What Is Matcha and Where Does It Come From?
Matcha is a variety of green tea. It comes from the same shrub that all teas are harvested from (Camellia Sinensis), but the way it is grown and harvested is remarkably different when compared to other green teas. Whilst most other green teas are grown all around the world, matcha is grown only in Japan; with the most popular growing regions being in the south of Japan in places such as Kyushu, Uji, Shizuoka and Nishio. Matcha is the heart of Japanese tea, and it has been part of Japanese culture for centuries.
What Distinguishes Matcha From Other Green Teas?
There are different variants of Camellia Sinensisand some of them just so happen to produce better matcha than others. There are three Japanese variants of the plant (Saemidori, Okumidoriand Yabukita) and these produce the best matcha.
Twenty days before harvest, covers are put up over the Camellia Sinensisbushes to create a shade, which prevents the leaves from receiving direct sunlight. The reason this is done is because the lack of light stimulates the plants to produce more chlorophyll. This makes the leaves a darker green and increases the volume of the amino acid, L-Theanine. This amino acid occurs naturally in this plant as well as some mushroom varieties, and is the reason why tea has a calming effect. When it is time to harvest, only the best leaves are picked and they are rolled out flat and left to dry. The leaves will dry out and start to crumble and they are then known as tencha – this is what is used to make the matcha. The tencha is then de-stemmed and de-veined, and then what is left is ground into the bright green powder that is known as matcha.
Consumption of Matcha
When consuming green tea, the leaves are infused in the hot water and are later discarded. However, when drinking matcha, you are consuming the actual leaves. To create usucha (thin tea), the most common way to prepare matcha, a teaspoon of matcha powder is added to a cup of water (which is hot, but not boiling) and it is then whisked until it is frothy.
Some Health Benefits of Matcha
Matcha is said to have numerous health benefits, some of which can be seen below:
- It is packed with mega doses of cancer preventing antioxidants (over 100x more than regular green tea).
- It boosts your metabolism which can help you lose weight
- Calms your mind and relaxes your body
- It lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Prevents heart disease and strokes
- Detoxifies and cleanses your body
Matcha can also be used to make some very tasty and health treats. You can see a handful of these below:
- Matcha Milkshake
- Matcha Muffins
- Matcha and mint ice tea
- Matcha coconut cake
- Matcha crepes with chocolate ganache
The recipes for all of the above (and lots more) are readily available online.