Matcha is the result of finely milling high quality green tea, and not to be confused with the fannings found in low grade bagged tea. The processes of harvesting, drying, grinding, and oxidation are all very important in producing a quality matcha powder. The tea leaves are strictly shade grown prior to harvesting. This results in an increase in chlorophyll production, resulting in matcha's bright green color. It is always harvested by hand, gently steamed to stop oxidation, and laid flat to dry. After the leaves are dried, veins, stems, and other impurities are removed to prevent any bitterness from developing; the resulting substance is called "tencha". The tencha is then slowly ground to produce a fine powder — matcha. Only tencha can be used to make authentic matcha.
Matcha originated in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), where its preparation and consumption was ritualized by Zen Buddhists. Near the end of the 12th century it began to lose favour in China, but was brought to Japan where its popularity continues to this day. This is largely attributed to its role in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is dedicated to the preparation, serving, and enjoyment of matcha, and typically calls for only the highest grades available. The best matcha is usually kept in Japan specifically for the tea ceremony, and always stone ground. This can take up to an hour to produce 40 grams, in addition to its expensive cost of hundreds of dollars. Matcha intended for export is likely to be machine ground in order to keep it affordable for those who drink it casually. Sam's Teas and Spices regular authentic Organic Premium Chinese Matcha Green Tea Powder is the product of the standard creation method, but we also carry Ceremonial Organic Japanese Matcha for retail purchase.
Health Benefits Of Matcha
Matcha is renowned for its astounding health benefits. It is superior to all other teas, in part from the processing it undergoes, but additionally due to the consumption of the whole leaf, rather than just an infusion. In fact, one cup of matcha is the nutritional equivalent of 10-15 cups of regular green tea. It even surpasses the antioxidant count of many superfoods (named so for their high nutritional contents). By weight, matcha contains more antioxidants than blueberries, orange juice, and spinach!
More than just one of the best sources of antioxidants, matcha possesses many other health benefits as well. These include, but are not limited to;
- Increased metabolism (burns calories, aids in weight loss)
- Reduces cholesterol (an affect of catechins)
- Lowers blood pressure (catechins again)
- Prevents diabetes (aren't catechins great?)
- Slows the aging process (thank you, catechins!)
- Boosts the immune system (contains an abundance of vitamins)
- Detoxifies the body (due to the high amount of chlorophyll, a natural detoxifier)
- Great for expectant mothers (high in zinc)
Matcha does contain caffeine, and quite a bit compared to other teas. Remember, it's the whole leaf, not just an infusion! Despite this, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which slows down the release of caffeine, and mitigates the negative effects of caffeine. Essentially, L-theanine increases focus and concentration, produces a calm, relaxing effect, and results in an over-all increase in energy, without agitating the nervous system. Consider this: many Buddhist monks, the epitome of calm and focus, drink matcha regularly.
Matcha can be prepared two ways: thick, called koicha in Japan, or thin, called usucha. While the method for both is similar, the difference lies in the ratio of matcha to water.
For thin matcha, which is light and slightly bitter, use about 1 grams of matcha (approximately 1/2 teaspoon) and around 75 ml of water per serving. For thick matcha, use twice as much tea (approximately 1 teaspoon) and half as much water (approximately 40 ml).
Koicha is much thicker, and requires a much slower stirring motion. It is normally made with ceremonial grade matcha, and produces a milder, sweeter tea than usucha; it is most commonly served as part of the Japanese tea ceremony.
- Matcha scoop (chashaku) — used to measure the matcha
- Sifter (furui) — used to remove any clumps from the matcha
- Matcha bowl (chawan) — used to mix and hold the matcha
- Matcha whisk (chasen) — a bamboo whisk used to mix the matcha and water
- Linen tea cloth (chakin) — used to clean the tea ware (ceremonial)
Matcha is more than just great tea; it can be used to flavor or add color to many different foods and beverages. It blends great with dairy, try it in (or over) ice cream, use it in your favorite smoothies, or add steamed milk for a delicious matcha latte… the list is endless. Be sure to share your recipes own with us for a chance for them to become published on our website!