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Our All-Inclusive: Basics of Matcha

Have you ever wondered how a tea leaf is turned into a ground matcha powder?

Hint: Parts of the leaf are removed & it undergoes a special production process.

We are going to tell you all about this process a little further down the page. Additionally we are going to answer a variety of matcha related questions. If you want to fill in some gaps in your matcha knowledge - this would be a great place to start.

And if for any reason you have an unanswered question, please let us know here. There is a good chance someone else has your same question. But unless we randomly think of it, we can never answer it.


What is matcha?

Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea. To make traditional matcha tea, hot water is combined with the tea powder to max a drinkable matcha tea.


 

Where is matcha produced?

So now that we know what matcha is, let's take a look at where matcha comes from. Looking at the map of Japan above, the areas in green are the areas known for tea production. However, the major areas where matcha is coming from are Shizuoka, Kyoto, Aichi, and Kagoshima.

Have you ever been to any of these places? Did you see the beautiful lush green tea fields?! There's a decent chance those bushes were going to be turned into matcha!


How is matcha produced?

Without going too deep into the details, we wanted to give you a basic idea of how matcha is made.

It all starts in the tea fields of Japan. During the last month before the tea leaves are harvested, the farmers will "shade" their fields with massive covers. This will change the chemical structure of the leaf (increase amino acids/sweetness, decrease catechins/astringency).

When it is time to harvest, they will remove the covers and begin to harvest the leaves. The most common method of harvest is by a two person handheld machine, but the leaves can also be hand picked.

From here the leaves are sent to what is called a “tencha factory”.  Here the fresh tea leaves will go through several different stages where they will be steamed, dried, and then have their stems removed.

From there, the remaining leaf-matter is collected (now referred to as tencha) and sent off to a matcha-grinding factory. Sometimes the tencha and grinding facilities are together, but this is not always the case.

At the matcha grinding factory, the leaves are fed into grinding machines.

Once the tencha goes through the grinders it comes out as a powder, which is then packaged up and sent off to resellers and ultimately to you


What is the history of matcha?

The Japanese have been drinking matcha for around 800 years. It's been around a long time!  It is said that Samurai would drink matcha before battle in order to get a calm energy. Monks in Japan have historically drank matcha for that same reason, a calm energy.

Accordingly, the Japanese have perfected the method of grounding special tea leaves and turning them into this incredible tea powder. Though it has been around in the Eastern world for such a long time, it is just now catching on in the Western world.


What are the health benefits of matcha?

The answer to this question is what gets us really excited!

Matcha is packed full of antioxidants.  Have you heard green tea is good for you?  Matcha has been found to have 137x the amount of antioxidants as a cup of green tea.

Umm, what are antioxidants?  Great question. Antioxidants are compounds found naturally in nature (plants, our body, etc.). Without getting too technical, antioxidants protect the cells of the body from harmful molecules that naturally build up over time and help eliminate them from the body. So antioxidants are good? Check.

You also get certain vitamins which are essential for your body health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for your health, supporting cell growth, immune function, fetal development and vision.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is important in bone health and wound healing.

Additionally, matcha can act as a Metabolism booster, helping to burn calories.

Matcha can be good for heart health, as it can potentially help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Science aside, we know how it makes us feel, that is why we feel the need to share our love of matcha.

 

** We must advise that we are not Doctors or medical professionals and the above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please keep that in mind.


What different types of matcha are there?

 

Ceremonial Matcha

Ceremonial matchas are the top grade of matcha that is made (though there are levels inside this category.) They come from the highest quality of leaves - the first harvest. These matchas are known to be very rich and complex in flavor, with lots of umami, elements of sweetness, varying degrees of astringency, and different vegetal notes. They are best enjoyed with just water, but can also be blended into mixed drinks providing good flavor.

 

 

Premium Drinking Matcha

Premium matchas are a slightly lesser quality than Ceremonial matchas, being harvested just a little later in the season. While they are still very nice, the do lose some of the complexity that a ceremonial matcha would have. They generally are a little more bitter, and as a result are commonly blended with sweeteners or creams, in order to round out the overall flavor. This matcha works wonderful for matcha lattes and other blended matcha drinks. This is what will be commonly found in many cafes.

 

 

Culinary Matcha

Culinary matchas are harvested the latest in the season (after the really good stuff.) They are considered lower quality and generally are used as an ingredient in a recipe. They offer a very robust, earthy, and bitter flavor/taste. Like an unsweetened chocolate, you wouldn't really want to consumer this by itself. However, culinary matchas really shine when mixed with sweeteners and other ingredients, like baked goods!

 


Bonus Video: Japanese Matcha Experience in Kyoto, Japan 

There is nothing quite like experiencing a Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto, Japan.

The welcome and warmth you are shown by your hostess.

The feel of the tatami mats on your shoeless feet.

The precision and detail of the tea pourer -- it was like a well choreographed dance.

She whisked up a bowl of a brilliant green, with a thick crema on the top. delicious! 

Check out the video to see the basics of matcha being prepared in the traditional Japanese way.