HOW MATCHA IS DIFFERENT?
More than 1,000 years ago, tea farmers in Japan began crafting matcha, a powdered green tea made from the whole leaf and renowned for its health benefits. Today, many people from around the world enjoy a bowl of matcha for the pleasure it provides as well as its positive effects on mood, energy, and general health.
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—a 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’s 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.