Matcha is Japanese green tea ground into a powder. Matcha is made from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. What makes Matcha so special is the origin and production method of this green tea. The different ways in which green tea leaves are treated determine the quality of tea. There is only a small group of elite Japanese tea farmers that is capable of producing high-quality Matcha.
Tea plantations for Matcha look very different than other tea fields. 4 weeks before harvest, Matcha plantations are covered with dark tarps. By doing this the tea plants receive 90% less sunlight. In order to compensate, tea plants intensively generate chlorophyll and the leaves produce large amounts of amino acids.
Matcha has remained a well kept secret for centuries, reserved for the Emperor and his elite. The Chinese brought the green tea to Zen Buddhists. A Buddhist monk promoted Matcha as a miraculous medicine for prolonging life and in turn, in the 12th century introduced Matcha as a meditation drink to the caste of the Samurai. From there a unique Japanese tea ceremony with exceptional green tea in powder form (Matcha) spread far and wide. Nowadays, drinking Matcha is an essential substance of Japanese culture.
Matcha is currently becoming more widely known, but it remains a real art to produce the highest quality. Matcha is dark green, tastes sweet with a soft aftertaste.
Amanprana Matcha is organic Matcha of unparalleled high quality with superior nutritional value (see label).
Matcha is Japanese green tea that is ground into powder. The last four weeks before harvest, the tea plants are placed in the shade under mats or tarpaulins. The plants respond to this by greatly increasing the production of chlorophyll along with very high amounts of amino acids. Only the finest tea leaves are selected during the harvest. These are then steamed, dried and pulverised. Matcha is typically used during official Japanese tea ceremonies and is particularly rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Since ancient times, tea has been considered a medicine and in order to absorb the natural and healthy substances of tea, it made sense to grind the refined tea leaves into a fine powder. And matcha was thus born. In 1191, Zen master Eisai brought this new revolutionary method of drinking tea from China to Japan. Eisai travelled throughout the country and planted tea wherever he went. For a long time, matcha was regarded as ‘the secret medicine’ at the court of the emperor and the elite. In the 16th century, another Zen master brought new momentum to the history of tea in Japan: Sen-no-Rikyu introduced the tea ceremony, in which matcha played the leading role. With the tea ceremony, matcha made its way to the Samurai, the Japanese caste of warriors. These days, drinking matcha is an integral part of Japanese culture.
Unami; the fifth flavour
‘Umami’ is the pleasant, sweet, full-bodied flavour that comes from the amino acids in the tea. Alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter, this is known as the fifth flavour. The more amino acids matcha contains, the higher the quality. These help us to thoroughly relax and improves our mental clarity while studying. L-Theanine is an amino acid that is found almost exclusively in green tea. It is an ideal way to relax, learn new things and stimulate our creativity.
Special production process of matcha
Matcha is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. The manner in which the green tea leaves are treated determines the quality of the tea. There is only a small number of elite Japanese tea farmers who are capable of producing superior quality teas. Matcha plantations look very different compared to other tea fields. The tea fields are covered with dark tarpaulins 4 weeks before harvest. This reduces the sunlight exposure of the tea plants by 90%. To compensate for this, the tea plants start making chlorophyll very intensively and the leaves produce huge amounts of amino acids. The result is a soft sweet taste and brightly coloured green leaves.
The fresh young tea leaves are harvested only once a year in spring and by hand. They are subsequently sent as quickly as possible to the factory where they are steamed above water vapour to halt any fermentation and keep the leaves looking freshly green, as well as preserve their substances. They are then dried at a temperature of 180° C. The dry leaves now bear the new name ‘Aracha’ or in other words, ‘raw tea’.
The green tea leaves from several different tea plantations are now classified into various grade categories according to their colour, flavour and texture. Stalks, tea dust and even foliage veins are sifted out, leaving only the very best green ‘leaf tissue’. The tea is chopped into uniform shapes and is now called ‘Tencha tea’. Tencha tea is mainly used for further processing into matcha tea, although in Japan Tencha tea is also used in the preparation of dishes.
The ultra-fine leaves are now divided into various blends according to colour, flavour and aroma. This yields more than 100 Matcha grades. There is one for culinary use (cheaper), one for beginners (less refined taste), ceremonial tea (more expensive) and Premium Matcha (most expensive). Tencha, Gyokuro and Kotobuki meet the highest possible grading standards in green tea. A specialized tea taster decides the grade and price.
As a final step in the production process of matcha green tea, these varieties of Tencha blends are ground into matcha on granite stone mills. This is done extremely slowly: 30 to 40 g per hour. Tencha, Gyokuro and Kabusecha are ‘shaded’ tea varieties. All other Japanese teas (Sencha, Bancha, Hojicha and Genmaicha) are grown without any shade.
The grade quality of matcha largely depends on the quality of the Tencha. The grade quality of the tencha depends on the region, the geographical conditions (lowland, hilly or mountainous), the expertise of the tea farmers and the variety of the tea plant.
The way of matcha tea
The way of tea, called ‘chanoyu’ or ‘chadõ’ in Japanese (pronounced ‘Sado’), is the Japanese art of tea making. The tea ceremony revolves around creating the right environment to enjoy a perfect cup of tea.
The 4 basic principles are: harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei) and silence (jaku).
The influence of Zen Buddhism is clearly noticeable in how the ceremony is conducted. Traditionally, matcha tea is set as follows: boil spring water and let it cool down to 80°C. The use of spring water is recommended over mineral water. Mineral-low water such as Pineo are very suitable for setting matcha or green tea from premium Gyokura or Kimigayo according to the rules of the art.
How do you set matcha?
- Add 1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) of matcha to a matcha bowl.
- Add about 80 ml of water and gently whisk the tea for 15 seconds with a bamboo whisk until it becomes frothy.
- The tea bowl is never filled to the rim, but no more than 2 fingers from the rim.
- You can already enjoy the gently rising aroma while whisking the green tea into a froth.
Consciously enjoy drinking your green tea. The taste is pleasant, smooth and yet intensely aromatic at the same time.
“One cup of matcha tea from Amanprana contains the same nutritional value and antioxidant content as 10 cups of ordinary green tea. Actually, you cannot compare the two. When you drink matcha, you drink the whole leaf, all of it. With green tea, it’s just the extract.”
Where is matcha produced?
AIYA is the most renowned Japanese producer of matcha and has been since 1888. Plenty of tea farmers have worked together with them for many generations. The company is based in Nishio, Aichi, in Japan. Nishio is the centre of Japan’s matcha production and one of the oldest tea growing regions in the world. The first tea plantations were established here around 1200. Nishio prides itself on its ideal conditions for tea cultivation: humid hot summers, clear, clean rivers that surround the growing region in the west as well as in the east, fertile soil, close to the warm southern coast of Japan and far away enough from any of the larger population centres ensuring that there is ample space for pure tea.
The quality of matcha that comes from the Nishio region is reflected in its dominance of the market: over 60% of all Japanese matcha teas originate from this region. Back in the early 1970s, the company’s president had a vision: to produce premium quality Japanese green tea organically. Well before organic products became popular, he gathered the best tea farmers around him and started growing green tea with them in an ecologically responsible way. Their commitment to the conservation of nature has translated over the past 15 years into helping reforest mangrove forests in Thailand, both financially and physically.
Gula Java Matcha as a superfood
The exceptionally high ORAC value of 168 500/100gram (a method of indicating the antioxidant value of food) makes matcha a powerful antioxidant. This is primarily due to the EGCG’s (Epigallocatechin gallate) that can only be found in green tea. The anti-oxidative effect of matcha scores much higher than other known superfoods such as blueberries, pomegranates and broccoli. EGCG does not influence the glycemic index and is high in fibre, vitamin C and E… Apart from antioxidants, matcha green tea also contains amino acids, of which L-theanine is the most remarkable on account of its calming effect.
Matcha is full of extra chlorophyll
The bright green colour of matcha is thanks to a huge chlorophyll content in the leaves of the green tea. An extra amount of chlorophyll is produced while growing in the shade. Hans Fischer (doctor and organic chemist Nobel Prize winner 1930) was mainly preoccupied with pigments in the blood and chlorophyll in leaves. He discovered that the chemical composition of chlorophyll is for 98% identical to our blood. Chlorophyll is the ‘blood of the plant’ and has a wide-ranging function. Unlike ordinary green tea, where an infusion of the leaves is drunk and the leaves themselves are thrown away, whole matcha tea leaves are ground into powder. One ‘drinks’, as it were, the leaves in powder form and all vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and ballast substances are also ingested.
Gula Java Matcha Organic
Amanprana markets a combination of Gula Java (coconut blossom sugar) and matcha. The Kotobuki grade is used for the matcha. In Japanese, ‘Kotobuki’ means ‘long life’ and ‘blessing’. It refers to the high nutritional value of the Kotobuki grade. The Gula Java coconut blossom sugar ensures that the Gula Java Matcha slowly releases its power. Matcha Kotobuki tastes slightly more bitter than other premium matchas due to its higher tannin content.