What is Matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground green tea leaf specially grown and harvested in Japan. The tea plant, camellia sinensis, is shaded from the sun for the last few weeks prior to harvest in the spring. This process increases the chlorophyll content, which turns the leaves into a gorgeous vibrant shade of green and also increases the production of theanine and caffeine. Workers then hand pick the top leaves, which are the youngest and most tender leaves, and lay them out flat to dry. Once the leaf is de-veined and de-stemmed, the leaves are carefully ground with stone granite wheels to produce an ultra-fine, delicate powder in three grades:
Ceremonial Grade: The highest quality matcha, used mainly in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples
Premium Grade: A high quality matcha that offers a full range of nutrients and fresh, subtle flavor
Culinary Grade: Quality matcha, suitable for cooking
Unlike the conventional brewing of tea by steeping or straining the loose leaf to infuse the water, this fine powder is sifted and whisked into hot water by preparing it in one of two main styles:
Usucha: thin, lighter and slightly bitter tea
Koicha: thick, milder and sweeter tea
Originally, only royalty were served matcha because it was so time consuming and expensive to produce. The Zen Buddhist monks honored matcha tea for its potential to support meditation and cure various ailments. Today, matcha is a popular beverage both served cold and hot, along with creative uses in foods, desserts, and a variety of confectionery. It's full bodied umami flavor, grassy notes, buttery texture, and lingering sweetness make matcha an exquisite epicurean experience as well as an all natural 'health elixir'.