Japanese Matcha Green Tea - History
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Matcha Kari’s teas come from the fields around Uji City near Kyoto, Japan, the birthplace of Japanese tea traditions. Tea produced in the Uji region is prized for its bright color and rich flavor and is often considered Japan’s best.
During a short and busy harvest season, tea farmers gather leaves and take them to processing facilities.
Small-scale growers hand-pick their tea plants. Larger-scale growers use machines to trim the tea plants during a small window of time. The best time to harvest is when the plant has 3-5 new leaves. Too early and the yield too small too late and the quality is compromised.
Fresh tea leaves are steamed for 30-40 seconds to destroy enzymes that would degrade flavor components.
Steamed leaves are quickly cooled by a strong blast of air that blows them almost 20 feet into the air, stabilizing the bright color and aroma.
Heated from below in a carefully controlled fire pit, the leaves pass through 3-4 levels on a conveyor belt, ensuring thorough and even drying.
Once dried, the tea leaves are cut, sorted, and mixed thoroughly, ensuring consistent quality and flavor. The resulting product, called tencha, is stored in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment until needed to make matcha.
Tencha is ground into matcha powder between rotating grooved stones driven by machines. A funnel drops cut leaves through a hole into a space between two stones. The grinding process takes two hours, resulting in an extremely fine powder.
Matcha is graded by color, aroma, and flavor.
As soon as matcha is graded, it is sealed in tins to prevent oxidation from exposure to air in the presence of light and heat. Unopened tins can be kept in a freezer for up to a year.
Producing Matcha Green Tea
Matcha typically is made from the Saemidori cultivar of camellia sinensis. These tea plants are grown under shade, which adds additional complexity to flavor as well as to the plucking of the tea. The shade slows down growth, so fewer leaves are produced by the plant and those leaves that are produced got more of their nutrients from the ground than through photosynthesis. This gives the leaves a very complex taste. Tea leaves plucked for Matcha are sorted by size to help in the removal of stems from the leaves. Matcha green tea production is much more labor intensive than the other teas in Japan, which have been heavily automated in past forty years. The tea is plucked, sorted and then sent into steaming for anywhere between 40-80 seconds given the size of the leaves. The leaves are then laid flat to dry, which will cause the leaves to crumble and the stems to be more easily removed. The tea is fully dried and sorted again with the hopes of removing more veins and missed stems. It is then ground down between two large granite stones, much like an old fashion grain mill. The grinding process is heavily monitored and the consistency of the powder is measured. A finer powder, makes for a stronger and more complex tea generally. In the United States, generally there are two types of matcha green tea available, ceremonial and cooking grade. Ceremonial matcha is generally from the first picking and highest quality leaves. Cooking matcha comes from follow up picking and sometimes larger leaves. There is a difference in taste, but that is rarely distinguishable to those of us not growing up drinking it daily. Cooking matcha is generally more vegetal in taste while ceremonial matcha will have a more complex fruit/vegetable flavor. Neither is overly sweet, which is why it is generally served with sweet treats.
Matcha Ice Cream (With and Without Mint and Chocolate Chips)
7 Steps of Tea Tasting Evolution
Here are seven significant milestones of how the tea-drinking practice evolved in China, giving birth to Matcha and the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Step 1. Cooked Tea
Tea was discovered in ancient China by Shen Nong, who boiled the leaves into tonic as medicine. This tea-drinking practice continued for a few thousand years up to the Tang dynasty.
In ancient China, tea was all in cake form. People ground tea cake pieces into powder and cook them with ginger, mint, scallions, citrus peel, etc. “Tea soup” was the desirable drink at the time.
Step 2. Powdered Tea
Enter Lu Yu, the world’s esteemed tea sage from the Tang dynasty. Lu Yu shunned “Tea soup” and promoted “Powdered tea” in “Chajing,” or “Classic of Tea”—the world’s first book on tea (published in 780 A.D.)
In his book, Lu Yu illuminated “Cha Dao,” or The Way Of Tea, 茶道. The ancient tea connoisseur treated tea drinking as an art form, infusing etiquette, aesthetics, and philosophy into tea drinking. Lu Yu introduced the holy nature of using pristine spring water, exquisite teaware and utensils, and the proper boiling temperature to make a perfect tea bowl.
The renowned tea connoisseur detailed that to make proper Powdered tea, one was to ground tea into powder, then infused it into a pot of hot water, slightly boiled, adding a pinch of salt.
Do you know the meaning of fish eyes, shrimp eyes, and crab eyes?
Hint: They have to do with various boiling temperatures to make tea.
In the ancient days, Chinese southerners measured water boiling temperatures by the size of three eyeballs: fish eyes, shrimp eyes, and crab eyes.
- Fish Eyes—the largest eyeball size among them—represent full boil.
- Shrimp Eyes for a mid-boil.
- Crab Eyes, the smallest bubbles, represent hot water at the cusp of boiling.
So true and wise to this day. Imagine, back a couple of thousand years when there was no digital temperature gauge. Or, hello, whistling tea kettles? How ingenious.
The bigger the eyeball size, the stronger the boil.
Lu Yu made his Powdered tea at the “Crab eye” boiling temperature.
In China, Lu Yu brought a new craze for sophisticated tea-things such as teacups, tea sets, and utensils. This Tang dynasty tea-making set is extravagated from the Famen Temple of China recently.
Wuyi Shan as tea battles are held annually in November.
Step 4. Steeped Tea
By the end of the 14 th century, the newly established Ming dynasty ushered in a new tea type. The art of tea-making evolved, and loose tea was born. This practice gave birth to the method of tea steeping as we know it today. A tradition of more than 650 years old, steeped tea introduced new Chinese tea things, such as teapots, gaiwan, tea utensils, tea caddies, etc. This Ming tradition flowed to Japan from the bags of traveling Buddhist monks.
Step 5. Zen Tea Ceremony or Japanese Tea Ceremony
Zen and tea have gone together like hand in glove since ancient China. The Zen Tea Ceremony was said to have originated at the Mount Tai temple in Shandong province in China. Then this Zen ritual spread from temple to temple throughout China.
When Japanese monk scholars came to China to study during the Tang dynasty, they took tea as souvenirs back to Japan. Tea grew from there. Learn more about the history of Japanese tea culture here.
From cultural icon to beverage
Between the 1300s and 1500s is when Japanese matcha green tea became part of traditional Japanese Tea Ceremonies. Matcha was seen as a more spiritual practice, the pursuit of simplicity over extravagance. The more it was consumed, the more it transformed. Today, we see matcha lattes, smoothies and desserts as well as matcha teas, as our superhero went global.
The worldwide acceptance of Japanese Matcha Green Tea
Like all superheroes, eventually, they group together and form a team. Thanks to the rising focus on health, and an understanding of the importance of antioxidants and superfoods, it wasn’t long before Japanese Green Tea (or Matcha) found its place as a superfood.
Rich in antioxidants, and able to be used in raw foods, and as a face mask, Japanese Matcha Green Tea has found its place worldwide as a superfood loved by all. Talk about a Matcha Maiden’ heaven.
To keep reading about the history and types of japanese matcha tea, click here.
Sen no Rikyu, the Master of Tea
This ritualized and focused way of making and drinking matcha had spread to Japanese nobles and samurai by the 16th century, who often employed tea masters to take part in the art of tea. One of the most influential figures when it comes to sado is Sen no Rikyu (1522
1591). After studying tea and Zen principles in his early life, he became the tea master of the famous samurai Oda Nobunaga in 1579 and was, after Nobunaga&rsquos death, employed by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The tea master infused the ritual of drinking tea with four main principles: harmony, purity, tranquility, and respect.
Sen no Rikyu&rsquos philosophy and teachings about the tea ceremony are the foundation for three major iemoto (家元, head houses) of sado: the Omote-senke, Ura-senke, and Mushakoji-senke. These houses carry on his legacy to this very day, emphasizing Rikyu&rsquos focus on the mental and spiritual aspect of the tradition. One of his most famous sentences regarding the tea ceremony, specifically regarding the equipment that is used for it, is: "Though you wipe your hands and brush off the dust and dirt from the vessels, what is the use of all this fuss if the heart is still impure?"
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.
You'll find it added to cereal, energy bars, cakes, cheesecakes, chocolate pudding and mousse, candy, lattes, smoothies, and of course, the famous green tea ice cream.
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.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a high-grade green tea ground into powdered form. The green tea powder is whisked into hot water, instead of steeped, to form a frothy drink. The meditative act of preparing, presenting, and sipping matcha is the backbone of the Japanese tea ceremony. While matcha&rsquos origins are ceremonial, the green tea powder is widely popular around the world in beverages like tea lattes or boba tea, and as a cooking ingredient in everything from ice cream to salad dressing.
Before there were teapots to steep tea leaves, early Chinese custom was to grind tea leaves into a powder then whip or beat the ground tea in a bowl with hot water. While &ldquobeaten tea&rdquo was later abandoned by the Chinese in favor of steeped tea leaves, the Japanese went on to popularize the method.
One of Japan&rsquos own Zen priests studying in China&rsquos Buddhist monasteries returned to Japan in the early 12th century with tea plant seeds and bushes. The young priest, called Eisai, used his experience in China growing and drinking &ldquobeaten tea&rdquo to popularize what he called &ldquothe way of tea&rdquo as a meditation ritual within his community of Japanese Buddhist monks. Eventually, he spread the tea drinking custom throughout the rest of Japan.
This ceremonial tea drinking was taken up with a fervor by Japan&rsquos samurai class. The samurai were fearsome warriors yet cultured and high ranking members of Japanese caste society. The samurai identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing principles like discipline, ritual, and purification. It is said the samurai developed the Japanese tea ceremony into an art form and cultural tradition by adding hundreds of detailed steps to the practice, including specific hand movements, the proper design of the tea room, and instructions for how to sit and how to prepare and sip the tea. It is also said the tea ceremony was integral to samurai training, helping the warriors sharpen their focus, concentration, and patience in preparation for battle.
The Japanese tea ceremony, still called The Way of Tea, is a revered practice in Japan and is centered around the art of preparing and presenting matcha in an almost meditative fashion. It was originally developed as a spiritual practice and the principals of the practice&mdashharmony, respect, purity, and tranquility&mdashare still central to tea ceremony today.
How matcha is different
Matcha, like all true teas, comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. How the tea leaves are cultivated and processed is completely different than any other tea.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves&mdasha labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant&rsquos photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.
Seasonal: Only the newest spring buds and three leaves of the shade grown tea plants are hand-plucked for matcha production. Therefore, the window for production is very limited, which is one of the reasons matcha is one of the more expensive teas.
Steamed: Like most Japanese teas, the tea leaves destined for matcha are first steamed. The leaves are treated briefly with steam heat within hours of plucking to both halt the oxidation process and bring out the rich green color of the shade-grown tea leaves even more. The steaming process creates a unique flavor profile that is often described as sweet and vegetal.
Stone ground: Instead of being rolled, shaped, and dried like traditional green tea leaves, the leaves destined for matcha are laid flat to dry and become tencha, the leaves from which matcha is made. The tencha leaves are then stripped of their stems and veins. The remaining leaf material is ground in slow-turning stone mills, yielding a smooth green tea powder.
Consumption vs. extraction: Traditional tea leaves are steeped in hot water to extract of the flavor and chemical properties from the tea leaves into a brewed tea that is sipped. Matcha green tea powder, however, is whisked into hot water and the ground tea leaf material, suspended in the water, is consumed with each sip.
Types of matcha
Matcha is grown in many regions across Japan, and each region and tea makers will produce slightly different flavor profiles and colors in the final ground green tea leaves.
Matcha is typically sold in two different grades:
Ceremonial grade: Ceremonial grade is the highest quality matcha from the most carefully cultivated buds and leaves. Ceremonial grade is given the most attention to detail during processing to yield the freshest, most delicate tasting, and smoothest ground matcha. Ceremonial grade is meant to be enjoyed on its own, with no other sweeteners or additives, to really enjoy and appreciate the intended flavor.
Culinary grade: Culinary grade matcha has a more robust, astringent flavor that can stand up to other ingredients its paired with. It may include ground leaves that still had some stems and veins attached, it may be a slightly duller green than ceremonial grade, and it may often include a mix of matcha powder from several sources. Culinary grade can still be whisked into tea and sipped in fact, it&rsquos a great matcha to mix with milk for lattes or spirits for cocktails. It&rsquos also a bit less expensive so it&rsquos more affordable to stock as a cooking ingredient.
Caffeine content in matcha
Matcha typically has more caffeine content than green tea, similar caffeine to black tea, and less caffeine than brewed coffee. Because matcha is produced from shade-grown tea bushes, the tea leaves tend to retain more of their caffeine content. In addition, since you&rsquore consuming the ground tea leaf when sipping matcha, you&rsquore ingesting more caffeine content than you would from the extraction of steeped green or black tea leaves. Like all drinks cultivated from caffeinated plants, however, a specific level of caffeine per cup of matcha tea will depend on the how the matcha was processed and prepared. Be sure and read the packaging carefully or ask your tea supplier directly for the caffeine information specific to the matcha you are buying.
8 oz. Beverage Avg. Caffeine Content Green Tea 24 to 40 mg Black Tea 14 to 61 mg Matcha 25 to 70 mg Brewed Coffee 85 to 200 mg
Since matcha is whisked into hot water, there is a unique richness to matcha that the extraction of a traditionally brewed tea leaf does not produce. Some common traits used to describe the overall flavor and texture of matcha include: vegetal, sweet, rich, creamy, wheatgrass, slightly astringent, full-bodied, and frothy.
Buying and storing matcha
Matcha is best enjoyed as soon as possible after its production. Since matcha is a ground tea, any exposure to oxygen will immediately start to degrade the color and flavor of tea. If stored sealed in a cool, dark place it can stay fresh for several weeks and up to a few months (unlike dried tea leaves which can last for up to a year or two). To ensure you&rsquore getting a fresh matcha worth sipping, buy it from a reputable company that can tell you when and how the tea was processed and packaged. Ask your tea purveyor for directions on how to brew the best cup of that particular variety of matcha.
Matcha is prepared differently from a typical brewed tea and is very easy to make if you have the right tools.
Step 1: Bring 100 mg (about 1/3 cup) filtered or spring water to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 2: Place 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder in a small bowl. Add a splash of the hot water and mix with a bamboo whisk to form a smooth paste.
Step 3: Add remaining water to bowl and stir with the bamboo whisk, flicking the whisk back and forth, until matcha is incorporated and you get a thin frothy foam on top.
Step 4: Sip, savor, and enjoy.
- If you don&rsquot have a bamboo whisk, use a spoon or small wire whisk&mdashyou just won&rsquot get much of the frothy texture traditionally prepared matcha is known for.
- Don&rsquot be tempted to pour boiling water over matcha you will scorch the ground tea powder and it will become bitter and astringent.
- Use 1/4 cup water for a thicker matcha or 1/2 cup water for a thinner version.
- Replace water with your favorite milk (regular, coconut, almond, soy) for a latte.
- Pour the just prepared matcha over a glass full of ice for an iced tea version.
Matcha Ice Cream Recipe
No joke&mdashthis easy ice cream only has three ingredients!
Matcha green tea powder mixed with cream and sweetened condensed milk yields a creamy, dreamy ice cream that has almost a soft-serve texture to it. The fresh, grassy notes of the matcha balance out the sweetness of the condensed milk. It&rsquos a rich ice cream, so a little goes a long way on a cone for a summertime treat or in a bowl for a classy dinner party dessert.
- 2 tsp. matcha green tea powder
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, 2007
Tea: History Terroirs Varieties, Second Edition, The Camellia Sinensis Tea House, 2014
Häagen-Dazs's Matcha Flavor Series Exclusive to Japan
Häagen-Dazs's matcha flavor is a staple in Japan. In 2019, two new limited-edition desserts have been released on the market.
Green Tea Crème Brulée Crispy Sandwich
This dessert allows you to savor matcha-flavored custard ice cream complemented by rich caramel. Sandwiched between crispy matcha wafers, this sweet treat is perfect for people who find matcha slightly bitter tasting.
The 35th Anniversary Flavor: Midori Koicha (Thick Tea)
This is a limited-edition exclusive flavor commemorating the 35th anniversary of Häagen-Dazs Japan. Inspired by koicha (thick, dark green tea) served at formal tea ceremonies, the Midori Koicha ice cream has a rich flavor that brings out the sweetness, the slight bitterness, and the distinctive deep aroma of matcha green tea.
What is the best way to drink green tea?
To enjoy the benefits of green tea, here’s how to make the perfect cup of green tea:
- The ideal temperature for making green tea should be 160-180 ºF (70-82 ºC). The most common mistake many of us make when making a pot of green tea is steeping it with boiling water. Not only does the boiling water result in a bitter tasting green tea, it can also destroy the bioactive compounds such as catechins that are beneficial in the tea.
- The steeping time for green tea varies depending on the type and quality of the green tea you use. In general, you can steep for three minutes, then have a taste and let it steep longer if you prefer. After drinking, green tea leaves can be steeped again, usually 2-3 times.
- Japanese believes that good water yields good rice and the same goes for a good pot of tea. The quality of your water will determine how your green tea tastes. Mountain spring water is ideal for making the best tea, but since that may not be feasible, try a high quality bottled water or at least soft water from the tap.
- Green tea is best on its own without sugar, dairy, or any added ‘natural flavors’.
- To maximize the health benefits, you can also enjoy green tea with citrus such as a squeeze of lemon juice. Vitamin C in the citrus will help your body absorb the catechins (source ).
Watch the video: Matcha tea. Πως να το φτιάξετε στο σπίτι. with eng subs (January 2022).