Matcha utensils – How they differ from Chinese tea ware

Japanese matcha tea, more commonly referred as Japanese Green Tea, is a type of powdered tea high in oxidants that is grounded from tealeaves grown in Japan. Originally brought from China, both in tea seed form and tea leave grinding culture, the green tea took on a new type of meaning in Japan due to ceremonial rights and preparation. While Chinese were known to ground tea for certain purposes and widely believed that leaving a tea in its fullest form and shape was healthiest, Japanese found a distinctive flavor and aroma from powder, of which is made and prepared from an assortment of tools unique to Japan.


Initially a grinder is used to make Matcha powder by placing green tea leaves inside and either hand turning it or pressing a button on a machine in which it turns up the supply automatically. Traditionally, only hand-made tools were used and it was pure blood and sweat that went into turning these devices that slowly ground up Matcha and released it into a pan before being packaged and stored. As time went on and demand grew it was nearly impossible to keep up with simply using hand-grinding techniques. Machines were therefore invented that could mass grind tea leaves instantly and spit out kilogram after kilogram of supply in which it was distributed across Japan and other parts f the world via retail chains. These machines got bigger and faster as time went on and are now the most common way of grinding Matcha tea. Hand grinding still exists but only for very high-end Matcha, as it is believed the taste and quality are vastly superior to machine-produced Matcha.


Instead of putting the Matcha powder into sachets and steeping inside of glasses much like whole-leaf tea can be used from places such as China and India, the Japanese discovered that is whisked and stirred with hot water the effect was much different. Early on it was believed that churning the tea powder with hot water produced a better tasting effect and was largely done so through using spoons and other utensils. Later the whisk, which typically comes in an 80 or 100 stick amount was invested to aid in this process as tea makers observed the effects whisks had on other foods such as batter preparation. The Japanese then used these whisks to churn up the tea and did so in bowls where the quality could be easily controlled due to the small size and limit of the bowl.


Until this day Matcha is prepared with a whisk churning up water and powder in a small bowl and serving in small amounts. Rarely do you see a very large bowl and massive amounts of water used in conjunction with big spoonful of Matcha powder since this way is much more difficult to prepare and is not as elegant and refined than preparing in smaller amounts. This can be frustrating for those who want to serve Matcha in big batches at once, as it requires multiple takes that may or may not be able to serve all at the same time. Japanese tea ceremony is typically done with smaller amounts of people involved so this has influenced this phenomenon.


The scoop in which the Matcha is served is also the exact same looking utensil Chinese use for scooping out tealeaves from a pot. It is very interesting to see that once culture uses the utensil for putting tea into something while the other culture uses it to take tea out. Chinese meanwhile have larger scoops for placing tea into pots due to the size of full-grown tealeaves even if they are wrapped. The larger size of the leaves also allows for bigger servings and are more easily controlled through the amount of leaves added in conjunction with the size of the pot whereas it is harder to gauge with powder.


As mentioned, Chinese primarily use tea pots for making tea as part of what is called Kung Fu tea, which basically means you control the taste through steep times, pouring methods and other brewing techniques. The idea of using a bowl actually also stemmed from China thousands of years ago which was the earliest method of making tea. This technique is still used today but is far less common than pots but it is believed that using bowls capture a more fresh scent as they are left in the open to absorb air.


The mats placed under teaware both in China and Japan is very similar, using mostly bamboo due to quick drying space in between sticks that prevent smell. The types of tea cups in which teas are poured into vary drastically even in China for certain teas but overall most tea makers believe as long as you can drink the tea that is what is important.