Over the past several months I have noticed more emails, television shows, face book posts, tweets, and Internet site references to Matcha. All of a sudden people are waking up to the outstanding taste and wellness benefits of this tea. As a person who enjoys Matcha daily, I find this both good and bad. Let me explain my opinion.
Let's begin my opinion by reading the definition of Matcha as provided in James Norwood Pratt's Tea Dictionary.
[maht-cha] Powdered tea used in Japans formal tea ceremony. Top-grade Matcha is a bright shade of green. As a rule, the lighter green varieties are sweeter and the darker ones more astringent. Matcha completely dissolves in the water when well mixed and thus the leaf is consumed in its entirety, providing more nutrients. Matcha is also a popular ingredient in savory dishes, desserts, ice creams and chai. In its unpowdered form it is called Tencha. When the new shoots on the tea bush have two or three leaves, they are shaded from sunlight for two or three weeks. In processing leaf for Tencha, the leaves are dried after being steamed but are not rolled, unlike most other green teas. During the drying process all the leaf veins and fine stems, are removed before the leaves are ground into a fine powder in a special stone mill.
Ok, so now that it is clear as to what I am referencing when mentioning Matcha, let us look at what all the popularity is doing. As always happens when something becomes very trendy and popular -- the price goes up and often the quality decreases. In some situations knock-offs are manufactured or, in the case of culinary items, recipes/processes are altered. I have recently found "green tea powder" marketed as Matcha with many different flavored additives. You should keep in mind that adding sugar to any tea decreases the wellness benefits and increases calories. When you alter the flavor of genuine Matcha you remove one of its major characteristic -- a naturally sweet green fresh taste.
Although most of what I am about to blog can be backed by scientific studies, you should know that this is my personal preference and opinion.
- When purchasing Matcha, I like Japanese ceremonial Matcha. Until recently all marketed Matcha was from Japan and was routinely used only for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Now Matcha or green tea powder is processed in Japan or China and is used in smoothies, culinary recipes, and cosmetic creams, scrubs, or lotions.
- The brighter the green coloring the better. To me Matcha should be a brilliant grassy green, not a mossy green. This is one major difference between the Japanese Matcha Tea and the Chinese green tea powder. Japanese tea processing halts the oxidation process of tea by steaming the leaves; thereby retaining a brighter green coloring. Also during the growing process the tea plants are shaded the last couple weeks of growth to increase the green. Whereas the Chinese green tea process uses a dry heat to halt the oxidation creating a mossy green color. Besides color there is a significant difference in taste between Japanese Matcha and Chinese green tea powder. The brighter the green the more naturally sweet and grassier the taste. . .In my opinion!
- Because Matcha is now being manufactured by different processes you need to be very careful of what you may be purchasing thinking you have bought the traditional Matcha. I recently made a purchase of what I thought was the type of Matcha I prefer only to learn that it was a mossy colored green tea powder. Needless to say, this tea did not deliver the aroma and taste I was expecting. Tea labeled "green tea powder" is not necessarily Matcha. Unless the label indicates Japanese manufactured Matcha Tea I do not purchase it. Here again is another food item for which you must read the label . . . the entire label.
- Remember true Japanese Matcha is expensive and usually sold by grams. When paying a lot for a tea, it is important to store it properly to maintain freshness and taste. My normal practice when handling Matcha is to store unopened Matcha in the freezer and opened Matcha in the refrigerator. I try to purchase Matcha that is sealed either in foil packaging or small tea tins. Remember that light, heat, and dampness are enemies of Matcha (as well as all teas).
If you keep all this in mind when purchasing your Matcha, you should be choosing quality Matcha.
Keep it "Green" and happy sipping,
The Tea And Hat Lady