Matcha is a special type of green tea powder that is made from stone-ground green tea leaves and is one of the most powerful superfood you can find today.
Matcha actually comes from camellia sinensis, the same plant that black, oolong and other green teas come from. Unlike black and oolong teas, matcha is an unfermented tea that is steamed, dried and grounded into finely milled green tea powder.
However, matcha’s growing, harvesting and processing are distinctively different and unique.
Matcha production and cultivation is not just a delicate task, but also an art of its own. Below is a step-by-step guide that explains the matcha production process — from the farm to your cup. This will also help you understand why this green tea powder is relatively more expensive than any other green teas.
1. Shade Grown: The tea leaves undergo a shading process 3-4 weeks before harvesting, where they are covered from direct sunlight. This process increases the chlorophyll content creating a lush bright green colour leaf and also increases the amino acids found in green tea which gives matcha its unique "umami" flavour.
Umami is a Japanese term for elegant taste, savoury deliciousness and also the fifth scientific taste, along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
2. Hand Picked: Spring is the most exciting time for tea farmers as the new harvest of tea leaves “shincha” is ready to be picked. The harvesters pick only the youngest and greenest tea leaves. These tea leaves from the first harvest have the absolute finest quality, taste, colour and smell compared to the second harvest which occurs 40-45 days after and following harvests.
3 & 4. Steamed & Air Dried: Once the leaves are harvested, they immediately undergo a steaming process. This is done to prevent the leaves from oxidizing. Furthermore, it enables the leaves to retain its vibrant green colour along with the amino acids and other nutritional components. The leaves will then pass through a blower to eliminate the moisture condensation. The raw material produced after this stage is called tencha.
5. De-stemmed and Graded: The tencha is then graded according to taste, colour, texture and aroma before moving to the grinding process.
6. Stone Ground to Matcha: Finally, the last step is the grinding. The tencha is ground with a stone-mill in order to achieve a fine, smooth powder texture and superior consistency. It is this process that matcha literally derived its name from – “ma = ground” “cha = tea”.