In 1191, a monk traveling through China brought green tea seeds home to Japan. Eisai Myoan planted them on the grounds of the first Zen temple in Kyoto – and Japanese farmers have been perfecting the art of #greentea ever since.
All tea comes from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. Every leaf has the potential to become a white, green, oolong or black tea. The unique flavors are determined by how the leaves are grown, harvested + prepared.
To create the purest matcha, tea plants are covered for 3 weeks before harvest. Forced to grow in shade, the leaves develop higher concentrations of caffeine and L-theanine - an amino acid that gives matcha its distinctive umami flavor. The top leaves of the plant are picked by hand and steamed to break down the enzymes that cause oxidation. The stems + veins are carefully removed. The leaves are then slowly stone-ground into an emerald green powder.
It is a delicate process that is done by hand using techniques that haven’t changed much over time. Still, there is a tremendous difference in the taste + quality of matcha. .
Matcha is often categorized into 3 grades: ceremonial, premium + culinary. Yet there are no standards. Without an organization to certify the grade, companies are free to decide where their matcha falls on the spectrum of color, aroma, flavor, texture + freshness.
Color: Matcha should be a vibrant green color, not dark brownish green
Aroma: Matcha has a subtly sweet aroma. It should not smell like hay, which is a sign of oxidation
Flavor: Matcha has a velvety sweet flavor with grassy + earthy undertones. It should not be harsh or astringent
Texture: Matcha should be so finely milled that it wafts like tendrils of green smoke
Freshness: The best matcha is grown in the spring. Older leaves from second + third harvests aren’t as fresh.
Matcha has an almost mystical ability to improve meditation by inducing relaxation while producing a more focused + alert state of mind. It is super high in antioxidants – up to 137 times higher than green tea. It also has a very distinct flavor that people seem to either love or hate. So which side are you on?