What is Matcha?
Matcha is a green tea that has been ground into a powder form that can be used for drinking or cooking. What makes it different than other green teas is the processing and farming. It is grown in the shade for three weeks, and before harvest the stems and leaves are removed.
History of Matcha
Matcha, although typically associated with Japan, was originally grown in China during the Tang Dynasty (7th – 10th centuries). Farmers would steam the tea into giant bricks for easy transportation and after transporting the tea they would grind the leaves into a powder to mix with water and salt.
The Japanese monk Eisai was studying Buddhism in China under the Song Dynasty (10th – 13th centuries). When he returned to Japan in 1191, he brought along tea seeds as well as the traditional methods of brewing and preparation. Eisai planted the tea seeds at the Temple in Kyoto, where it was grown and produced in extremely limited quantities. It was during this time when Japanese farmers started to grow the tea in the shade in order to maximize the health benefits.
Modern Matcha : Ceremonial vs. Culinary
Matcha is divided into two different grades, Culinary and Ceremonial. Factors that determine the grade of the matcha include…
- The color of the tea
- The texture, quality and density
- The quality of the product – is it stem or is it leaves
- The fineness of the powder
- Whether there has been any prolonged exposure to oxygen
- How it was ground up
- Treatment prior to processing
Ceremonial matcha, is the highest grade matcha and the most vibrant in color. The youngest leaves are picked and when the stems and veins have been removed, it is then stone-ground, and typically consumed straight or with very little water.
Culinary matcha, however, is the most common standard of matcha as it is used for cooking and baking. Culinary matcha is prepared differently, it has a more robust body, and is often less sweet.
We spent a long time looking for the perfect Matcha for our cafes. Weaver's Coffee & Tea at 2301 Market Street, San Francisco, California features a premium culinary Matcha, USDA Organic, grown in family farms in Shizuoka, Japan.