Matcha green tea is a high quality green tea which was used in tea rituals in ancient culture in China and brought to Japan through Buddhism.
People drink green tea for different reasons. Most people drink it because of its health benefits of green tea that come in natural form. They enjoy the feeling of optimum well-being. However there are different kinds of green tea and each with different purposes, too. In this case, matcha is used for tea ceremony.
Nowadays when you enter a tea house, you’ll see a variety of matcha green tea menu items- matcha green tea lattes, smoothies, desserts and many other unique ways to make matcha green tea more interesting! Read What’s The Deal With Matcha, Anyway?
History of the matcha green tea
Matcha is a very finely ground high quality green tea from the green tea leaves only; the other parts of the plant are excluded. Historically, the preparation and drinking of powdered tea is as ancient as the Chinese tea tradition itself about 1000 years ago. Because Chinese green tea is very valuable, the bricks made from this powdered tea were also used as currency in China.
How did green tea tradition reach Japan? Zen Buddhism and the Chinese tea preparation were introduced in Japan by a Buddhist monk named Esai in 1191.
Japan continued to practice the tea ceremony in Zen monasteries since then. That is why matcha green tea is the only one used in the Japanese ceremony which centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha.
Japanese green tea matcha is known to be the most premium quality green tea that comes from the Japanese island of Honshu. Although it can also be propagated in other countries, premium green tea is grown in several places in Japan especially in Kyoto and Uji.
Producing quality matcha
How is matcha produced? Japanese matcha green tea is carefully processed even before the leaves are harvested. The tea bushes are covered to avoid sun exposure. Without the direct sunlight, a darker shade of green-colored leaves is produced. Then the young leaves are harvested in early May and steamed lightly to avoid fermentation and to retain the green color. Traditionally, the leaves would be kept in tea jars to season until November and to be stone-ground when needed. For best quality, only the leaves are processed to get the meat part and stems and veins are removed so the grinding will have consistency in color and texture. Usually a small percentage of the original harvest remains, this is called “tencha”. Then the tencha is stone- grounded for about one hour to produce an ounce of matcha. Slow grinding is necessary so that the tea will result to a sweet taste. Faster grinding will leave a burnt taste.
The Emperor’s tea
Matcha was used ceremonially and was known to be the “emperor’s tea” in ancient Japan. Matcha is a green tea drink with a unique flavor and health benefits ten times more than the regular green tea. Buddhist monks liked drinking matcha green tea for its calming effect. So have yourself a cup of matcha green tea and enjoy what the emperors drank in ancient times.