Let’s say you’ve purchased some high-grade matcha powder, but when you open the packet to make some delicious Japanese matcha, you find that there are clumps inside. These look like little balls formed out of matcha powder and can be harder to mix into your drink. If this has happened to you, don’t worry, it’s actually a sign that your matcha is high quality!
To understand why there are clumps in your matcha, we must first take a look at the matcha making process. Put simply, matcha is finely-ground green tea leaves that have been cultivated in the shade, which gives it its vibrant green color. Many factors can influence the grade of matcha, such as how and where it’s grown, and the way it’s processed.
In higher grade matcha, dried tea leaves are stone milled. These stone mills are how matcha was traditionally processed. Using heavy granite blocks, the tea leaves are ground into extremely fine powder through a continuous revolving process. This process is time consuming and not the most efficient- only producing around 30g of matcha every hour.
The plus-side is that stone-milled matcha incorporates easily into water, and retains more of the leaves’ original flavour as less heat is generated during the process. However, the downside is that the matcha powder is so fine that they actually have electrostatic forces around them, and these forces are what pulls other matcha particles together, forming the clumps we see. So don’t worry when you see clumps in the package, there is quite literally an invisible force at work!
On the flip side, cheaper matcha is usually ball-milled or machine-milled. This is of course a much more efficient process, but results in coarser powder. There may be fewer clumps, but because machines generate heat, some flavour is lost during this process. Some manufacturers may also add a flowing agent to stop this happening, resulting in less pure matcha.
Make sure you don’t pick out the clumps and throw them out! The solution to fixing the clumps in your matcha is actually really simple. All you need a fine sieve and a teaspoon or tea scoop (chashaku).
Place the sieve over your tea bowl, and scoop the matcha powder onto it. Shake the sieve to let the fine powder pass through, and you may use your tea spoon or scoop to push the clumps around so they break apart.
Once all the powder is in the tea bowl, add a small amount of water and mix well. This creates a mixture that’s more like paste, and allows all the powder to incorporate into the water properly, and you won’t get any leftover clumps floating around.
After the matcha powder has been mixed well, add the remaining hot water into the bowl. You may whisk it if you like, or enjoy as it is.
Don’t panic when you see clumps in your matcha, it’s definitely not a sign that something’s wrong. It is in fact, quite the opposite! Now that you know, the next time there are clumps in your matcha, just grab a sieve and follow our easy tips.