The Different Types of Japanese Tea Ceremony, but here's a little recap:
Chanoyu: Chakai vs Chaji
There are two main types of tea ceremony (chanoyu – 茶の湯) in Japan: the informal tea gathering known as a chakai – 茶会, and the formal one, chaji – 茶事.
Chakai is a relatively simple tea gathering which includes some wagashi (Japanese sweets) and thin tea (usucha). Chaji is much more formal, usually consisting of a full-course kaiseki meal followed by wagashi, thick tea (koicha), and thin tea. A chaji lasts as long as four hours, with some small breaks for the tea guests to walk around the garden by the Japanese tea house.
When it comes to drinking matcha, more are familiar with usucha, thin tea. Koicha, on the other hand, is reserved only for the Japanese tea ceremony and exclusively top-grade ceremonial matcha is used for its preparation.
Koicha might, in fact, be the thickest tea you will ever drink. Only about 50 ml koicha is prepared and the consistency is like a thick syrup more so than tea (without the favored froth of usucha).
How Do We Enjoy Koicha?
When sipping koicha, it will slowly but surely proceed to greet you. Meeting you with a brief moment of intense umami and a long-lingering sweetness. Similarly to gong fu cha when we intake a concentrate of all the tea’s best qualities all through one tiny cup of brew.
It is indeed an experience.
Koicha is always enjoyed alongside wagashi, the sweet-and-salty traditional Japanese sweets. Drinking it on its own might be too intense even for the experienced matcha connoisseur.
In Japan, outside of the ceremonial tea hut setting and in more casual tea huts it is not uncommon to find desserts such as sweet mochi (rice cake) and red beans topped with koicha. And most recently “koicha affogato”, ice cream topped with koicha.
Many believe that koicha is a true way to intake the quality of the matcha to its fullest. Similarly to how many tea drinkers believe that gong fu style tea is the true and only way to honor your pu-erh, or oolong, or any other tea. Ultimately it is up to the drinker, but we do recommend trying it at least once!
How To Make Koicha
Follow these simple step by step instructions to prepare a delicious cup of thick koicha tea.
- Sift the matcha powder, making sure not to have any lumps
- Place 4 chashaku (4 grams) of the matcha powder into the chawan
- Pour 50ml hot water into the chawan and whisk using the chasen
The whisking style differs slightly from usucha. For koicha we use slower motion, "massaging" the tea powder more so than actually whisking it. The resulting mass will be of a thick, syrupy consistency and a vibrant green color.It is important to note that when it comes to koicha, we don't strive for the same foam that we all love in our usucha.
Make sure only to use top quality ceremonial grade matcha. Otherwise, you will end up with a rather bitter beverage that is not pleasant to consume in such a concentrated quantity.
For further instructions on how to prepare usucha check our blog post How to Whisk Matcha in Traditional Fashion.
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