Matcha is made of Ten-cha leaves, which are basically Gyokuro leaves that have not been rolled into needles.
Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, Matcha is served by whisking powdered tea with hot water. It contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, and fiber) than other teas, and its flavor is densely rich, almost creamy, compared to other teas.
Matcha is traditionally used for tea ceremonies, but in recent years it has gained popularity in modern cooking and baking, and now comes in different grades for different uses.
All teas, including green teas, white teas, oolongs, and black teas, come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. The main difference lies in the way each tea type is processed.
Tea processing can be roughly divided into the four categories:
|Unfermented (e.g. green teas)||Semi-fermented (e.g. oolongs)|
|Fermented (e.g. all black teas)||Post Fermented (e.g. pu-erhs)|
Japanese green tea is steamed (versus pan-fired, like Chinese green teas) to prevent oxidation. This step is called the kill-green stage, and is responsible for the grassy, delicate flavor which is distinct to Japanese green tea (more on that later).
Tea trees are tropical plants, and thrive in warm, humid climates, while their hibernation during the cold winter months brings sweet, rich, Shin-cha. They are sensitive to water and drainage conditions, the acidity of the soil, and temperature fluctuations throughout the day. These sensitivities can greatly change the flavor profile of the resulting brew. For this reason teas that originate from Japan are far more superior in quality in comparison to Japanese green tea that was cultivated in China, Nepal, Brazil and other regions.
The process of tea making can be roughly broken down into three steps: steaming, rolling, and finishing.
Steaming stops the leaves from oxidizing, and gives Japanese Green Tea its characteristic color and grassy aroma. This step is called sassei, or kill-green. Regular Sen-cha is steamed for 30 to 40 seconds, but Deep-Steamed (Fukamushi) Sen-cha can be steamed for as long as 120 seconds.
Rolling helps to dry the tea leaves, and gives its characteristic needle-like shape. During the finishing step, tea leaves are selected by shape, and subsequently shaped accordingly (separation of kuki-cha and kona-cha happens at this step). Then the shaped leaves can be roasted in quick-fire to give a caramelized scent called "hiire-ka (roast scent)". Finally, the tea is blended with other teas to create a stable, reliable tea.
Matcha is made a little differently. First of all, Matcha leaves are made of Ten-cha, which are steamed, unrolled leaves. The Ten-cha leaves are then finely, and slowly grounded in a stone mill.
|Relax & Reduce Stress||a key amino acid in green tea called L-theanine is known to reduce physical & psychological stress responses.|
|Fuel The Mind||Japanese Green Tea contains some caffeine, which, when taken with L-theanine, may improve one's alertness and mood.|
|Boost Your Immune System||Japanese Green Tea contains a considerable amount of vitamin C, but a study has shown that increasing L-theanine levels in your blood may boost immune system responses. And since your immune system is good and running, it can prevent bacteria growth which leads to bad breath.|
|Aid In Cancer Prevention||Catechins, a polyphenol in Japanese Green Tea, has shown prevention of skin cancer in animal studies. It is suggested that green tea can enhance sun protection when used with sun screen.|
|Aid in Stroke Prevention||a UCLA study has shown that drinking 3 or more cups of tea a day can reduce the risk of stroke by 21%.|
|Help With Weight-loss||Clinical trials have shown that drinking Green Tea can increase fat oxidation and to prevent obesity. In a different clinical trial, the catechin in Japanese Green Tea has also shown to increase over-all metabolism.|
Because the growth and harvest method is different with each tea type, naturally there are differences in nutritional value. The difference is illustrated in the following chart:
- Although Gyokuro and premium-grade Sen-cha contains considerable amounts of catechins, the actual brew does not exhibit any astringency due to low brewing temperatures. This is because catechins and caffeine do not dissolve well in lower