Contrary to the popular belief that matcha derives from Japan, it originally emerged during the Song Dynasty in China. Matcha is made from a shade grown green tea, also known as Gyokuro that is carefully steamed and meticulously dried. After the steaming process, the leaves are separated from the stems, so the leaves alone, called tencha are grounded into a powder called matcha. The art of producing, preparing and consuming this powdered tea became a ritual performed by Zen Buddhists in China. In 1191, a Zen monk by the name of Eisai, traveled to Japan and introduced matcha to the country. As matcha’s popularity lessened in China, the Japanese embraced this powdered tea. Matcha eventually became an important part of rituals in Zen monasteries in Japan.
At Art of Tea, we offer two types of matcha–ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial Matcha is primarily from Japan. It is typically stone grounded into a fine powder producing a brighter green hue. The powder is whisked back and forth rapidly to create frothiness. The taste is grassy with a sweet undertone. Grade A Matcha, on the other hand, is the matcha used in cooking and added in lattes and iced teas. Read on to learn more about the harvesting process of Art of Tea’s Grade A Matcha.
Art of Tea founder and CEO, Steve Schwartz recently journeyed to China on an educational trip visiting tea plantations. He travelled throughout the Zhejiang Province, along China’s eastern coast. Steve spent some time at a tea farm that specializes in producing Japanese style green teas such as Sencha, Gyokuro and matcha, including Art of Tea’s very own organic certified Grade A Matcha.
Let’s take a look at the harvesting process of Matcha green tea. First, the Sencha green tea leaves are shade grown for 20 days. During this time period, the leaves become darker and develop into Gyokuro leaves. The darker the leaves, the higher the chlorophyll content, which in turn contributes to the tea’s health benefits.
The green tea leaves are then picked and steamed, a Japanese method of processing tea leaves.
The vibrantly green leaves are then put in a tube-shaped machine where the leaves are air tossed upwards to quickly dry.
The machine (below) is used to separate the stems from the leaves. The leaves alone called tencha, are taken into a rotating drum filled with ceramic-covered magnets.
As the magnets bounce rapidly within the rotating drum, hitting against each other, the tencha leaves are slowly grounded into a fine powder without losing their vibrancy.
The result is culinary Matcha green tea , which we call Grade A Matcha. This rich, green powder is great as a stand alone tea but is commonly used to flavor various food items and create delicious smoothies and lattes.
Stay tuned for recipes on how to make a matcha smoothie and steep the perfect cup of Ceremonial Matcha.