The Way Matcha Was Meant to Be
Matcha tea has been around since the 12th century. That’s a long time; yet, just over the past 10 years it has grown in popularity in the US. It has started popping up at coffee shops and other beverage parlors. While these establishments have helped increase the popularity of the beverage, they have done so at the expense of tradition. Many of these shops have bastardized the beverage by loading it with sugar or mixing it with steamed milk. These methods take away from the original flavor and texture of properly prepared green tea powder.
Don’t get us wrong, we want you to enjoy tea however you like it best. However, when we talk about matcha in the traditional sense, the matcha that many Millennials and Gen X’ers know today is not that. Today’s matcha drinkers are being robbed of the real health benefits and nuanced flavors and aromas that unadulterated and properly prepared matcha gives. This is why we believe that matcha, prepared at home is the best way to enjoy the tea in its natural form.
What is Matcha?
Matcha, in a simple definition, is green tea, ground down into a powder, whisked in hot water, and consumed completely. There is a bit more to it than this so let’s go over the details of what makes matcha, matcha.
How It’s Grown.
Matcha comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The tea plants specific to matcha production are shaded as part of their growth phase. This means that the tea plants are grown in cover, being protected from direct sunlight in a very controlled and labor-intensive manner. This method of shading gives the leaves a richer and deeper green color due to the higher amount of chlorophyll. In turn, the chemical makeup and flavor profile can be altered according to this method.
How It’s Harvested.
When it’s time to harvest only the youngest spring buds are hand-plucked along with 3 leaves of the shade-grown tea leaves. This makes for a very small window of opportunity when it comes to harvesting. It also is what contributes to the high quality of the tea.
How It’s Processed.
Most Japanese teas are steamed to stop the oxidative process and matcha is no different. This steaming process is what gives the tea its sweet and vegetal flavor. Black tea is allowed time to fully oxidize while Japanese green tea is steamed to stop oxidation only hours after being harvested. This not only locks in the green color but gives the tea its own unique properties and flavors.
Traditional green tea leaves are rolled and dried; however, the leaves used for matcha are laid flat to dry. The tea leaves processed in this way are known as Tencha. The Tencha used for matcha is then stripped of their veins and stems. What remains is slowly ground in a stone mill to become the smooth and powdered green tea we know as matcha.
How It is Traditionally Prepared.
Traditional green tea leaves are steeped in water which extracts the flavor and nutrients from the leaf. Matcha is not steeped but is whisked with hot water in a bowl for a frothy drink where the entire tea leaf is consumed giving you the full flavor, nutrients, and chemical compound power of the leaf.
The bowl not only allows for better whisking, but when consumed from the bowl it allows for the aromas to envelope your senses. Drinking matcha is a sensory experience of smells and subtle variations of tastes. When sugar and steamed milk are added to the matcha, not only are the health benefits negated but the flavors and aromas are masked.
The Different Grades of Match
This is the highest grade matcha we sell, a step up from your Everyday Matcha. Only the highest quality matcha will do for the tea ceremony; therefore, great care is taken when plucking the buds and leaves for this matcha grade.
This is a step up from culinary-grade matcha but less expensive than its high-grade counterpart. Generally, less care is taken in the cultivation and processing of this matcha. This grade is for everyday use and is still delicious when whisked up in a bowl.
When you order a fancy cut of meat from a restaurant you, most likely, are ordering the more expensive steak for its rich flavor and texture. You would never dream of masking those flavors with something like ketchup. When you order sushi at a restaurant, it is generally the lower grade fish whose lower quality flavor is masked with a spicy sauce. The higher grade fish tend to be reserved for those rolls where the fish is the star.
Matcha and tea in general work in much the same fashion. You would never want to use a higher-grade ceremonial matcha for a matcha latte whose milk and sugar mask the rich and delicate flavors of the tea. When using matcha for baking, or mixing up into your favorite smoothie or latte, Everyday Matcha is the better choice. It is less expensive and doesn’t have many of the higher quality nuanced flavors as the ceremonial matcha.
How To Enjoy Your Matcha
Matcha is a wonderful, nutrient-packed tea with higher levels of caffeine and incredible flavor. If you enjoy matcha in lattes, smoothies, or other non-traditional drinks, by all means, continue to enjoy the things you love. Matcha does add a unique and delicious flavor. It is simply important to know what you are getting when you order these items.
We encourage you to try whisking up some Ceremonial Matcha at home and taste matcha in a whole new way. With the pure, unadulterated taste of higher grade matcha, you will get all of the nutrients without the watered-down effect of milk or the unhealthy additive of sugar. You’ll be able to taste matcha the way it was traditionally prepared. It might just change your matcha world.