Last updated: 6 Jun 2023 | 20041 Views |
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a special type of powdered green tea that is grown and produced in Japan. It has been a key part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries and has gained considerable popularity worldwide for its unique taste and health benefits. The term "matcha" itself translates to "powdered tea."
"抹" is pronounced "ma," and it means "to rub" or "to grind".
"茶" is pronounced "cha," and it means "tea".
So, combined, "抹茶" essentially means "ground tea" or "powdered tea", which is what matcha is - finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves.
The origins of matcha date back to China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The Chinese would steam tea leaves and form them into bricks for easy transport and trade. These tea bricks were then ground into a powder and mixed with hot water. This form of tea consumption spread to Japan by a Buddhist monk named Eisai in the late 12th century, where it was used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries.
However, it was in Japan that the cultivation and consumption of powdered tea truly flourished, eventually evolving into the unique form known as matcha. The Japanese began to grow tea plants in shade to increase the leaves' chlorophyll content, which gave the resultant powder a vibrant green color and a unique flavor profile. This method of cultivation also boosted the levels of certain nutrients in the tea, including L-Theanine and caffeine.
In the 16th century, a tea master named Sen no Rikyu established the ceremonial way to prepare and serve matcha, which has been passed down through generations and is still followed today. He also played a crucial role in popularizing matcha among the Japanese samurai class, helping to solidify matcha's status in Japanese culture.
Over time, matcha became an integral part of Japanese culture and tradition, particularly through the tea ceremony, known as "Chanoyu" or "the way of tea". This ceremony is a symbol of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.
Although matcha fell out of popularity in China in favor of loose-leaf tea brewing, it remained a vital part of Japanese culture and started to gain considerable popularity worldwide in the 21st century. Today, matcha is appreciated not just for its unique taste and health benefits, but also for its deep cultural and historical significance.
How is Matcha Produced?
The production of matcha is a delicate process that contributes significantly to its unique properties. A few weeks before harvest, tea plants meant for matcha are shaded to prevent direct sunlight. This process increases the chlorophyll content, giving the leaves a vibrant green color and boosting their amino acid content, particularly L-Theanine, which is believed to have calming effects.
After the leaves are harvested, they're steamed to halt fermentation, then air-dried. The dried leaves, known as “Tencha”, are then ground into a fine powder using stone mills. This fine powder is the matcha that is used in tea ceremonies and cooking.
Tasting and Enjoying Matcha
Matcha is known for its unique, complex taste that is rich, vegetal, and slightly sweet. It can also have bitter notes, especially if it's a lower-quality matcha or if it's prepared with water that's too hot.
Steps to Prepare Matcha
Remember, preparing matcha is a calming ritual. Take your time, be mindful, and enjoy the process. The result is a beautiful, vibrant, and healthful drink.
Health Benefits of Matcha
Pure matcha itself is low in calories and can be a part of a balanced, healthy diet. Drinking matcha every day can be a beneficial habit for several reasons, particularly in the areas of physical health, mental wellness, and daily performance.
Matcha in Cooking and Baking
Beyond being a healthful beverage, matcha has also found its way into kitchens as a cooking and baking ingredient. It imparts a beautiful green hue and a distinctive taste to a variety of dishes. Matcha is used in making ice cream, cakes, smoothies, lattes, and even savory dishes: Matcha Pasta, Soup, Seasoning, and Risotto.
Storing matcha correctly is important to maintain its flavor, color, and nutritional properties. Here are some tips for properly storing your matcha
Remember, matcha is a delicate tea that requires a bit more care in storage than other types of tea. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your matcha remains as fresh and flavorful as possible.
Matcha, with its unique taste, health benefits, and versatility in the kitchen, is a truly remarkable type of tea. Whether you're a long-time tea enthusiast or new to the world of tea, matcha offers a distinct experience that is well worth trying.