What is Matcha?
The history of Matcha tea is quite fascinating. Originating from Japan, the tea was long served for Japanese royalty and therefore became known as the 'emperor's tea' in Asia. Other historical reports have Matcha arriving in China as a medicinal drink. The full benefits of Matcha tea extend beyond the body. It is a spiritual experience with healing properties. The whisk, Matcha bowl, flavour and smell are all integral parts to the matcha experience. Matcha is know as the finest green tea powder in the entire world!
The best Matcha is grown in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan. The Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan has been producing the finest tea for over 650 years. Shizuoka is located on Pacific Ocean in eastern Japan, Shizuoka means tranquil (shizu) hills (oka) in Japanese. It is the major tea (O-cha in Japanese) production area in Japan and is where the famous Mount Fuji (Fujisan) is located.
The mild climate of the Shizuoka Prefecture is excellent for the cultivation of the tea plant know as camellia sinensis. It has rich mineral soil, plenty of sunshine and the perfect amount of rain for the finest tea cultivation and is know for the production of the best Matcha.
All authentic Matcha only comes from Japan. Other well established areas in Japan where it is cultivated are Kyoto and Uji. All quality Matcha comes from the main island of Japan known as Honshu.
There are three basic types of Matcha. Ceremony tea Matcha - THIN TEA (USUCHA) or Matcha - THICK TEA (KOICHA). However, it is almost impossible to obtain these grades in the USA. Almost all Matcha available in the USA is Culinary grade which is actually quite excellant.
The best part about Matcha is that you cosume the whole leaf, not just the brew from steeping the tea leaves like other teas. Therefore, you ingest the richest nutrients and fiber of the plant.
Matcha Processing - The young tea leaves are picked in early May and lightly steamed to prevent any fermentation. This allows the tea to retain its beautiful green color. Then the tea leaves are dried. Traditionally, at this point, the leaves would be stored in chatsubo/tea jars and allowed to season until November, at which time they can be stone-ground as needed. For consistency, the leaves from various varieties of tea plants are blended to produce the best flavor, color, and aroma. Before being stone-ground, the leaves are processed to obtain only the meat part of the leaf. The stems and veins are removed so that the tea will be very fine when ground. It takes one hour to grind somewhat less than 40g of matcha and in the end the final product is about 1/10th of the original harvest. Although clippers can be used to harvest the tea leaves, the leaves for koicha/thick tea are still picked by hand, one by one.
Matcha is the vibrant green powdered tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It is made from the leaves of shade grown tea trees. When the leaves are harvested they are steamed, dried and then further processed to remove the veins, stems and impurities. Only about 10% of the original harvest remains, and this is called the "tencha". The tencha is then ground to a fine powder often in a stone mill. It takes about one hour to produce an ounce of matcha, because grinding any faster would result in a burnt tasting tea. Today the highest grades of matcha usually remain in Japan for use in their tea ceremonies and the price can be as high as $100 an ounce. The majority of matcha available in the general market today is now ground by sophisticated machines, which make it affordable to the average tea drinker. Regardless of the grinding technique used, the production of matcha requires a great deal of hand labor, skill and time.
Matcha is becoming increasingly popular as an international beverage and food markets because of its versatility and health benefits. Matcha's flavor blends well in dairy-based recipes and its fine powder form makes it easy to work with. Matcha is being used in ice cream, cheese cakes, cream cheese spreads, white chocolate, latte beverages, hot chocolate, etc. There is no limit to the recipes that matcha can be added to.
Matcha and Caffeine: Matcha does contain a small amount of caffeine, but like all green teas also contains L-theanine. L-theanine increases the alpha waveactivities in the brain, which creates a feeling of relaxation. L-theanine is associated with increasing the ability to focus and concentrate, but not agitate the nervous system. Researchers believe that this may be one of the reasons that drinking tea tends to have a calming, refreshing effect, rather than the jittery effects of coffee. It has been noted that Buddist monks frequently drink matcha, green teas, oolongs etc. and rarely appear agitated or nervous. It could be the L-theanine!
The Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony
Chanoyu (the Way of Tea) represents the quintessence of Japanese culture and Zen philosophy. By participating in a tea ceremony, or visiting a temple closely associated with the tea ceremony, you'll become acquainted with the spirit of Japan. Our guide is Sen Sooku, hereditary successor to the Mushakoji Senke Tea School and direct descendent of the founding Grand Master, Sen-no-Rikyu.
An authentic tea ceremony takes place in a tearoom where a hanging scroll and arranged flowers adorn an alcove; tea utensils are waiting. But Sen Sooku says, "You can call any gathering a tea ceremony as long as there are guests and matcha." Matcha is a powdered form of green tea leaves ground by a millstone. Hot water is added to the powdered tea in a vessel and whisked rapidly. It is rich in vitamin C and minerals. Matcha is made from the choicest hand-picked leaves, carefully ground into extremely fine powder. Since only 45 grams of powdered tea can be made with a millstone in an hour, it's truly an extravagant drink. The tea leaves are actually imbibed, and the insoluble ingredients are absorbed by the body.
The exchange between host and guests is one of the pleasures of the ceremony. When serving, the host prepares each bowl of matcha with great care, taking into consideration the preferences and physical conditions of the guests. For example, if a guest is perspiring and looks thirsty, a host will make the matcha slightly weaker and in larger quantity. Tea bowls are carefully selected. Different from other types of tea, the way of serving matcha is the origin of counter-style service at a bar or other culinary establishment. It is indeed a highly customized and personalized form of service.
Why is proper etiquette important?
"In the tea ceremony,the Japanese express their feelings of gratitude in silence. Action speaks louder than words." If a guest holds a tea bowl properly, it will relieve a host who selected a precious bowl for him. Proper etiquette indicates gratitude. Once the rules of tea are understood, a person will have no trouble if invited to a tea ceremony. When receiving matcha in a casual setting or in a Japanese residence, the rules can be modified.
Matcha Health Benefits
Since you are actually ingesting the green tea leaves when you drink matcha you are receiving the full benefits of all the nutrients and antioxidants in the leaves. Research is indicating that matcha has the following health benefits -
Vitamins A,B6, B-complex, C, E, K, niacin, folate, riboflavin, thiamin
Trace minerals calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, sodium
Rich source of L-theanine & amino acids which improve calmness, mental alertness
Strong blood detoxifer and alkalyzer due to high chlorophyll content
70 times the antioxidants of orange juice,
nine times the beta carotene of spinach and 4 times the beta carotene of carrots
Extremely rich in polyphenols (antioxidants) and catechins, especially epigallocatechin gallate ( EGCG )
Boosts metabolic rate by 35-40% in regular drinkers, thus assisting in weight loss
2 cups of regular green tea has approximately twice the antioxidants of red wine, 7 times that of orange juice and 20 times that of apple juice. Matcha, on a gram per gram basis, has approximately 10 times the polyphenols and antioxidants of regular teas.
Matcha has approximately 9 times the beta-carotene of Spinach, 4 times that of carrots.
Matcha contains essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle.
Matcha adds fiber to the diet.
The approximate chemical components of 100g/3.5oz of Matcha are:
Vitamin A: 16,000IU
Vitamin B1: 0.6mg
Vitamin B2: 1.35mg
Vitamin C: 60mg
Vitamin E: 35.9mg
Proteins & Amino Acids: 30.7%
One of the other nice things about Matcha is all you have to do is wisk the powder in hot water to make it. The modern way to froth the Matcha is to place it in a blender for 30 second. Ooola!
Modern Uses for Matcha
Matcha is used in making many delicious healthy recipes like green tea ice cream, smoothies, Lattes', frappes', cookies or other pastries and also can be added to soups, stews and salads.
Island Teas sells Pure Matcha with Starbucks syrups & instant Frappe' mixes so you can save money by making lattes, frappucinos and smoothies at home and get the rich healthy quality of the Matcha green tea powder imported from Japan. The Starbucks Matcha green tea Frappuccino is extremely popular these days.
In the final analysis it is difficult to compare Matcha to any other green tea in the world. It is absolutely Wonderful!
Matcha Frappuccino Recipe
1 teaspoon of Matcha powder
3 teaspoons of sugar
4 ozs. of warm Milk
14 ozs. of ice
Stir Matcha in warm milk until dissolved. Optional - add your favorite flavored syrup. Place ice and mix in Blender for 20 seconds or shake well in cocktail shaker. For a creamy Mathca Latte' or Smoothie - substitute sugar and ice with vanilla ice cream. To make a creamy latte' or smoothie use yougurt. Top with whip cream and sprinkle with Matcha or cocoa powder.
To store Matcha properly, keep in an air tight container in a cool dry place away from light.
Buy pure Matcha green tea powder retail or wholesale Matcha.
Buy our delicious and healthy instant Frappuccino Mix.