Authentic Japanese Matcha
Authentic Japanese Matcha
Authentic Japanese Matcha is not just "powdered green tea". In Japan, for hundreds of years, Matcha has gone through three distinct stages which improve the quality of Matcha.
The first and of course, most important stage is the growing stage, which is called Shaded Growing. In this stage, Japanese farmers implement a technique of controlling the amount of sunlight that hits the green tea crops. They do this with special shade coverings that span over the top of the crops.
The second stage is the Drying stage. In this stage, the tea leaves are steamed right after harvest and the leaves dried without pressing leaves and using their own furnaces called, Tencharo.
The third stage is the Stone Milling stage, where a traditional stone mill is used to turn the tea leaves into a fine powder. Ingredients such as Vitamin E, beta carotene and dietary fibers which are found in green tea are wonderful for your health but do not dissolve completely in water, thus drinking loose leaf teas does not allow one to get these health benefits. When you drink Matcha on the other hand, you actually drink the entire tea leaf, so it is the best way to deliver all the healthy ingredients into the body.
Matcha is known as THE traditional Japanese tea, because it arose first in Japan and with such a special history. And the Japanese Matcha making process is the only one in the world with such a loving technique, devised and honored for centuries.
Shaded Growing was invented by Uji Kyoto’s farmers. The purpose at the beginning was to protect new tea leaves from frost damage in the early spring, so they covered tea crops with straw umbrellas. Over time, farmers noticed that the tea harvested from these shaded crops tasted much better than traditionally grown green tea and soon this new, wonderfully tasting tea gained a great reputation and soon the technique spread to other areas and become Shaded Growing farm method.
The important thing in shaded growing is to control the amount of sun light that hits the tea crops. The farmers observe the growth of new leave shoots and gradually adjusted the amount of sunlight by adding more or less cheesecloth over the tea crops. Over time, this technique and the resultant reactions to the tea has been scientifically verified. The tea plants create Theanine at the root, and bring it up through the stems to the leaves. When sunlight hits the Theanine and causes photosynthesis in the leaves, Theanine changes to Catechin (Tannin), and since the astringent taste of tea increases due to the Catechin growth, this means, by blocking the sunlight reaching the tea crops, the better tasting Theanine comes out more and at the same time takes away the not-so-tasty Catechin. This shading technique also helps to create the characteristic aroma attributed to shaded growing. This technique was developed in Japan, and only Matcha and Gyokuro growers know this process.
Matcha has a different drying process then Sencha. It does not press the leaves dry. After harvesting the tea leaves from plantation, all the leaves for green tea will be steamed and then go on to the drying stage. These steamed leaves go to a furnace called Tencharo, which is a furnace used on for drying Matcha leaves. The leaves dried in a Tencharo is call Tencha, this is the base material used only for making Matcha. The Tencha is stored in a refrigerator for 3 months at a low stable temperature to stabilize and maintain quality.
Cha-Usu is a stone mill used only for turning Tencha into a powder in order to make Matcha. The new season for Tencha milling starts from September, so the new season's Matcha will come out to the market at this time of the year. Cha-Usu appeared in history around 1300 AD, and was used to make the Matcha powder even more fine. The use of the Cha-Usu stone milling technique made Matcha dissolve better and quicker in hot water and so made the stirring process more important, which in turn fostered the development of the traditional Matcha bamboo whisk around this time.
The evolutionary history of tea in Japan is one-of-a-kind, and the manners of the tea ceremony are treated from the viewpoint of philosophy.
In 1500 AD, the tea master, Sen No Rikyu completed the philosophy of WABICHA. WABICHA is an integrated art which describes the one-time meeting of a visitor, from their arrival to their departure. This meeting is treated as being a unique opportunity, a once in a life meeting, and over time has became a uniquely meaningful, and living concept, sacred to hosts. The idea is create a beautiful and meaning moment, as a gift, to the visitor by way of the environment created by the ceremony, the tea ware used, the tea-maker's body actions, manners, and many more things.