The origin of Matcha green tea powder could be a sensitive one….
(but you have to know the truth!)…
Although originally introduced by the Chinese, Japan mastered the preparation of powdered tea and made it part of their culture for hundreds of years celebrated in Japanese tea ceremonies focusing on the preparation, serving and drinking of premium green tea powder (Matcha).
While other green teas are grown throughout the world, Matcha green tea powder is unique to Japan where local farmers use traditional methods, from growing to grinding.
How it all starts…
Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. A few weeks before harvesting, the green tea plant is protected against direct sunlight, giving the leaves not only a darker green color but they also contain much more amino acids making the resulting tea sweeter.
Only the finest tea buds are handpicked. After harvesting, you can either roll out the leaves before drying as usual (gyokuro -jade dew- tea) or you can lay these leaves flat out to dry, crumbling somewhat (tencha). After removing the veins, stems and stone grinding tencha it turns into a bright green, talc-like powder known as Matcha.
Talking about high-quality….
Matcha, or Japanese tea in general, is often more expensive than teas manufactured in other countries, although its price depends on its quality.
The traditional tea production methods are highly intensive; for example it can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of Matcha.
Mainly four factors determine whether the Matcha green tea powder is of high quality; these are:
- Harvesting the best leaves: the top leaves, the newest ones are soft and supple, giving a finer texture
- Dried in shade: when the leaves haven’t been exposed to direct sunlight quality Matcha becomes bright green, the higher the quality, the greener.
- Stone ground: without the right equipment and technique Matcha loses quality.
- No oxidation: oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay like smell and a dull brownish green color.
Premium Matcha is divided into two categories, thin (usucha) and thick (koicha), indicating the style of the tea rather than texture of the liquid. Usucha, is prepared with less tea to more water whereas koicha is made from the youngest, most tender leaves, and is prepared with more tea to less water.The flavor of Matcha green tea powder is dominated by its amino acids.
It’s a matter of taste…
The highest quality have a more intense sweetness and rich taste than the standard tea harvested later in the year. Usucha has a more pronounced bitter taste than Koicha, which has a mellower, sweeter flavor.
Matcha has numerous health benefits.
Read more on them here: green tea and health.
Being a type of green tea, Matcha powder is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and chlorophyll.
What’s more, it also doesn’t contain sugar making it an ideal beverage for diabetics or people trying to lose weight.
There is a slight difference between normal green tea and Matcha green tea powder though…..
Since you ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water, the health benefits of Matcha exceed those of other green teas. For example, one glass of Matcha is the equivalent of 10 glasses of green tea in terms of nutritional value and antioxidant content.
According to Weiss et al the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG available from drinking Matcha is up to 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from other green teas.
It is also used by Buddhist monks to assist in meditation, as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid known to relax the mind, combined with caffeine, offer a sustained calm alertness over time. These amino acids also give Matcha green tea powder a distinctive taste.
Weiss, David J; Anderton, Christopher R (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A 1011 (1-2): 173–180.