Matcha has been consumed in Japan since the 7th century and is famous for providing drinkers with a calming sort of energy. Matcha is a specific type of Japanese green tea that differs from other traditional teas in the preparation process and in how the plant is grown.
Matcha tea plants are shaded for a few weeks before the harvest to increase natural levels of caffeine and amino acids. The leaves are allowed to dry, stems and veins are removed from the leaves, and then the tea is ground into a fine powder. The powder can be dissolved in milk or water to produce a slightly sweet, richly flavorful tea.
The process of making Matcha begins about twenty days before the harvest, when the tea leaves are shaded from the sun. Shading concentrates the plant's chlorophyll content, its dark green coloring. Shading also boosts nutrient content. During this shaded growth, the tea plant produces more theanine and caffeine.
Shading of green tea
The process of shade growing, which takes about three weeks, gives the tea its high caffeine content.
Believe it or not, it contains more caffeine than coffee does. One teaspoon contains 70 milligrams of caffeine, while a shot of espresso contains just 64 milligrams of caffeine. This means that one cup of this tea will give you a greater energy boost than your average cup of coffee will.
Matcha contains 10-15% more life-sustaining amino acids and other nutrients that your body needs. One cup of regular green tea contains 3 mg amino acids compared to 44.7 mg in Matcha.
Not all matcha is created equal. Ceremonial grade powdered tea is equivalent to that which is used in traditional Japanese ceremonies, while culinary grade is used to flavor noodles, lattes, ice cream, and more.
The unique caffeine in Matcha is called theophylline. Theophylline is proved to provide a more sustained release of energy, helping you to avoid that caffeine crash 2 hours after a cup of coffee. Because it is shade-grown, Matcha has higher levels of theophylline than any other type of green tea.
Blends of this tea are given poetic sounding names by their producers or sellers. These names are called chamei, which translates to "tea names." If a particular blend is found suitable by a grand master of the tea ceremony, usually with a family lineage of ceremony masters, he gives it its chamei. It is then known also as his konomi, or "butcher block of leaf."
Aracha is the state of the leaves after they have been steamed and dried. Tencha is the state after leaves have been de-stemmed and deveined.
Tencha – Very Bright green color
There are two main ways of preparing matcha, each for differing occasions. Usucha is a thin version of the tea, and koicha is a doubly thick version. Koicha is stirred very slowly. You don't want bubbles, like you would in a Usucha.
The grinding process is very slow because grinding must be done at low temperature to preserve high nutrient levels; heat will alter the aroma and the quality of the powder. Each stone grinder produces only about 40 grams in an hour. 40g will yield 20 bowls of usucha (thin). 40g will yield 10 bowls of koicha (thick)
A variety called Dark Matcha or Koicha is used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Dark Matcha was originally made from tea bushes that were over 100 years old; it is now made from certain cultivars.
If you’ve ever ordered a green tea-infused latte at Starbucks, you’ve probably tasted matcha before. That’s because Starbucks only uses matcha green tea in their blends. Japan currently has the fourth largest number of Starbucks stores, with around 1,040 across the island nation.
Matcha contains four times the catechins of regular brewed green tea. One cup of matcha contains the same amount of nutrition and antioxidants as ten cups of traditional green tea.
Matcha tea has 33 times the antioxidant potential of blueberries.
The drink is generally mixed with a bamboo brush, specially designed to froth the mix.
When making a Usucha you can also use a milk frother to introduce air into the mixture and get the creamy texture normally seen.
Koicha normally is made with more expensive varieties; the most expensive kind can be made from tea leaves over thirty years old.
Matcha in ceremony are traditionally served with a wagashi, which are Japanese sweets or small baked goods.
Matcha is Tencha tea that has been stoneground. Not to be confused with green tea powder, a usually much lower quality tea that has not undergone the extensive process.
Stone Grind for Matcha
When Matcha is made from older tea leaves, its sweeter.
The highest-quality varieties come from the southern regions of Japan which is mostly made from Yabukita varietal. Yabukita is popular because of its high yield and the umami flavor. Yabukita is frost resistant but susceptible to fungal diseases. Other varietals include Okumidori, Samudori, and Asahi.
The quality is most easily determined by its color. Anything yellowish or coarse is not likely to taste very good. Higher grades of tea are generally sweeter in taste.
When well stored, will retain its color, flavor and aroma for weeks and even months.
Most farmers pick leaves entirely by hand after shading.
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony uses matcha and a bamboo whisk. However, matcha is easy to dissolve in either hot or cold water. Matcha has a strong robust flavor, but you can dilute it according to your tastes. The normal amount is about 1/2 teaspoon per 8-10 oz water.
Matcha makes a wonderful addition to other foods as well. You can find recipes for using Matcha in smoothies, cakes, ice cream, soups, scones and more. There are no limits to the ways you can enjoy matcha.
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Japanese Green Tea and Health Blog is collection of articles related to the health benefits of Japanese Green Tea. The blog is focused on scientific research related to Japanese Green Tea, and how it can help benefit people to live healthier lives. Japanese Green Tea is one of the most health beneficial beverages in the world, and its effects are being researched around the world.
Author : Kei Nishida
Kei Nishida is a writer, a Japanese Green Tea enthusiast, and the founder and CEO of Japanese Green Tea Company. You can find his published work in Fresh Cup Magazine, Yoga Digest Magazine, T-Ching and more. He is also the author of multiple published books related to green tea. Read more about Kei Nishida