Tea Ceremony: Usucha and Koicha 「薄茶と濃茶」

February 21, 2015

usucha-koicha-chadoguThe host prepares matcha and serves the guest.
That is the main purpose of sado (茶道, sometime read as chado), literally “way of tea”, commonly known as tea ceremony.
We say “matcha”, but to be precise, there are two kinds of matcha being served; and this is where the title of this article “Usucha and Koicha” (薄茶と濃茶) comes from.

So what is the difference between usucha and koicha?
Usucha is literally light tea and koicha is strong or thick tea. The difference in thickness is due to the amount of matcha and water used in preparing matcha.

In general, when talking about matcha served at tea ceremony, people are referring to usucha.
Put about 2 chashaku (茶杓, matcha scoop) full of matcha powder (1.75g, 0.06oz) in a tea bowl, pour half hishaku (柄杓, a ladle) of hot water (60-70cc, 2.04-2.38fl oz), and whisk.
Usually, one tea bowl serves one person.

On the other hand, koicha is a bowl of matcha much thicker compared to usucha.
Normally a bowl of koicha is shared among several guests (drunk from the same cup by taking turns).
Matcha powder used for koicha is about 5 chashaku scoop (about 3.75g, 0.13oz) per person, with half the amount of hot water to that of usucha (about 30cc, 1.02fl oz).
In koicha, the term “knead” is used instead of “whisk”, which suggests how thick the matcha is.

Matcha powder can be categorized from low grade to high grade matcha depending on its quality.
It is said that usucha can be prepared from any grade of matcha; though of course, the flavor differs from the grade of matcha being used.
On the other hand, koicha can only be prepared with matcha that is above a certain level of quality.
This is because a lower grade matcha creates strong bitterness and astringency.

Originally, matcha served in tea ceremony was koicha.
However, because koicha uses high grade and pricey matcha, as tea ceremony spread among the public people preferred and started using more affordable matcha. For this reason, it is believed that usucha became the norm in currently practiced tea ceremony.

■ Tips on preparing a good matcha (both usucha and koicha)
Use freshly opened matcha.
Sift the matcha before use to make fine powder.
Warm the matcha bowl.

■ Tips on storing matcha
Seal the bag/container completely and store in a refrigerator.
Storing in freezer is not recommended. It may cause condensation when taking it out of the freezer and using it in room temperature.

Original text written by Wataru Kaji, a practitioner of the Urasenke School of tea ceremony.
Translated and modified by Yunomi staff.

Wataru Kaji
37 years old and have been practicing Urasenke school of tea ceremony for 19 years.
While brushing up his own skills, he holds performances and presentations so that more people will have the chance to encounter the world of tea ceremony.

The post Tea Ceremony: Usucha and Koicha 「薄茶と濃茶」 appeared first on YUNOMI.

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