usucha in a black chawan bowl and a white bowl

How to prepare Usucha and Koicha

Usucha and Koicha are the two traditional ways of preparing matcha. Usucha means “thin tea”, while koicha means “thick tea”. Before matcha exploded in popularity a few years ago, “matcha” or “matcha tea” would either refer to usucha or koicha.

How to make your very own usucha and koicha at home

How to make usucha

When making traditional matcha tea in the form of usucha and koicha, it is best to use high quality ceremonial grades matcha. Usually, “thin tea” matcha usucha has a rich frothy layer at its surface which can be easily achieved with a bamboo whisk (chasen). It should have a smooth taste, with an initial bold, bittersweet note that transitions into a lasting umami finish.

How to make koicha

On the other hand, “thick tea” matcha koicha has a much thicker consistency. It has a much stronger umami flavor that may be too heavy for matcha beginners. Preparing koicha requires roughly double the amount of matcha powder and half the amount of water as compared usucha.

When do people in Japan drink usucha and koicha

Matcha is a common dessert flavor in Japan. But if you ever discuss drinking matcha with a Japanese person, they would be most familiar with 2 types – usucha and koicha. Both are served at the matcha tea ceremony, but usucha is also commonly served in other informal occasions such as guests who visit your home or at high end restaurants after a meal. For many Japanese people, matcha tea is associated with the formal matcha tea ceremony.

Usucha Japanese tea in a white bowl on a wooden table

What is the matcha tea ceremony all about

The traditional Japanese tea ceremony has existed for hundreds of years and is an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage. It is difficult to accurate describe the full meaning of the matcha tea ceremony in English. The matcha tea ceremony is meant for guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host, and it also serves as a contrast for the parties involved. A quiet, contemplative moment amidst the hectic pace of life.

Woman in kimono preparing Japanese matcha tea ceremony with traditional Japanese tea set

As a matter of being respectful to the Japanese culture, we must remember that making usucha and koicha by itself does not make your activity a matcha tea ceremony. Usucha and koicha are only the types of matcha tea served in such traditional tea ceremonies.

A silhouette of traditional Japanese woman in kimono sitting in between shoji screens

Becoming a host of a matcha tea ceremony requires years of learning and practice. Every minute detail has its own imbued meaning, and requires specific steps and procedures. Individuals who are keen to learn the art of Japanese tea ceremony will learn and practice at one of several established tea schools.

Should you start with usucha if you are new to matcha?

These days, there are so many types of matcha tea beyond usucha and koicha. In our experience,  a good number of people will appreciate usucha if they have never tried matcha before but are regular tea drinkers.

However, there is a significant number who will find usucha too strong. It is worth noting that usucha is made with only about 2.5 oz of water. Even though it is described as “thin tea” in Japanese, it may still be to thick for people who have never tried matcha or do not drink tea regularly. This is why our recommendation is not to start with usucha and koicha if you are not a regular tea drinker.

Matcha powder and water ratio comparison with measuring cup

Instead, try our unique matcha tea recipe or even a cold brew matcha. They are much lighter and thinner than usucha. These methods are not considered “traditional matcha tea” , but may perhaps be easier to enjoy if you have never had matcha.

A glass of iced cold brew matcha and a white mug of matcha tea

Only start with usucha if you are genuinely interested in learning more about the Japanese matcha tea ceremony and authentic ways of traditional matcha tea preparation. If not, there is no harm trying other methods first.

What tools do you need to make usucha and koicha?

If you want to make authentic usucha and koicha, you will need the following items: 

  • Bamboo whisk, also known as a chasen. Using this proficiently will require some practice.
  • Bamboo scoop, also known as a chashuku. One of these bamboo scoops is equivalent to about half a teaspoon, and you can use a normal measuring spoon if the traditional bamboo scoop is not available.
  • Tea bowl, also known as a chawan (we recommend a flat bottomed bowl to make the whisking easier)
Traditional Japanese matcha tools - hawan bowl with chasen bamboo whisk and bamboo chashaku on wooden tray

What kind of matcha powder should you use to make usucha?

Use a ceremonial grade matcha. After all, the matcha tea ceremony is where the name comes from. Do take note that there is no regulation over the use of the term “ceremonial grade”. 

  • Matcha powder suitable for usucha and koicha will normally cost at least $22 an ounce and the matcha powder should have a bright green color.
  • Since much of Japanese matcha and tea culture has its roots in Kyoto, we normally recommend Uji matcha for the purposes of usucha and koicha.
  • For koicha, you should ask whether a particular blend of matcha powder is suitable for koicha. Most purveyors of Uji matcha will have a blend they formulate specially for koicha and the matcha tea ceremony.
Bright green matcha powder on small wooden plate

For koicha, we recommend using our Kirishima Harvest Ceremonial Matcha only. We currently do not offer any Uji matcha suitable for koicha. For usucha, we recommend using our Superior Ceremonial Matcha, Fragrant Yame Ceremonial Matcha or any of our Master’s Collection Matcha. Our Superior Ceremonial Matcha is an Uji matcha suitable for usucha.

Kirishima Harvest Ceremonial Matcha and Superior Ceremonial belnds for matcha tea with bamboo whisk and chawan bowls

How to prepare traditional matcha tea (usucha and koicha)

Traditional Japanese matcha tea served in usucha and koicha

Makes 1 serving of usucha or koicha

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp of matcha
  • 1.5 oz (40 ml) of water at a temperature of 175F (80C) for koicha
  • 2.5 oz (80 ml) of water at a temperature of 175F (80C) for usucha

Directions

The first few steps are the same, so we will explain the beginning steps before branching into the final steps for both usuch and koicha.

Dipping chasen bamboo whisk in chawan bowl of hot water

1. The first step is to warm up the whisk and the bowl. To do so, pour boiling water into the bowl and soak the whisk in it for about 3 minutes. 

Pour out hot water from chawan bowl

2. After 3 minutes, pour out the water and dry the bowl.

Traditional matcha tea preparation with chawan bowl, chasen and boiled water in yuzamashi left to cool

3. (Optional) The temperature of water for making usucha and koicha is important and should not exceed 175F or 80C. If you don’t have a variable temperature electric kettle, we recommend that you pour out some boiling water into a separate cup and let it cool down for 2 minutes while you perform the next step.

Hand sifting matcha powder with a in chawan bowl

4. Grab your sifter and measure out 1 tsp (or 2 chashuku) of matcha. Sift the matcha into the bowl to ensure that you remove all clumps.

Hand whisking matcha with chasen bamboo whisk in chawan bowl

5. The way to do this correctly is to hold the bamboo whisk with your dominant hand and clasp the bowl with your other hand.

Different types of measuring cups

6. If you intend to make koicha, add 1.5 oz (approximately 40 ml) of 175F (80C) water. If you intend to make usucha, add 2.5 oz (approximately 80 ml) of 175F (80C) water.

Koicha

Hand whisking matcha koicha technique with chasen in slow circular motions

7. For koicha, the whisking technique is to do a slow circular motion with the whisk to gently fold the matcha powder into the water. 

Close view of hand whisking the thick consistency of koicha

8. Avoid creating any bubbles or foam, and eventually you will get a thick matcha liquid with the consistency of honey or melted chocolate.

Usucha

Hand whisking matcha with usucha technique with chasen in fast zig zag motion

9. For usucha, the whisking technique is to move up and down in a fast zig zag motion by flicking your wrist up and down. Getting good at this takes some practice. If you whisk too hard, you risk getting matcha to spill over the sides of the bowl.

Closeup of hand whisking frothy surface of matcha usucha

10. Start by whisking the tea right at the bottom of the bowl. Once there is some foam and you feel that the matcha is evenly mixed, move the whisk up and whisk the surface of the tea.

Hand holding chasen in chawan bowl of frothy usucha

11. Continue this until the matcha has a thick foam head with many small bubbles. Finish by making a circle with your whisk and lifting it off the middle of the bowl.

12. Both koicha and usucha are normally served with wagashi, which is a form of traditional Japanese sweet. If you do not have any traditional sweets, any other bite sized sweet foods like chocolate will suffice.

Try Naoki Matcha today

We work with tea estates, factories and blending experts to create matcha blends tailored to your needs. Available for purchase on this site with free standard shipping or on Amazon.com

1 thought on “How to prepare Usucha and Koicha”

  1. Pingback: Naoki Matcha’s Silver Yame Blend – Ceremonial Grade | Tea Review – Tea in Spoons

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