A versatile tea
Traditionally from Japan, Matcha is the name given to tea leaves that have been pulverised into a fine powder, indeed so fine that when you drink it (or use it in other ways) you actually consume the leaves too. The variety of leaves traditionally used to produce Japanese Matcha is pure Gyokuro leaves which have been shaded beneath special mats for 3 weeks prior to plucking. As a drink, Matcha can be brewed many ways and does not necessarily have to be brewed to the strict guidelines of the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu. However there are a couple of tips when brewing that might help. The first, Matcha is best brewed using good quality water that has been boiled then left to cool for about 2 -3 minutes. The tea will be at its peak flavour and you will be able to consume immediately. Secondly, it's a good idea to sift Matcha through a tea strainer so that it won't form lumps when hot water is added.
The history of Matcha
Matcha has been used in the Japanese tea ceremony (or Chanoyu) for centuries. Tea was believed in ancient Japan to be a gift from the heavens that gave great spiritual power and restorative properties here on earth and as such Matcha has been revered as something very special. Whilst the Japanese tea ceremony is still highly placed in Japanese culture today, the consuming of Matcha in other situations has become common place.
Preparing the traditional way
If you'd like to prepare in the traditional ceremonial way you'll need a set of Japanese tea ceremony bowls, scoops and a whisk.
- Warm the tea bowls with boiled water.
- Prepare your Matcha whisk by soaking the tip in one of the tea bowls filled with the boiling water for approximately 10 seconds.
- Now remove the water from the bowl and dry it with a paper towel.
- Using a Matcha teaspoon, add 2 scoops of Matcha to each bowl
- Carefully pour about 1/3 of a cup of the boiled water into each bowl
- Using the whisk, gently submerge any Matcha that may be floating on the surface of the tea.
- Whisk more briskly in a back and forth motion until the surface of the Matcha is frothy.
- Drink immediately - in Japan, it is custom to consume the whole bowl in 3 slurps!
There are many other ways to consume Matcha. Most popular at the moment is either hot or iced Matcha Lattes - a great and healthy alternative to lattes made with coffee. Try with flavour shots, just as in normal lattes and you'll be amazed at how delicious Matcha lattes can taste. Almond or Soya milk make a great alternative to cow's milk if you're drinking matcha for health reasons.
Add Matcha to your cooking
Matcha can also be used in bread, smoothies, chocolate, salad dressings, desserts and many other recipes. Matcha isn't restricted to Japanese green tea either. There are now many other sources and varieties including Kenyan White teas and China Jasmine scented teas. As with any tea though, make sure you're buying from a reputable source.
Why is Matcha so good for you?
Traditional Matcha is made using Gyokuro leaves which we've already mentioned are kept shaded for three weeks before harvesting. It is this shading that forces the tea bush to produce higher than normal chlorophyll content resulting in the tea leaves becoming a very rich green colour. Once plucked, the leaves are steamed and dried and are known as Aracha. The next stage of the process removes all stems and veins from the leaves to leave a very pure leaf known as Tencha. It is this Tencha that is ground into a powdered format known as Matcha. As a powdered leaf, however you consume Matcha you are actually consuming the tea leaves which of course are packed with healthy nutrients.