Posted by TOKYO MATCHA SELECTION - Chris Young (living in UK) on 11th Jan 2018
What's the deal with matcha vs green tea? Exactly what is matcha anyway? This week, we at Tokyo Matcha Selection aim to answer your top questions about our favourite beverage.
Let's start with the basics.
Green tea is made from the leaves of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis. Although 'sinensis' means 'from China', the plant has been cultivated in many countries all over Asia. It was first introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks as long ago as the 9th century; today, the country is home to a number of unique tea cultivars. Since Japan is a narrow, mountainous country with precious little space for agriculture, its tea growers are ever more focused on producing only the best quality product they can.
To make black tea, tea leaves are withered and oxidized during processing to transform the colour and flavour of the finished product. Green tea producers skip these steps to lock in the flavour and colour of the raw plant. In Japan, which exclusively produces green tea, selectively picked whole tea leaves are usually steamed before being rolled, dried and packaged. The use of gentle, moist heat in processing ensures that the dried product retains all the fresh, grassy flavour that is characteristic of Japanese teas.
So what is the difference between matcha and green tea?
Matcha is essentially a green tea that has undergone a few extra steps of processing. The first occurs even before the tea is picked. Like gyokuro, a prized subcategory of Japanese tea, matcha tea is grown under shade for a period of time before harvesting. Restricted light causes the plant to increase the concentration of chlorophyll and the amino acid theanine in its leaves. This has the effect of intensifying their flavour, leading to stronger vegetal and umami notes in the processed tea.
After picking, the leaves destined for matcha as opposed to gyokuro are dried and deveined so that only the leaf flesh remains. This is then carefully ground into the soft, fine, vivid green powder we call matcha. The grinding is done extremely slowly to avoid heat damage, which would adversely affect the matcha's final flavour and colour.
What is matcha made for?
The somewhat laborious process of transforming tea leaves into a powder is worth the effort for several reasons:
● Firstly, it allows us to enjoy the tea as a suspension rather than the usual infusion, which many consider especially delicious.
● Secondly, the active compounds in the tea are concentrated, which may explain matcha's reputation for producing a calming, focusing effect on drinkers.
● Thirdly, the powder can be used for a variety of other exciting culinary purposes.
Being labour-intensive and having a relatively short shelf-life, matcha powder has always been considered a special, premium product. This fact resonates throughout the culture of the Japanese tea ceremony, an art form which has evolved around the preparation of matcha. With its careful gestures, the tea ceremony encourages us to slow down and fully appreciate not only the simple act of drinking tea, but also the company in which we drink it.
In an increasingly hectic world, moments of quiet enjoyment and reflection - whether alone or with others - are essential for our wellbeing. This is perhaps why people in many countries are beginning to drink matcha at home as a regular ritual. For some, matcha is a gateway to other aspects of Japanese culture; for others, the delicious tea itself becomes a passion. Thanks to the great care that is necessary at every stage of its production, there is always more to learn about matcha for those who are interested!
Our matcha products
We hope this article has given you a deeper understanding of the question: 'What is matcha?'
Whether you are a seasoned matcha drinker or a newcomer to the beverage, we highly recommend you try our Tokyo Matcha Selection Original Organic Matcha. Selected with the utmost attention to quality, this special 'Ceremonial Grade' matcha is sure to please. Why not compare it with one of our Japanese sencha or gyokuro teas?
● [Ceremonial grade] Japanese Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder 50g (1.76oz) - Certified Organic by EU/USDA/COR/JAS - Best For Weight Loss, Vegan Friendly & Healthy Living
● GYOKURO Teas
● SENCHA Teas