Tea Ceremony, Kyoto, Japan
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What is Matcha?
It is powdered green tea made from premier plants that are shaded. It is famous for its use during the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Developed in China, it has been used in Japan for over 800 years.
Today you can find food grade matcha added to a wide variety of foods, but the higher grades are kept for drinking and ceremony.
Because you drink more of the whole leaf when it is powdered, there can be additional health benefits from the increased anti-oxidants and catechins.
Tests have shown that the amount of EGCG in matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG in China Green Tips, and over three times more than any other green tea studied so far (Weiss DJ, Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography, Journal Chromotagraphy, September 2003).
It tastes really great, if you make it the way you like it. That means you have to experiment--some like it triple strong, some like it ceremonial, some love to mix it with everything.
It has a taste that's hard to describe. For me, it's a little sweet, sort of tangy, and seems to hit every "that tastes really good" spot in my mouth (the umami receptor).
Leaf: No leaves, just the powder, a brilliant green powder. This color is one of the prettiest greens outside of Ireland.
Brew: It's a brilliant and rich green, too.
If you whisk it, it has a pale green froth.
Depending on the grade, the brew can have yellow highlights.
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You can use it for all occasions--from the most ordinary to the most sublime.
It is good for any meal or snack, commuting, relaxing, traveling, working out, romantic evenings, backpacking, your children's tea party, at the office, and of course, for the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Matcha tea is a constant adventure!
It tastes great with chocolate chip cookies and little frosted sugar cookies.
It goes with vegetarian sandwiches, spring salads, rice dishes, and Japanese soups, of course.
Green tea powder (usually the less expensive sencha, rather than matcha) is the hottest mixer for food today.
It makes the easiest iced tea on the planet. When you are traveling, just order a glass of ice water and add the contents of an individual serving packet of matcha tea. You've got instant, healthy, tasty refreshment.
For informal use, you generally add 1/2 teaspoon powder to four ounces hot (120-140F) water and stir or whisk into froth. If you whisk enough, there will be no powder on the side or bottom of the cup.
In the summer, just pour it over ice cubes, stir, drink, and refresh yourself.
Japan offers two choices: usucha or thin tea, and koicha or thick tea. Usucha should be from plants less than 30 years old and is made with 1/2 teaspoon for 2.5 ounces of hot water. Usucha is made with more water because the leaves are lower quality and there is a little bitterness.
Koicha or thick tea is from plants that are older than 30 years and is made with as many as six teaspoons for 3/4 cup of hot water. It is sweeter, smoother, and during ceremonial use, can be served as thick as syrup.
Coffee drinkers can try matcha strong--two teaspoons in four ounces water. Just toss it back. It has good body, it's not bitter, and tastes great--it's an easy way to get healthy.
An inexpensive matcha tea and green chai are the only two green teas than do not lose all their unique flavor by having some milk or sweetener added. But never add anything but water to the higher grades of matcha.
It was developed in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1270 AD). Beloved by the Buddhists, it was used for ceremonies by the Chan (Zen) Buddhists.
It was brought to Japan by the monk Eisai in 1191 AD. Japan loved the powdered green tea and maintained it over the centuries, perfecting it in the Japanese Tea Ceremony by the 1500's. Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591 AD) in Japan brought together many deep human values and formalized them in the Japanese Tea Ceremony known today. He encouraged the beauty of simple things, drinking tea daily, and generosity.
China returned to the use of whole leaf and let the powdered processing lapse for centuries. Chinese matcha is now becoming popular in China again for its versatility, but generally uses lower grades of tea leaves.
Traditional Dress and Procession for Tea Ceremony, Kyoto City, Japan
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Like Gyokuro, Japanese matcha tea is made from leaves that are shaded for 20 days before plucking. The harvested leaves are steamed and dried. The leaves are put into a big wind tunnel and are blown around until all the stems and tough veins are separated out. The leaf pieces are then stone-ground into a powder as superfine as talcum.
Higher grades of these teas are usually from the Uji Tamara region. They are sweeter, with more careful hand-processing.
The highest grades of matcha do not leave Japan.
Matcha must be packaged in a tin. Once you open the tin, it loses quality rapidly. Be sure you use it up within two months.
You can also find individual foil serving packets which are wonderful for traveling.
It may also be called by other names, including
Rubbed or Powdered tea
Powdered green tea
Japanese Ceremonial Tea
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This page was last updated by Sharon Jones on July 27, 2012.
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