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”.
During the last three weeks before tea leaves are harvested to be made into Matcha, Camellia sinensis plant are shaded to deprive them of sunlight. This causes a tremendous increase in chlorophyll production in the new growth of these plants. The resulting high levels of chlorophyll in Matcha Green Tea not only give this tea its beautiful vibrant green colour but also make it a powerful detoxifier capable of naturally removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body.
Antioxidants are the magical nutrients and enzymes responsible for fighting against the negative effects of UV radiation, giving us younger-looking skin, and preventing a number of life- threatening illnesses. Antioxidants are something that all health-conscious individuals seek from such foods as raw fruits, green veggies. Matcha provides one of the highest level of antioxidants than any other food – as rated by the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) method.
Samurai, the noble warriors of medieval and early-modern Japan, drank Matcha Green Tea before going into battle due to the tea’s energising properties. While all green tea naturally contains caffeine, the energy boost received from Matcha is largely due to its unique combination of other nutrients. The increased endurance from a bowl of Matcha Green Tea can last up to 6 hours and because of the effects of L-Theanine, Matcha drinkers experience none of the usual side-effects of stimulants such as nervousness and hypertension. It’s good, clean energy.
Researchers aren’t entirely certain how Matcha Green Tea has such a positive effect on cholesterol, however studies of different populations have show that people who drink Match Green Tea on a regular basis have lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while at the same time displaying higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Men who drink Matcha Green Tea are about 11% less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t drink Matcha.
Drinking Matcha Green Tea has also been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat about four times faster than average. Again, unlike many diet aides currently on the market, Matcha causes no negative side-effects such as increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
You may have already heard that not all antioxidants are created equal. Green tea contains a specific set of organic compounds known as catechins. Among antioxidants, catechins are the most potent and beneficial. One specific catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha Green Tea. Out of all the antioxidants, EGCg is the most widely recognised for its cancer fighting properties. Scientists have found that Matcha Green Tea contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea on the market.
Another side-effect of L-Theanine is the production of dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals serve to enhance mood, improve memory, and promote better concentration – something that can benefit everyone
The catechins in Matcha Green Tea have been shown to have antibiotic properties which promote overall health. Additionally, just one bowl of Matcha Green Tea provides substantial quantities of Potassium, Vitamins A & C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium.
For over a millennium, Matcha Green Tea has been used by Chinese Daoists and Japanese Zen Buddhist monks as a means to relax and meditate while remaining alert. Now we know that this higher state of consciousness is due to the amino acid L-Theanine contained in the leaves used to make Matcha. L-Theanine promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain which induces relaxation without the inherent drowsiness caused by other “downers.”