What is Matcha?
The Espresso of Tea.
Matcha is a traditional Japanese green tea powder produced by stone-milling a shade-grown green tea called tencha into a fine powder. Matcha has a rich cultural tradition as the tea prepared and revered during chanoyu–the mindful, artistic, Zen-inspired Japanese Tea Ceremony. Matcha is unique among teas in that when we drink matcha, we consume the fresh green tea leaf itself, ground and whisked up into an energizing, refreshing bowl.
Benefits of Matcha
Matcha is often referred to as the ‘espresso of tea’ because contains a noteworthy level of caffeine, as well as a compound called L-theanine, which has been studied to promote a sense of relaxation. The unique combination L-theanine and Caffeine in Matcha is touted for its nootropic effects in improving attention, reaction time, and memory. Five benefits of Matcha include:
1) Fresh tea polyphenol antioxidants
2) Contains L-theanine which is known to reduce stress and anxiety
3) Sustained energy without the crash of coffee
4) Delicious and vibrant plus nootropic effects improving attention, reaction time and memory
5) Simple to add to your favorite smoothie or latte.
Cultivation of Matcha
Tencha is harvested just one time each year between May and June and is grown exclusively to make matcha. To make tencha, the tea plants are shaded for 3-5 weeks prior to harvest. Shading tea plants elevates chlorophyll content and enhances L-theanine and other stimulating amino acids, all of which contribute to matcha’s vivid green color, lush umami sweetness and incomparable, enlivening energy.
To conduct the shading, tea farmers use either a traditional frame-and-thatch technique known as tana or modern materials such as black mesh or reflective shades that are erected over the bushes using parabolic hoops. They might alternatively be tightly wrapped to the bushes in a technique called kabuse. Each technique has its pros and cons. The farmers use these techniques to block approximately 70-85% of the sun’s energy from reaching the tea bushes. They often begin with several weeks of shading at around 70%, then increase the degree of shading incrementally as the harvest time nears.
While common grades of tencha are harvested by machine, the best grades with the most tender and sweet flavor are harvested by hand. Superior quality matcha greatly depends on the tea bush cultivar, shading technique, picking standard, and milling practice used. Some grades are suited for traditional, ceremonial preparation, while others are fit for modern culinary applications.
Today, methods of enjoying matcha are immensely popular among foodies, third wave coffee crowds, and active lifestyle consumers. Matcha is essentially the espresso of tea—prepare a “double shot” of matcha by making a bowl of thin tea described above and pour into a demitasse glass to serve. The same double shot can be used as a base for iced matcha, green tea lattes, or numerous other café creations. Its vibrant green color makes matcha a barista superstar’s dream ingredient.
Learn more about the history, the many types and the nuance of Japanese green tea.
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