THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MATCHA TEA
Matcha is a specially grown and processed green tea that is available as a finely ground powder in the market. The harvesting and processing procedures make Matcha teaspecial. The farmers grow it in the shades before harvesting it. All the stems and veins are segregated during the processing time to maintain the quality of this green tea.
It is grown in shades because thus the plant improves the count of theanine and caffeine in the tea. Probably, it is the reason behind this green tea’s ability of improving users’ calmness and energy levels. The way of preparing and taking Matcha is quite different from the tea leaves and tea bags. You need to dissolve it in a liquid to prepare the tea.
Matcha is quite famous in Japan because it is the main beverage of traditional Japanese tea ceremony. They serve it as hot tea and consider it a great aid for meditation. For a long time this green tea was served only as a tea, but things are quite changed now. It has become an important spice and flavor of several dishes like Mochi and Soba noodles.
People also use it as an ingredient to prepare Matcha lattes, green tea ice cream, and several other Japanese sweets. The buyers ask the retailers to provide ceremonial-grade Whisk Matcha, which means they need high-quality green tea to serve in the ceremony. The Japanese often refer such high-quality Matcha as culinary-grade Matcha, but this phrase has no definition regarding the industrial production of the tea.
Matcha tastes delicious and that’s why people have offered Matcha’s blends with different names like Chamei. These names are either offered by the tea producers, retailers, or by the grand masters of the Japanese tea ceremonies. Whenever a grand master of the ceremony names a tea, it is called the Master’s Konomi.
History of Matcha:
You will have to check the history of China, if you want to reveal the history of Matcha green tea. People used to steam the tea leaves and form tea bricks for trade and storage during the Tang Dynasty. It was a time, when the producers used to roast and pulverize the tea and then decoct it in hot water and salt. The method was slightly changed during the Song Dynasty. Now people used to prepare tea powder from steamed and dried tea leaves. It was the time, when people had started whipping the tea powder into hot water in a bowl.
It was Chan or Zen Buddhists, who had turned tea preparation and consumption into a ritual. There is a Chan monastic code known as the Chanyuan Qinggui, in which the whole procedure of tea ceremonies is described in a detailed form. He was monk Eisai, who had brought the Zen Buddhism and Chinese tea preparation methods to Japan during 1191. It is true that the consumption of powdered tea had never got popularity in China, but today it has gained global popularity. The Japanese had appreciated the tea preparation methods and the taste of Matcha and that’s how it had become the main beverage of Japanese ceremonies.
Production procedure of Matcha green tea:
As mentioned earlier in this post, the producers use shade-grown tea leaves to produce Matcha green tea. People also prepare Gyokuro from the shade-grown tea leaves. The producers don’t wait for production too long because it starts before 20 days of harvesting this green tea. They prevent it from direct sunlight to improve the quality. It helps the farmers in slowing down the growth of the plants and ultimately the chlorophyll levels are boosted. Thus, the tea leaves become dark green and gains a large quantity of the amino acids, especially theanine.
The farmers pick only the finest tea buds. Once the leaves are harvested and if rolled out without drying, it will become the Gykuro tea. If the farmers dry the leaves flat, it will result in the Tencha. Later the producers will de-stem and de-vein the tea and grind it to form a fine powder, which is known as the Matcha green tea.
It takes a long time in grinding the tea leaves because the producers try to prevent warming of grinding stones. If the grinding stones will get too warm, it can affect the natural aroma of the tea. Therefore, the producers work quite slowly and take at-least 1 hour to grind only 30g quantity of Matcha.
These are the amino acids of Matcha that offer it a distinct and unique flavor. The best quality Matcha will offer more intense sweetness. The standard grade tea leaves do not offer deeper and sweeter flavor like the highest grade green tea. The producers know these facts and therefore they apply appropriate methods to produce different flavors of Matcha tea.
Different grades of Matcha tea:
The tea experts have categorized Matcha into three different grades. Those three grades are:
- Ceremonial grade Matcha:
It is the best quality, which is mostly used in the tea ceremonies and also in the Buddhist temples. The producers produce this grade of Matcha in the granite stone mills. You will have to spend around $100-$140 only for buying 100 gram ceremonial grade tea. People, who don’t pay too much attention to the quality and taste of the teas, will find ceremonial grade and premium grade Matchas the same tea. The highest grade of this green tea is characterized by fine tones of “Umami”.
- Premium grade Matcha:
The premium grade Matcha offers all the nutrients and health benefits for which this green tea is famous across the globe. The producers handpick only high-quality tea leaves from the top of the tea plant. You will have to pay around $80 for 100gm quantity of premium grade Matcha. It is considered the best for regular consumption as it contains a complete range of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Its fresh and delicious flavor characterizes this green tea. It should be your first choice, whether you take tea occasionally or on a regular basis.
- Culinary grade Matcha:
It is probably the cheapest type of Matcha green tea. You can buy 100gm culinary grade green tea only for $15-$40. It is a great ingredient, if you need Matcha for cooking different Matcha baked recipe. This green tea would not offer all the nutritional features. The health benefits would not be as impressive as higher grade Matcha, but still it is better than several other green teas.
Many types’ green teas are available in the Market. Matcha is the most expensive green tea because of its health benefits, nutritional content, and value in the Japanese ceremonies. The producers define the grades of this green tea by considering several things. Those things are:
- The tea bush location:
The farmers handpick the tea leaves from a specific part of the tea bush and it is quite important. If the leaves are picked from the top, these leaves would be supple and soft. It offers a finer texture to the top grades of green tea. If the tea leaves are older and developed, these would be harder and gain a lower grade sandy texture. The Matcha tea leaves gain a fine flavor, when the plant supplies a bulk of nutrients to the tea leaves.
- Treatment before production:b
People used to dry the Sencha leaves outside in the shade and they used to prevent direct sunlight on these leaves. Now the procedure is changed because the plants are grown in an indoor location. Thus, high grade matcha gains a bright green color.
- Grinding process:
It would not be possible for anyone to produce high-quality Matcha without using proper equipment and without applying the required technique. This great tea may get burnt and thus the quality of the green tea will reduce. The Japanese use only stone ground Matcha, which comes as a fine powder. It is ground in granite stone mills and the produce rate remains quite slow.
Oxidation can also make a big difference in the quality of Matcha tea. The quality of this green tea may get compromised, if it is exposed to oxygen. The Oxidized Matcha will smell differently and it will gain dull brownish-green color.
The producers carefully consider all of these factors to differentiate the quality of Matcha tea. You would agree that the best quality Matcha should not be oxidized, prepared from soft and developing leaves and ground in the granite stone mills.
The conventional preparation methods:
People apply two different methods to prepare Matcha in a conventional way. The thick Matcha is called Koicha and thin Matcha is called Usucha.
Many users sieve the Matcha to break and remove the clumps, before they use it. The Japanese people use a special sieve to sift this green tea and remove clumps. Most of the sieves are prepared from stainless steel in which a fine wire mesh sieve is attached at the center. You can also get sieves with temporary storage containers. This green tea is forced through a wooden spatula so that green tea powder can get sieved properly. Some people also place a smooth stone over the top of the sieve and then the sieve is shaken gently to sift the Matcha.
The sifted Matcha tea would be placed into a small tea caddy, if it will be served at the Japanese tea ceremony. If you want to prepare it at home, then you can take it directly from the sieve in a tea bowl and prepare the tea. However, the procedures of the tea ceremony are different and that’s why special equipments are used there.
You must take at-least 4 grams of finely ground Matcha powder in a bowl by using a bamboo scoop, if you are preparing the tea by following the traditional method. Now take 80ml hot water in the bowl (water should be below the boiling temperature). Now you should whisk the mixture by using a Chasen (a bamboo whisk). Start whisking the tea slowly and then move the whisk fast in the bowl so that there would be no lumps in the mixture. In addition, there should not be ground tea on the sides of the tea bowl.
Traditionally, Matcha is served with a small wagashi sweet because it tastes slightly bitter than other green teas. You should consume that wagashi sweet before taking Matcha and you should never mix milk or sugar in this green tea. A 40gm pack of Matcha is pretty enough to prepare 20 bowls of thin tea or Usucha and 10 bowls of thick tea or Koicha. Of course, the methods of preparing Usucha and koicha are different and those methods are explained below.
The method of preparing Usucha or thin tea is quite easy. You need to take half a teaspoon or 1.75gm quantity of Matcha along with at-least 75ml or 2.5oz quantity of hot water in a tea bowl. It would be pretty enough for one drinker. Now whisk the tea with Chasen until it gains the light green color. You should serve it with the Japanese sweet because its taste would be light and bitter.
Koicha is thick tea and as you can presume, it requires more Matcha powder than Usucha. Take 3.75 grams of Matcha powder in a bowl. You can count three heaping chaskaku scoops to get 3.75 grams of Matcha in the bowl. Now pour 40ml hot water in the bowl for each drinker. The 40ml quantity of water would be equal to ¾ cup quantity of hot water. The Japanese people whisk the Matcha tea slowly to maintain its thickness and turn it into Koicha. Koicha is prepared from high-grade quality Matcha, which is obtained from the older plants. Consequently, it gains a sweeter flavor than Usucha. This tea is the most widely served tea in the Japanese ceremonies because of its mild sweet taste and impressive texture.
The modern people add additional ingredients to prepare Matcha and that’s why they don’t get the real taste of this green tea.
Health benefits of Matcha green tea:
The Matcha tea is called the powerhouse of antioxidants and that’s how it becomes quite beneficial for your health. This green tea has the best ORAC counts in comparison to any other food. This green tea offers 1384 ORAC units per gram, which is quite higher in comparison to other foods, like the blueberries offer 94 ORAC units per gram.
It would not be fair to say that Matcha is beneficial for your health only because of its antioxidants. The studies show that EGCG is a compound available in this green tea that helps people in fighting obesity and other diseases. The EGCG reduces the production of Cholecystokinin hormone, which is responsible for increasing hunger cravings.
The Matcha tea contains a great quantity of EGCG because the producers grind the whole tea and you take the whole tea leave as you take this green tea. Studies also show that EGCG also helps people in fighting cancer. It also regulates angiogenesis and Metastasis.
Along with other nutrients, Matcha is rich in L-thenine and caffeine. These two elements are considered the best to improve focus and calmness. The regular intake of this tea can help you in sharpening your memory and memorizing things for a long time. Thus, it becomes a great ingredient for students.
Other uses of Matcha:
You can find several Matcha baked recipes online because it is used as an important ingredient in many cuisines. People use it as a topping in castellan, monaka, and manju ice creams. It is blended with sugar and milk and thus it becomes a great health drink. This green tea is also mixed with salt and then it is applied to improve the flavor of Matcha-Jio mixture. The Japanese people use this green tea in many recipes and get some of the most delicious cuisines to serve on the parties.
Today, Matcha has also become an important ingredient of several western-style cuisines and sweets. The chefs use it to flavor candy, chocolates, and other desserts like pastries, cakes, pudding, green tea ice cream, cookies, and mousse. Some Japanese food brands are offering several snacks in which Matcha is used as a spice to improve the flavor. Many people have developed new tea recipes in which Matcha is mixed with other teas to improve the nutritional count of those teas.
Now you know that Matcha tea is not only limited to the beverages, but It has also become an important ingredient of several other products. There are many North American cafes, where Matcha baked drinks are served. They also use it to prepare the Green Tea Lattes and some other Matcha flavored beverages.
The exotic Japanese restaurants proudly serve the Matcha baked goods and smoothies. You would be pleased to know that a few pinches of Matcha tea can turn your regular smoothie into a superfood. It would be very delicious and healthy for you. The popularity of Matcha is insane nowadays because it is also being mixed in many alcoholic beverages. In fact, you can also buy the Matcha green tea beers now, if you want to have a healthy drink in the pub.
The Matcha tea equipment:
Chawan or tea bowl:
This tea bowl is built especially to prepare Matcha because It is large enough to contain at-least 120ml tea.
Chasen or tea whisk:
It is a special whisk, prepared from bamboo. It is used to whisk the tea so that the powder can blend properly with water.
Chashaku or tea spoon:
It is a bamboo scoop, which is used to measure and scoop the tea from the sieve. The quantity of Matcha would be different from the western teaspoon.
Natsume or tea caddy:
It is a special tea container in which the powdered green tea is stored.
Chakin or tea cloth:
This cloth is used to clean all the equipment of Matcha tea during the tea ceremony.