What is so special about Matcha tea?
These days, Matcha is no longer limited to its tea but as flavoring and dye in various food and beverages like mochi, noodles, ice cream, lattes, and Japanese confectionery. Matcha undoubtedly possesses health benefits that reduce stress because of its amino acid component, theanine. It is also a great antioxidant that helps in preventing cancer, reducing the risk of heart disease, aids in weight loss, lowers blood, and also boosts metabolism. Matcha has caffeine that gives a kick without the jitter effects.
What is Matcha?
Japanese matcha tea, made from the green tea plant Camellia sinensis, is abundantly grown in the Uji region of the Kyoto area and Nishio in Aichi prefecture. The matcha tea leaves are grown in the shade for about three to four weeks before harvest. This type of shielded environment from direct sunlight allows the matcha tea plants to produce higher levels of chlorophyll, giving its signature vibrant green color.
More so, this shading process allows the matcha plants to yield an increased production of caffeine and theanine, an amino acid that gives that burst of grassy umami flavor.
History of Matcha
Matcha has been popularly used among ancient Chinese Buddhist monks as early as the 9th century. At that time, its preparation and consumption were mainly for ritualistic and meditative purposes, with customary tools being used and carefully done with specific procedures. By the 11th century, this custom was shared with the Japanese and thus became a prominent part of Japanese culture. The word Matcha comes from the Japanese ma, meaning rubbed, and cha, which means tea.
How to Powder Matcha
Once ready for harvest, the tea leaves are picked by hand, steamed then dried with the stems and veins removed. From this stage of tencha, the pure leaves are then meticulously grounded into powder form, traditionally using a stone mill or mortar and pestle. Nowadays, powdering machines are available to produce substantial amounts of Matcha in a short period.
Difference between Usucha and Koicha
Two main ways of preparing Matcha are called usucha, which is thin tea, and the other is thick tea, called koicha. Usucha produces a slightly more bitter and lighter taste, while Koicha gives a milder and sweeter flavor. Japanese serves koicha in tea ceremonies.
How to prepare Matcha:
- Start by using a sieve to break any clumps in the powder; special sieves are also available for this.
- Use a wooden spoon to push the powder through the sieve, or a small, smooth stone on top of the sieve will do.
- Gently shake it to loosen the matcha powder.
- For an even consistency, whisking a mixture of water and matcha powder using a bamboo whisk, called chasen, is ideal. The chasen also helps create the frothy foam layer on top. The key here is not to leave any lumps in the liquid and tea residue on the sides of the bowl.
Indeed, there is much to know about the powers of Matcha. It is a natural treatment that benefits both your health and your palate.