Matcha tea – literally, “powdered tea”
It's the type of Green Tea traditionally whisked with hot water in a bowl to make the frothy beverage used in the Tea Ceremony in Japan.
Preparation of matcha tea is the focus of the Japanese tea ceremony and has a long association with Zen.
Matcha tea is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed, and because it is made from top-quality leaves that are treated with great care, it delivers more of the healthy elements of green tea than other forms. A unique, beautiful and richly flavorful drink, matcha tea gives most people a feeling of well-being. In addition, the simple ritual of preparing it is both enjoyable and meditative.
The green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. This combination of chemicals is considered to account for the calm energy people might feel from drinking matcha.
As with any tea, quality matters. Matcha tea comes in several different grades (see above) with the lower grades, while still excellent, being better suited for cooking rather than drinking.
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony centres on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha as hot tea and embodies a meditative spiritual style. In modern times, matcha also has come to be used to flavor and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream, matcha lattes, and a variety of Japanese wagashi confectionery. Often, the former is referred to as ceremonial-grade matcha, meaning that the matcha powder is good enough for tea ceremony. The latter is referred to as culinary-grade matcha, but there is no standard industry definition or requirements for either.
The equipment required for the making of matcha in the tea ceremony are:
- Tea bowl (茶碗 chawan)
- Large enough to whisk the fine powder tea around 120 millilitres (4.06 US fl oz)
- Tea whisk (茶筅 chasen)
- A bamboo whisk with fine bristles to whisk or whip the tea foam
- Tea spoon (茶杓 chashaku, also called tea scoop)
- A bamboo spoon to measure the powder tea into the tea bowl. Not the same as a Western teaspoon.
- Tea caddy (棗 natsume)
- A container for the matcha powder tea
- Tea cloth (茶巾 chakin)
- A small cotton cloth for cleaning tea ware during the tea ceremony
Healing Benefits of Matcha
In addition to providing trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K), matcha tea is rich in catechin polyphenols – compounds with high antioxidant activity. These compounds offer protection against many kinds of cancer, help prevent cardiovascular disease and slow the aging process. They also reduce harmful cholesterol in the blood, stabilise blood sugar levels, help reduce high blood pressure and enhance the resistance of the body to many toxins. The most important polyphenol in matcha is EGCG (epigallo-catechin gallate), which is the subject of many medical studies. Matcha tea has a significant amount of dietary fiber and practically no calories.