The Zen of Matcha Cocktails


Matcha is no stranger to cocktails. The tea’s vivacious color and intriguingly savory flavor have made it a beloved and sought-after ingredient behind the bar. But unfortunately, all too often, it isn’t treated with the respect it deserves—and requires.

For the uninitiated, matcha is a powdered green tea made from shade-grown tea leaves, which are hand ground on stone mills. Grinding matcha is a slow and patient process; millers often pause at regular intervals to keep the stones from warming during their grinding, which results in a burnt, bitter flavor in the tea. Grading and quality is determined by a broad spectrum of factors: where the tea was grown and by whom (there are grand master matcha tea growers), how the tea leaves were dried (the highest quality matcha is never touched by the sun) and the presence of oxidation, which gives the tea a murky yellowish-brown color and a hay-like taste when brewed.

With so much attention going into the production of matcha, it would be a shame to ruin it all with improper preparation. Here’s the right way to brew matcha: Place the powder into a bowl with a bamboo scoop (chashaku) and add hot (but never boiling) water. Then, whisk. It sounds simple, but there’s a bit more to it.

Let’s talk about how to get the best color out of your matcha. A perfectly brewed cup of matcha is a rich emerald green color. Unlike other, heartier green teas, matcha burns easily at high temperatures, resulting in bitter flavors and a pea soup green color that looks a lot like a certain scene from The Exorcist. The best way to get a vibrant, green hue from your tea is by controlling your water temperature. The optimal temperature for your water when brewing matcha tea is between 158 and 176 degrees. The temperature of the water also changes the taste of the tea: Colder water releases more umami flavor and grassiness, while hotter water gives you a heavier, more bitter tea. Brew to your tastes. Just remember: Never boil.  

It’s time to touch on texture. The last thing that you want to do is chew your cocktail, and if not incorporated properly, matcha powder forms giant clusters that will muck up your drink. Clumping in matcha occurs if you haven’t mastered your whisking technique (think scrubbing motion rather than circular) or if you haven’t sifted the matcha powder before brewing (always sift it through a tea sieve). Make sure to whisk briskly, so that a bubbly foam appears.

Just as important as proper preparation is proper storage. Once opened, powdered matcha needs to be stored in a cool, dry place that is free from moisture and stinky foods or beverages. Remove all the air from the matcha package, place it in a Ziploc bag, remove all the air from that bag, then seal it and store it in your refrigerator. That way you won’t have funky, oxidized tea.

To help you master matcha, we came up with three delicious recipes: Our Pisco Sour will test your grasp of temperature; the Matcha Spritz will teach you how to incorporate matcha at cold temperatures and how to sift the tea correctly; and the Matcha Latte allows you to become one with your whisking. It’s one of the tastiest classes you’ll ever take.

This variation on a Pisco Sour uses a matcha tea-infused syrup to create a deliciously herbaceous and shockingly neon green drink. The key to making the richest, most colorful (not to mention most flavorful) syrup with matcha relies on two factors: the temperature of the water and the freshness of the syrup. Over a 24 hour period, matcha tea begins to lose its vivid green hue, and its deep, umami flavors become muddled-tasting. Green teas are generally more delicate than black teas, and matcha is especially finicky. Brewing your tea at temperatures between 160 degrees and 170 degrees Fahrenheit not only boosts umami, it allows the more delicate flavors in the tea to shine through, while lowering the chances of creating burnt, bitter flavors.

The Essentials

matcha tea syrup
A variation on the Tom Collins, this effervescent sipper uses cold brewed matcha tea, herbal bison grass vodka and oleo saccharum syrup. Infusing matcha powder into ice cold water results in a tea that is refreshing and bright, with the savory depth and flavors of seaweed and kelp, a tangy brininess, and a rich, creamy sweetness on the finish. Easy to prepare, this method of brewing matcha tea requires only ice water, a water bottle and a hard shake.

The Essentials

Bison Grass Vodka
Cold Brew Matcha
Forget coffee, this boozy, caffeinated treat is just the pick-me-up you need. Unlike coffee, matcha tea leaves you calm, yet alert, without the jitteriness of a coffee high or the crash afterwards. With two types of rum, including a raw-funky agricole, this brunch cocktail plays up the tea’s inherent grassiness and creamy, honeyed sweetness. Using a traditional bamboo whisk (known as a chasen), master your Japanese whisking technique by making this drink—over, and over, and over. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

The Essentials

matcha powder

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