If you’re new to matcha, the words ‘usucha’ and ‘koicha’ may seem foreign to you. Otherwise, regular matcha drinkers would know that these are just different types of matcha tea.
Both are made with just matcha powder and water, and the differences lie in the techniques used to make them.
Koicha is “thick” matcha tea. It is used in very formal Japanese tea ceremonies. Drinking koicha is quite rare, even in Japan. Koicha requires at least 4 g of matcha powder in 1-2 oz of water. It’s then stirred very slowly and deliberately to avoid creating foam and to blend the water and matcha together.
As you can imagine, the result is a thick solution with the consistency of honey or melted chocolate. Because it is so concentrated, nothing but the best quality matcha powder will suffice for koicha. Using anything less than that will be a most unpleasant experience!
It is in koicha where one can taste all the subtle flavors of the matcha powder. A word of warning – koicha is often considered to be too intense for beginners!
Usucha is “thin” matcha tea. It is the normal, “everyday” matcha of Japan. If you visit a Japanese household and they serve you matcha, chances are it is usucha unless you are participating in a tea ceremony. It’s made with about 2 g of matcha powder (or about 1 heaped teaspoon) in up to 6 oz of water.
This makes it much lighter than a koicha. It is a less formal drink and there is little ceremony involved in preparing usucha.
It’s frothed vigorously in a “Z” or “M” stroke to whip up a nice foam. This changes the mouthfeel of the matcha and each sip gives it more of a tea-like feel.
You get the most of the matcha flavors but it is nowhere as intense as koicha.
To be absolutely honest, we do not think one has to limit yourself to making “usucha” or “koicha” in order to enjoy matcha tea. Personally, we are very fond of making an in-between version.
We use about 2g of matcha powder with 3-4 oz of water and whisk it vigorously. This gives us a thicker matcha drink that lets you really enjoy the unique umami flavors and notes from the matcha blend. It also gives you the same lovely “crema” you get with usucha.
You can change the amount of water you use when making matcha tea, and we think there’s really no right or wrong way of making matcha tea. Understanding what usucha and koicha is and the relative amounts of matcha powder and water to use when making them is only a helpful reference point!