Matcha is traditionally been cultivated by hand but newer methods of machinery have more and more farms producing Matcha with machines
Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves also used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest and can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids, in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. However, if the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha (碾茶). Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.
It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha.
The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavor than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.
Matcha is a special kind of green tea from Japan. The Japanese characters used for matcha are
which mean “ground tea” if we take them literally. And we do. Matcha is the type of green tea served in formal ceremonies in Japan.
It neither looks like nor tastes like any other kind of tea. It looks like hallucinogenic green cocoa, behaves like a perfectly pulled espresso, and tastes like baby green vegetables that might have been cooked by Ferran Adria: perhaps blended microgreens, straight-up chlorophyll, young bamboo, and raw sugar, served in a small cup.
It’s used mainly in formal tea ceremonies in Japan, but we’re doing our best to convince people that one needn’t formally “study” tea to enjoy it. You can just . . . make a cup. You could make it on the run, at breakfast, with a cookie in the mid-afternoon, before (and after) a yoga class, before an especially important meeting, on a hike (really!), during a meditation session, or right before you get in your car after you’ve had a glass or two of wine.
It has many distinguishing features, but the top four are probably:
- Form of tea leaves. Unlike all other teas, including green teas, matcha is finely ground.
- No steeping. Matcha isn’t steeped, it’s “eaten.” You simply pour hot water over the powder, froth it (either with a special handheld bamboo whisk or an electric milk frothier), and drink the thick tea.
- Off-the-charts health properties. Matcha is full of naturally occurring antioxidants and amino acids; roughly 20 times those of regular green tea.
- It’s A LOT like really good wine. Terroir (conditions in which it’s grown) is hugely important, it has a balanced acid structure, a very long finish, and it pairs exceptionally well with food.