, except that instead of a delicious bowl of soup, you had a bowl of what tasted like bitter medicine. Bleah… I soon found out that just a little lump of tea powder at the tip of the teaspoon is sufficient for a cup.

While tea powder and hot water is sufficient for making such tea, it wasn’t enough for me. There’s one more accessory to complete the package!

And that’s a tea whisk!

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Maccha is best drank when whisked! That’s right, you’re supposed to whisk your tea until it frothes. According to the Book of Tea (茶經), people in Sung Dynasty China used to have tea whisking competitions. The person who can produce the most amount of frothe that lasts the longest – wins!

I’ve seen videos on youtube of people whisking their maccha until it froths, and thought that it’ll be so cool to get one. To my horror, the cheapest tea whisk you can get in Singapore is $40. Most places will sell it to you at $60! What an insane price for a small piece of bamboo. To be fair, the workmanship is really exquisite. The bristles on the whisk are carved out from the same bamboo. The more pricey a whisk, the more bristles there are.

Fortunately, I have a friend who had one but found no use for it anymore, and gave it to me.

So… Now that I have maccha and a tea whisk, I was so excited about whisking tea until it frothed.

When I got home with the newly acquired tea whisk, I started whisking away!

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And I kept whisking, and whisking and whisking… But… THERE WAS NO FROTH!!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!

I actually tried whisking the tea for about ten minutes, non-stop! And still there was no froth! Urgh… I was so annoyed! It’s strange. I’ve watched the videos on youtube and people were able to froth their tea in a matter of seconds. Drives me mad! How on heaven and earth do you whisk tea until it froths?! I must be doing something wrong, but I have no idea what it is! GAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!

UPDATE: It was only many months later that I realised the secret to frothy maccha was to add lots and lots and lots of maccha powder. However, this will make your tea very VERY bitter. The only way to solve this problem, in my opinion, is to add sugar and milk, thereby transforming it into maccha latte. Well, either that or you really have to learn how to drink the bitter tea.