Much Ado About Matcha
How mutcha do you know about matcha? What is it? Where did it come from? Is it like, basically, green tea? What are the health benefits?
Quite simply, matcha is a high-grade green tea milled into powder form. The powder is whisked into hot water, rather than steeped, creating a bright green frothy tea.
The Chinese were the first to brew tea in this manner. They called the method “beaten tea.” But as teapots came around, they abandoned the process in favor of steeping. Matcha may have been lost if it wasn't for a Japanese Zen monk, Eisia. He picked up the "beaten tea" method while studying in China. Back in Japan, Eisia introduced the tea practice into his monastery. The Buddhist monks created a ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha as meditation. They named the meditative ritual “The Way of Tea. ( 茶の湯, chanoyu)”.
"The way of Tea" spread throughout Japan. It was later adapted by the Samurai class. They transformed the practice into a detail oriented art form. It requires specific equipment, venues, and procedures. The Samurai claimed the ceremony enhanced a warriors concentration and patience. Today, "The Way of Tea" is still an honored and practiced art tradition in Japanese society, but, don't worry, you can still get a matcha latte in Japan.
Along with its rich cultural background, matcha is cultivated and processed unlike any other tea. The tea plants raised for matcha are shade grown. Shade boosts the production of chlorophyll which gives matcha its vivid green color. By controlling sun exposure, tea producers can more easily achieve the desired flavors and chemical make-up. Only the newest spring buds get plucked and steamed within hours of harvesting. The tea leaves are then laid flat to dry into tencha, and the stems and veins are removed from the leaves. Lastly, the remaining leaf is stone ground into the fine powder we call matcha.
Though grown differently, matcha shares all the health benefits of green tea. It can improve mental clarity, help in weight loss, and can lower the risk of cancer. Since the fine ground tea leaves are whisked into a matcha beverage, matcha drinkers can get more caffeine and antioxidants. If you are looking for a nutrient packed pick-me-up, matcha is an excellent choice.
At all our cafes we offer the full-bodied flavor of matcha served the traditional way in hot water. The vegetal and sweet flavor pairs well with milk or a latte. Try it served warm or get it iced for a soothing refreshment on a hot day.