Matcha 101: The Beginners Guide to Instant Matcha
Matcha facts, matcha benefits, matcha history, matcha recipes… Everything matcha, researched and written here to help make all of your matcha dreams come true!
What is Matcha and How is it Made?
Matcha is a refined powder made from the processed grinds of green tea plant leaves, known scientifically as camellia sinensis. Processing the tea leaves includes a method in which they are steamed on a conveyor belt immediately after being harvested for approximately 20 seconds. Next, the leaves are separated into columns about 15ft high, equipped with nets and wind turbines to dry the leaves.
After the leaves have dried, they are spread out and baked in a brick oven. When the leaves come out of the oven they are no longer ordinary leaves. They have been transformed into “tencha;” the second to last form of matcha, since this is the last time the leaves will be in, well, leaf form.
The last stages of matcha development happen when the tencha is transferred from farmers to tea vendors, where the wholesaler gets to filter, cut, and grind the tencha to their own uniquely flavored blend.
Matcha’s Claimed Health Benefits
1. Helps Defend Against Liver Disease
A study done in 2015 confirmed a link between a decreased risk of liver disease and high consumption of matcha.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
A study done in 2014 advised a strong possibility that long term matcha consumption could help to lower blood pressure.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
4. Natural Detoxifier
For those of us looking for a fresh start in our diet, this 2015 study proves that matcha is among a list of foods that helps to reduce the effects of toxins in the body.
5. Regulates the Metabolism
This study found sufficient evidence of matcha’s effects on the metabolism’s glucose tolerance; suggesting matcha helps defend against diabetes and increases metabolic speed.
A Brief History of Matcha
The story of matcha is thought to go back to 7th century China and Japan. In China of that time, a person could study the earliest teachings of Zen Buddhism and ritual tea consumption. So, it wasn’t uncommon for young Japanese Zen monks to travel west, to China, on spiritual and academic expeditions.
During their trips, the Japanese monks would often collect and bring tea seeds back to their monasteries in Japan. In those times, tea leaves would be roasted and compressed into bricks, for easy transportation. Chinese tea drinkers spread the notion that tea made from these tea bricks were naturally designed health supplements and should be consumed on a regular basis for the preservation of a healthy lifestyle.
One Japanese Zen monk in particular by the name of Eisai Myoan, developed a very distinct philosophical connection between his spiritual practice and tea drinking around the 10th to 12th century. Eisai was a firm believer in the health properties of tea and taught his students that regularly practicing the preparation and consumption of tea, would bring them to enlightenment.
Eisai’s preparation method included drying the tea leaves and grinding them into a fine powder, as modern day matcha is produced. One of Eisai’s students, Myoe, grew up to be the chief incumbent (in other words, the boss) of the Zen monastery based out of the Kyoto mountains. Myoe took to Eisai’s teachings, and practiced the cultivation of tea plants and powders at the monastery.
Over time, he discovered that the environmental conditions of the mountains were ideal for growing and producing tea powder in mass quantities. By this point in time, a demand for tea had risen in Japan from the constant flow of tea imports from China. Thus, marking the beginning of matcha’s long and popular legacy.
The Matcha Ceremony
Matcha ceremonies have been a long standing tradition in Japanese societies. They are meditative sessions, that bring peace and community to those who practice it.
Typically, the ceremonies take place in a separate part of the house dedicated to the ceremony. It begins with a simple presentation of the brewing instruments and drinking utensils that will be used, and an offering of sweets or pastries to any guests taking part in the ceremony.
Then, water is boiled in a kettle before putting it in a cup off to the side. Next, the matcha powder is scooped into a separate cup and the boiled water is poured on top, then added to the matcha cup and stirred with a wooden bamboo whisk called "chasen" (茶筅). Lastly, the tea is served with a light meal and pastries.
All Your Homemade Matcha Needs, Summarized
Since we don’t expect you to have wind turbines or conveyor belts at your place, there is a much more painless way to incorporate matcha into your home. Instant matcha powder can be bought and blended hot water using a bamboo whisk to make creamy, matcha tea. If you’re interested in a more concentrated, iced matcha tea you can add matcha powder to cold water and mix or shake until the powder is fully dissolved.
If you’d like to try a homemade matcha tea latte, just add the matcha powder to any milk of your choice (hot or cold) and stir or shake until the powder diffuses into the milk.