High Quality Powdered Green Tea

That vibrant green color! That refreshing, delicately sweet aroma combined with a mildly bitter bite and slightly vegetal flavor! This powdered substance that we call matcha is one variety of green tea whose history extends back hundreds of years in Japan (in Japanese, matcha refers to both the powdered tea and the beverage made from it). Possibly best known for its role in the traditional tea ceremony, this role has expanded over the course of many years, and recently we see matcha in non-traditional beverages (think matcha martinis!), and foods, such as Japanese confectionaries and western sweets. Matcha holds an important position within Japan’s food culture, familiar in one way or another to everyone. Let’s look at the when, why and how of this startlingly beautiful and unusual tea.

History of Matcha

It’s said that the practice of drinking tea began around 3400 B.C.E. in ancient China as part of Chinese traditional medicine. Ryoku cha, the general Japanese name for all green teas, was brought to Japan in the 8th century by envoys to T’ang China as one of the many pieces of Chinese culture they brought back home. Around 1200, the prototype of matcha as we know it today made its first appearance, only back then it wasn’t considered a beverage, but a medicinal tonic. Around the 15th–16th century, the highly stylized ritual of tea ceremony (sado) was established by the upper classes, and tea drinking shifted from the medicinal to the social, eventually spreading to the general populace, where it became a more relaxed and less ritualized way of passing the time with one’s friends, neighbors and family.

Production of Matcha

For matcha, only the very delicate top leaves, or new shoots of the tea bush are used. Before the leaves are harvested, a black cover is placed over the tea bushes for a few weeks to protect them from direct sunlight. This lack of sunlight means that the tea plants are unable to undergo photosynthesis, so they must compensate for the lack of nutrients that they would normally get from the process by drawing nourishment from the soil. Leaves protected from the sunlight are thinner and softer, and a darker shade of green, with less of the tannin that produces astringency and more amino acids for a deeper, fuller concentration of flavor which results in a quality befitting a superior grade of tea. Very soon after plucking, the leaves are steamed and dried flat, unlike other green tea leaves which are rolled. The stems and veins are then removed, and they are stone-ground to an ultra-fine powder, each particle 5 to 9 microns in size (one micron is one millionth of a meter) in a mortar specifically for this purpose. This bright green, talc-like powder is matcha.

How to Make Matcha Tea

1) Place a rounded ½ tsp (1.5g) of matcha powder in a mug or bowl large and deep enough to accommodate a small whisk being moved from side to side.

2) Pour 4 oz hot (158̊ F~176̊ F) water into the bowl.

3) Using a small whisk, slowly stir to dissolve the matcha, then briskly move the whisk back and forth until a fine foam appears. Gently remove the whisk and enjoy the tea.

Matcha powder may clump inside the container. Before use, please sift through a fine strainer. After whisking, there should be no undissolved powder in the liquid, or on the side of the bowl. A bamboo whisk (chasen) is strongly recommended.

Storing Matcha Powder

Storing Matcha Powder

Matcha powder is suitable for long-term storage if properly stored. After opening, it should be placed in an airtight container and protected from shifts in temperature. Preferably, matcha powder should be placed in the freezer for long-term storage, or the refrigerator for shorter term. Remember to bring the matcha powder to room temperature and sift it before using.

Nutrients Contained in Matcha Powder

All green teas are rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin E which are fat soluble, meaning they don’t break down in the hot water used to make tea. Tea made from matcha powder, however, has even more nutrients available due to the fact that the entire leaf, not simply the water that the tea leaves have been steeped in, is ingested. Matcha has a high concentration of catechins, which have been proven to be antibacterial, as well as providing other health benefits. It also contains minerals and amino acids such as theanine, which not only produces a calming effect, but also aids in increasing concentration and focus. Saponins, which have been confirmed to have anti-inflammatory properties, are also present in matcha, as well as dietary fiber for intestinal health, caffeine to revitalize us, and the type of Vitamin C that doesn’t decompose easily in the presence of heat.

Many Uses of Matcha Powder

As you probably know, matcha powder is not just for making a delicious cup of tea. The pleasant, soothing scent, gentle bitterness, vivid color, as well as its powdered form makes it a great partner in a number of foods and beverages, as it is easy to dissolve in liquids, or mix with other dry ingredients. Matcha harmonizes well with many flavors, and items blended with matcha tend to bring out the best flavor in each other. Think of Japanese confectionaries like yokan, dorayaki, manju, etc. Sweet treats flavored with matcha powder such as green tea ice-cream, roll cakes, truffles, cream puffs and puddings are now commonplace in the U.S. and Europe. Savory foods use matcha powder as well; we can see it in breads, noodles – and matcha lattes are popping up in coffee shops both east and west!

And Did You Know…?

Drinking a cup of matcha in the morning is said to make one’s slimming diet more efficient by virture of the effect of the catechins in the tea which help to burn fat? Furthermore, when matcha is ingested during a meal, fat absorption is said to be inhibited and the intestines are stimulated to dispel fats from the body by the dietary fibers in the tea, thus helping keep fat from accumulating in the body! And if you’re interested in experiencing the effects of the caffeine present in matcha, it’s recommended that you have a cup when you’re feeling sleepy – you should perk right up!

Matcha! That sublime green color makes us think of verdant springtime all year round while offering us a multitude of benefits to help us maintain good health. You don’t have to be familiar with the tea ceremony to enjoy the many delicious pleasures of matcha! Matcha confectionaries, matcha beverages – doesn’t a little matcha pick-me-up sound good right about now?