So you’ve heard of matcha but what exactly is it? The bright green powder is all the rage at the moment and might be new to you, but it’s actually been around since the 12th century, hailing from Japan.
There’s no doubt matcha looks pretty and tastes wonderful, but if you’re still confused about what’s in the powder, we’re here to explain.
Matcha is made from tea leaves which are stone-ground until they turn into a green powder. This powder is sifted and whisked into hot water, creating a drink full of flavour.
The best quality matcha comes from Japan and the majority of it is grown in the south end of the country. The different matcha flavours you get depend on which region the matcha is harvested in.
These days we might not think twice about getting a matcha latte to go from our favourite café, but in Japan matcha tea ceremonies are serious business. A formal matcha tea ceremony in Japan is called chanoyu and the focus is on how the matcha is prepared and served.
Normally the matcha in these ceremonies is poured into beautiful bowls decorated by local artisans and the process is one of cultural significance for the country.
Producing matcha is fairly labour intensive and takes a while to create. About 20 days before harvest, the leaves of the tree are shaded from the sun to increase their chlorophyll levels. This is what creates the vibrant green colour in the powder.
The shade also creates an amino acid called L-Theanine, the magic ingredient in matcha that helps drinkers to stay calm yet alert.
When harvest time swings round, the workers choose the best buds and then roll out the leaves to dry for premium matcha, or lay them out without rolling for regular matcha. After the drying process is complete, the workers pick the stems and veins out of the leaves and grind them with stones until they turn into a fine green powder.
We told you the process was labour intensive - that’s a hard day’s yakka!
Preparing matcha is easy-peasy and a lot simpler than using a coffee machine.
First you sift the matcha into your mug and then whisk it in hot water. Rather than letting it brew like you do with other teas, the matcha powder suspends in the water. Leave it too long and the matcha will separate from the water so it’s best drink soon after preparation.
(Photo by @@eugenekhooyr)
If you want to prepare your matcha like the Japanese, purchase a chawan (tea bowl) to make and drink the matcha from. Use a chashaku, a traditional teaspoon made from bamboo, to put the matcha into the chawan. If you find your powder is clumping, you can use a chasen (tea sifter) to break it down into a finer powder.
Using the chashaku, scoop the matcha into the chawan and add hot water. Use your chasen to whisk the drink until a froth forms as little bubbles on the surface. And there you have it – a perfect health drink that actually tastes good!
Matcha has been listed in scientific journals, where researchers have sited its many benefits thanks to its antioxidant makeup, such as weight loss and disease prevention. The beauty industry has also seen positive effects of matcha for the skin, reducing acne and preventing premature aging.
Sound good? That’s because matcha is. Go on, try it! Trust us, you won’t regret it.