When I began my recent exploration into the world of tea I attended a class on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. I had no idea at the time that my tea would be a bright shade of green! Or that it would be frothy! The tea in question was matcha, and up until that point I had no idea what it was.
Matcha is a form of green tea, real tea, meaning it comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. There are some growing differences, however. The tea plants intended for matcha are covered for a portion of their growth cycle so that the leaves grow in shade. While you just drink the liquid that has been infused by the leaves with most tea, in matcha the tea leaves are ground into a fine powder so you actually ingest the whole leaf.
You also don't make a cup of matcha in the same manner you would make a regular cup of tea. There is special equipment involved. At the minimum you need a tea bowl (chawan) and bamboo whisk (chasen). You may also want a wooden scoop (chasaku) and a sifter.
If you decide you'd like to try to make your own bowl of matcha, be certain you buy ceremonial grade. The culinary grade, while fine for cooking or using in smoothies, is quite bitter and unpalatable if drunk as a tea. Also realize that the whisking of the powder is a skill which requires some practice. It's not as easy as it looks!
Matcha is a unique tea with many health benefits. It calms the body while sharpening the mind. No wonder it is a staple of Zen monks.