How do you like your matcha—thick or thin?
Sure, it’s no “shaken or stirred” conundrum, but there’s a lot more to ceremonial-grade matcha than just powder and hot water. One of the reasons this beautifully simple beverage is becoming the new “it drink” is because of the subtlety, nuance, and personalization of matcha tea preparation.
Matcha tea is all about how you like your tea, and that starts with texture.
Most people don’t even know that there are two distinct styles of matcha tea—usucha (thin) and koicha (thick)—but knowing how to prepare each of them makes all the difference for enjoying your favorite cup of tea. So here’s a quick look at both to determine which style works best for you:
- Usucha Tea (Thin) – 70ml water / 1 gram matcha powder / frothy viscosity (like espresso)
- Koicha Tea (Thick) – 40 ml / 4 grams matcha powder / smooth viscosity (like warm honey)
- Usucha Tea (Thin)
Usucha is the thinner variation of matcha tea, and accordingly, uses more water—about 70ml (2.3 oz)—and is made with less matcha powder. However, usucha tea is instantly recognizable by its thick frothy head and resulting crema. This comes from vigorously whisking the tea during preparation—the more head the better.
Most usucha powder is made from “young” tea plants (under 30 years old), meaning usucha tea is typically made from lower quality “culinary grade” matcha powder. The quality and rich taste of the tea is still high, but nowhere near as strictly regulated as koicha tea.
Koicha Tea (Thick)
Koicha is the thicker variation of matcha—think melted chocolate in a cup—and like you’d expect, it packs more flavor into every cup. Renowned for it’s vibrant color, maximum umami, and natural sweetness (when prepared with high-grade matcha powder), koicha is an intense style of tea for adventurous drinkers and connoisseurs.
The major difference between thick and thin matcha is the rich viscosity. Koicha tea doesn’t have any cream or frothy head, and the thick consistency is created by “massaging” the tea with the bamboo whisk and slowly adding water until it’s the desired thickness. However, the main difference between thick and thin tea comes down to the quality of the matcha powder.
Koicha tea is made from the first harvest of tea plants that are at minimum 30 years old, which means that you can make delicious usucha tea with koicha (ceremonial-grade) powder, but you can’t make koicha tea with usucha (culinary grade) powder. The lower quality just doesn’t translate well to the condensed, refined thick tea style.
So next time someone asks if you’ve tried the newest antioxidant-packed superfood that’s sweeping the U.S., you can ask them how they take their matcha and see if they’re a connoisseur like you.