Matcha is finely ground powder made from specially grown tea plants. The plants are grown completely in the shade for up to 3 weeks and only the best leaves are harvested. The leaves are laid flat to dry before the stems and veins are removed (called tencha tea). It isn’t called Matcha until the leaves are ground with a stone mill to create a fine, bright green powder. It is a slow process so that the taste of the aroma is not altered by warmed equipment.
There are three grades of matcha: ceremonial, premium, and culinary. Where the leaves grew on the plant determines the grading. Ceremonial tea comes the soft, developing leaves at the top of the bush. They are ground using granite stone mills. It is sweeter and deeper in flavour which includes subtle tones of “umami”. Premium leaves also come from near the top of the bush and are sweeter than culinary leaves, which come from father down the bush, and are more bitter.
Because the plants are shaded during growth, they produce more chlorophyll and therefore have a rich, dark green colour. They also produce more amino acids including theanine, and a higher level of caffeine than regular green tea leaves. Since whole leaves are ingested, it’s a more potent source of nutrients and antioxidants, which may help with heart disease and cancer, boost metabolisms, regulate blood sugar, and reduce blood pressure. AND it may contain up to three times as much caffeine as a cup of steeped tea. I’ve read that it creates an “alert calm” or relaxation without drowsiness”.
Matcha powder is typically whipped together with hot water or milk, rather than packaged in tea bags, and can be blended with other ingredients. It has also become popular in other delicious treats, such as ice cream, chocolate, and these matcha mochi balls, a Chinese New Year’s gift to me from the badminton club at my church.
Some matcha teas have added sweetener so read labels, and a low price tag can mean low quality, which may mean exposure to other elements that might not be so good for you. Chefs recommend pure, organic matcha, and moderate use. As with all things, buyer be informed!!
Who knows…maybe it’s a Matcha Made in Heaven for you!