What is Matcha?
Matcha, simply put is green tea that has been steamed, dried and ground to a fine powder in a stone mortar. To this day high grade matcha is still crafted in Japan by highly skilled artisans who operate and maintain the millstones that produce the fine particles of matcha, a process that cannot be undertaken by machine alone. As a result of this time- and labor-intensive process a superior matcha is produced that is exquisite in flavor, freshness and color. Three Tree Tea Company imports only matcha that is produced in this centuries-old manner, guaranteeing delicious and superior flavor.
What are the health benefits of Matcha?
People in Japan have been drinking matcha for centuries. It was originally believed to be a mystical herbal remedy. The benefits of matcha extend beyond the body and into spiritual healing. The simple act of preparing matcha helps people slow down and take a break from routine; it calms the mind and spirit; indeed, there is some scientific evidence which actually supports this. Matcha contains L-theanine, which relaxes the brain, muscles and blood vessels. Matcha in its pure form is also known to balance blood sugar levels in the body and promote regularity. Since the tea leaves are actually consumed, matcha has approximately ten times the polyphenols and antioxidants of regular green tea; it is also high in beta-carotene. Best of all, it is a most pleasing and delicious beverage.
Traditional stone grinder for grinding tea leaves.
How can I determine the quality of Matcha?
Matcha that is pure, fresh and properly ground is bright green in color, totally soluble in liquid and will have a deep and rich, yet slightly bitter taste. Coversely, inferior matcha tents to be dull in color and infusion(think avocado green), only partially soluble and both flat and bitter in flavor. This happens mainly for two reasons; one, that the matcha is old and/or has been exposed to air for long periods of time; and two, that the grinding process occurred too rapidly, resulting in both coarser particles and reduction in quality due to increased heat from the friction of the machinery. Thus, our Matcha Latte Green Tea Powder is made from matcha that has been produced in the traditional way, and is only available in 1-lb bags in order to maintain quality and freshness.
The highest concentration of catechins(antioxidants) can be found in the young, soft shoots growing from the top of the tea bush.
How to make a cup of Matcha
1. Scoop 2 heaping chashaku (about 2 grams) of matcha into a matcha bowl.
The chashaku is a tool made of bamboo and used to scoop matcha from the tin. A teaspoon can be substituted for the chashaku, a heaping teaspoon is sufficient.
2. Pour boiling water into a separate tea cup and then transfer it into the matcha bowl. To get the most flavor from the matcha, use hot water that is approximately 80 degrees C(175-180 deg F). The transferring of water from one vessel to another cools it down by a few degrees. It is better if you also pre-warm the matcha bowl before making tea. Fill the matcha bowl to about 30% of its capacity, pouring slowly.
3. With the chasen (whisk), whisk the matcha and hot water. Move the chasen in an even back and forth motion. The trick is to move the chasen as if you are drawing the letter "m", with the tip of the chasen breaking up any "dama" (small lumps of tea) that may have developed.
4. Once the matcha has completely dissolved, then it is ready to serve. Please enjoy before the tea suspension settles at the bottom of the matcha bowl.
5. After enjoying matcha, keep unused matcha powder tightly sealed and store in the freezer.
Rinse chasen with running water and let dry completely before putting it in its case.
About the Japanese Tea Ceremony
The tea ceremony(chanoyu) is the ceremonial way of preparing and drinking tea. The custom has been strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. It is a very ritualized ceremony that takes years of practice to master.
If you are interested in learning more about Japanese Tea Ceremony, here is some suggested reading:
Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
The Tea Ceremony by Sen'O Tanaka
The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu by Sen Soshitsu
Chado: The Japanese Way of Tea by Sen Soshitsu
Also, look for an Urasenke club or foundation in your area. These clubs teach the art of Chado(the way of tea).