So What Are We Talking About When We Say Matcha Tea?
For those of you newcomers who want to go deeper and learn where matcha comes from and the way it’s crafted, hang onto your hats!
BUT LETS SLOW DOWN, FIRSTLY…
WHAT IS MATCHA?
Matcha is the most common name for a green tea powder that is cultivated and manufactured in Japan. There are many other farmers in China and other parts of the world which produce green tea powders, however, Japanese tea farmers produce hands down, the most amazing and authentic matcha tea on the globe.
Matcha is made from the tea plant, called camellia sinensis, which is the same plant that produces white teas, black teas, oolong teas, and hundreds of varieties of green teas.
One of the differences between black tea and green matcha tea is the unfermented nature of green tea. Black tea has been exposed to air and fully oxidized, producing a different flavour and cup profile, green tea which is meant to be used for crafting matcha will steamed and dried and finally stone-milled into a super-fine powder.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Japanese matcha cultivation methods and techniques have been perfected and mastered for over 800 years and the Japanese are all about preserving traditions. Japanese matcha is about as traditional and authentic Japanese as you can get! If you don’t believe us, go on YouTube and watch a matcha ceremony! Pretty jaw-dropping.
Anyways, what this means is that today’s matcha coming from Japan is still producing using these ancient, badass old-school traditions.
Matcha is a superfood, it is loaded with good caffeine and packed with minerals and vitamins and since you are not simply steeping and discarding the leaves, but rather CONSUMING them, the health benefits are more potent!
LET’S GET INTO THE DETAILS OF PRODUCTION
It all boils down to a balance of excellent facility and production and the experience of the growers. Matcha is also considered an art form is Japan.
The most expensive and potent green teas are used for matcha production, which is no wonder why it fetches such a high price!
Here is a graphic summary:
The tea leaves must be properly shaded from direct sunlight using bamboo mats mounted on top to filter the light. This protects the tea leaves and also adjusts and strengthens the balance of sugars, caffeine and tannins and flavanoids. The shading process must be initiated at least 4-6 weeks before the time of harvest. The result is that antioxidant content, chlorophyll content are forced to the surface of the leaves. This also gives that intense flavour called umami, loaded with healthy amino acids.
- Hand Plucked
The handpicking season is during spring April to mid-May during which time only the youngest and greenest tea leaves are plucked. According to tea experts, the tea leaves selected from the first harvest have the best quality compared to the second harvest which occurs about 40 days later.
- Steaming & Curing
Once the leaves have been picked they are immediately steamed for about 20 seconds. This prevents them from fermenting (also known as oxidizing) any further (and becoming an oolong tea or even a black tea! Yikes!) It’s obvious to tell if a tea leaf has been steamed in time as it will retain it’s super green colour and amino acid profile and all the nutritional benefits fully. After steaming the leaves are blown to remove further moisture and then they are crushed and sorted and the stems are removed. The final product is the RAW tea leaf READY for MATCHA POWDER!
- Stem Removal
Before the tea leaves are stone-milled into the incredible, puff-daddy green matcha goodness, they first need to have the stems removed. Stems taste lousy, so we can’t be having any of that! And at this point, it’s so close to the final product, so we want only the best conditions. Once the matcha has been produced a rigorous process of quality control and testing is undergone. Once the matcha has been deemed satisfactory according to the manufacturing quality standard it is stored and refrigerated ready for testing. Fresh matcha should be consumed within 90 days, otherwise, it begins to lose nutritional potency!
- Taste Testing and Grading
Matcha testing is a serious business in Japan and considered a very honourable profession. Skilled matcha testers who can isolate different umami flavours and who can tell between low, medium and ceremonial quality matcha simply from taste are paid big bucks and very hard to come by. There are entire methods and university programs devoted to grading and testing. It’s epic and the Japanese take their green hulk powder super-seriously, as they should!
- You guessed it! Stone-Grinding
It goes without saying that the final step is grinding, slowly, the heck outta the tea leaves until what is left is what you see in your matcha tin. The grinding process takes hours, even days, depending on the grower.
If you haven’t tried a matcha latte from Starbucks or your local cafe, what the heck are you waiting for!!??
What They’re Saying
“At first, I used to drink the store brand teas and stuff I would find at the local coffee shop, I discovered Matcha and GABA Tea through Espirita, and I noticed a significant change in my mood and overall mental well being. I was more relaxed, focused in thought and generally more emotionally balanced. I prefer organic matcha teas which are authentic from Japan. I'll never go back to store bought tea after discovering the good stuff!”Eddie FariaTea Newb
“I used to suffer from eczema all over my body, before I moved to Taiwan and learned about Tea and mindfulness. I discovered GABA Oolong Tea in Taiwan and it helped heal my skin and other health problems by becoming more mindful and developing the habit of drinking GABA tea everyday.”Drasko SabanAge 31