What is Matcha?
Matcha is essentially powdered green tea, with a very long history in Japan. The powder has a range of ‘grades’, from the lowest kitchen grade to the highest ceremonial grade used in Japanese Tea ceremonies. Over the years Matcha has gained a lot of popularity, with many businesses devoting themselves exclusively to Matcha. Originally consumed as a tea with water, Matcha is now a popular ingredient in mixed beverages such as morning smoothies, green tea lattes and more.
Matcha has a very different processing life cycle to other teas. Several weeks prior to harvest in the Spring, the tea plants are covered with bamboo mats to gradually reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches them. This increases the chlorophyll content and turns the leaves dark green, giving matcha its distinct green color. After harvesting, the leaves are steamed and air dried. Next, the leaves are sorted for grade, and then destemmed and deveined. This is what is called Tencha, which is then ground on a stone mill into a fine powder texture called Matcha. You may have also heard of Sencha, which goes through a slightly different process as the tea leaves are not shaded.
Like watching videos? Here’s a good 3 minute video about how Matcha is made:
How do I brew Matcha?
Brewing Matcha is quite different from other teas, and some say the brewing process itself can be quite relaxing. There are no infusers here since we are consuming the whole leaf as a powder. The trick with Matcha is ‘whisking’ it so that a light crema forms at the top.
Traditionally, Matcha powder is scooped in a special bowl called a chawan. Hot water is then added, and the mixture is whipped up to a foamy texture with a special bamboo whisk called a chasen. For the purists, this traditional way of brewing Matcha can be quite the ceremony in itself, and many attest to getting the full experience through this process. If however you live a faster lifestyle, or don’t have the tools at hand, there are many people today that simply use an electric whisk (or frother) in a mug, or a shaker to achieve the same effect. Each technique is showcased in this helpful 3 minute video:
What are the health benefits of Matcha?
Over the years Matcha has gained popularity amongst the health community. From detox diets to caffeine replacements, this tea brings with it a number of interesting health benefits that make it a perfect addition to any balanced diet. It has recently been dubbed the best ‘superfood’ available.
Amongst its many health benefits, Matcha…
- Is packed with antioxidants, at least 10 times the amount found in a single cup of brewed green tea.
- Boosts metabolism, which can help in a diet program to lose calories, especially if you naturally have a slow metabolism.
- Detoxifies effectively and naturally as there are no artificial additives – we consume the whole plant and just that.
- Calms the mind and relaxes the body, while providing a stable mood for good concentration.
- Is rich in fiber, chlorophyll and vitamins
- Provides vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
- Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
So why not consider including Matcha in your lifestyle? If you’re not a fan of the warm drink, there are plenty of ways to still use Matcha, such as baking, smoothies, and even iced drinks. Go on, there’s a whole Matcha world out there to explore!
Please note, at Love Tea, we always advocate checking with your General Practitioner before consuming any new tea variety, especially if you have a medical condition. Since Matcha is very concentrated, we suggest keeping consumption to a level as guided by your GP, as may be the case with coffee.
I’ve seen other tisanes like Green Yerba Mate referred to as matcha. What is this?
Yerba mate (yer-bah mah-tay) is made from the naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the celebrated South American rainforest holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis). For centuries, South America’s Aché Guayakí tribe have sipped yerba mate from a traditional mate gourd for its rejuvenative effects. These rainforest people find tremendous invigoration, focus, and nourishment in yerba mate.
Yerba mate can be supplied in matcha form (powerdered), so in this case, the matcha refers to the powdered form of the leaves, which makes them easier to fully consume. Green Yerba Mate shares a lot of health benefits with green tea. Read more here