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Matcha tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is the same plant green, white, Oolong and black tea. Isn’t it fascinating how many shapes tea can take? All differences considered, Matcha is a true green tea. While it is not considered its own tea category, Matcha does boast a unique method of processing that sets it apart from all others. This impacts not only the flavor of the tea, but also how it is prepared.

The processing methods used to make Matcha can drastically impact the final product. Variations in each step can result in a higher or lesser quality cup. Unlike any other tea, when you take a sip of Matcha, you are drinking the entire tea leaf rather than simply an infusion, so the process by which the leaves are chosen is highly selective.

The aspects of a high quality Matcha are the following:

  • Feel- Matcha powder should be fine and smooth, never coarse. It sticks together slightly and does not contain large clumps or coarse grains.
  • Color- High quality Matcha is a deep, vibrant bright green.
  • Smell- Matcha has a strong, fresh vegetal aroma.
  • Taste- Matcha tastes sweet and earthy. When made properly, it should never taste bitter.
  • Finish- A good finish is long and lingering. The flavor does not quickly dissipate after you take a sip.
  • Froth- Rather than bubbles, high-quality Matcha produces a foamy, creamy layer of froth.

To achieve these highly desired qualities, a premium cultivar of the tea plant is important. Specialty tea gardens take special care when cultivating the tea bushes, constantly monitoring the amount of water and levels of sunlight to produce leaves with the most desirable Matcha flavor. Furthermore, the tea bushes are shaded with black cloths 2-4 weeks before harvest, to block out direct sunlight and boost theanine and chlorophyll, which produces that rich umami flavor.

Gradually, as the harvest time approaches, shade cloths are added to decrease the amount of light even further. This is a delicate balance. The leaves need enough sun to grow, but the more shade that is added closer to the harvest, the sweeter the beverage. Shaded new growth produces soft, translucent tea buds. For the very best Matcha, only the greenest, newest parts of the bush are plucked.

Matcha is selectively hand plucked by skilled workers who instinctively know which leaves will produce the best tea. After the tea is plucked, it is withered and steamed like any other Japanese green tea. Rather than firing the tea in pans to discourage further oxidation, the leaves are dried with heated air to decrease moisture content completely. Unique to Matcha is a step that no other green tea requires: the leaves must be de-stemmed and de-veined so no tough pieces remain.

The finished product pre-grinding is called Tencha. Tea experts then grade the Tencha leaves based on their color, texture and aroma before it is sorted to be ground into Matcha. Traditionally, large granite wheels, which turn very slowly over the leaves, grind them into the finest, thinnest powder without any trace of broken leaf pieces or stems. Alternatively, metal tea processors may also accomplish this job in sleek, modern precision. When the leaves have been transformed into a very fine powder, it is packaged up and vacuum sealed for the absolute freshest quality.

Enjoy a cup of Matcha today!