|Matcha - Japan's Oldest Tea
|Matcha is Japan's oldest tea, brought back to Kyoto (Uji) by Buddhist monks in
the 9th century after visiting China's Jin Chan monastery. Today the highest
grade of matcha is still harvested there in the ancient tea gardens in Uji, where
most all of Japan's other highest grades of tea are also grown.
|Matcha is a powdered tea made
from shade-grown tencha leaves.
About three weeks before harvesting, the tencha
leaves are shaded over to boost the chlorophyll,
amino acids, and other flavor compounds.
Immediately after harvesting the leaves are steam
fixed, cut, and then air dried instead of being rolled
and fired like most other Japanese teas. This gives
the leaves a fresh,
clean, pure vegetal fla-
vor without any of the
roasted flavors fired
Once dried the tencha
leaf is then stone-milled
into fine, bright, emerald
|green matcha powder. In the shiny, stateof-the-art factories, row
upon row of millstones grind away, each producing about two ounces
of matcha powdered tea an hour.
There are several grade levels of matcha tea. The top or best grade is
called koicha or "thick tea," made from the finest shade grown spring
tencha leaves harvested in Uji. This grade of matcha or koicha is the
most expensive and is reserved for tea ceremonies or Chado.
The next level of matcha produced is called usucha or "thin tea." This
grade of matcha or usucha is less expensive, making it more affordable
for everyday use.
A third grade is also
commercial grade matcha, it's used in baking
to add color and flavor to cakes and cookies,
ice cream, lattes, and other green tea flavor-
ings. (Visit Mighty Leaf Tea's Matcha Store
where you'll find all the tools to properly pre-
pare matcha tea as well as green tea latte
and frappe. Be your own barista with their
green tea frappe and latte starter kit. Click
the MLT link below right and go to their
Just as with Japan's most popular everyday
tea, sencha, the demand for matcha is now
exceeding supply, so that China is now producing
some in an unusual reversal of history, as matcha is
what Buddhist monks brought
back with them to Kyoto in the
9th century. Up until today,
China hadn't produced powdered tea since the end of the Ming dynasty
After the monks began cultivating the tea brought back by them from
China in the 9th century, the matcha they made was exclusively for their
use and royalty only. Some eventually made its way to the noble warrior
class, or samuri.
By the 1550's, Sen Rikku, a Japanese tea
master codified the practice of Chado (which translates to the
"Way of Tea"), a form of religious observation or tea ceremony.
With the influence of Taoism as well as Zen Buddhism, Sen Rikku
ritualized the tea service and ceremony as a way of bringing atten-
tion to everyday objects. By emphasizing the proper tools and
gestures used when brewing and serving tea, as well as the correct arrangement and arch-
itecture of the teahouse, Rikku encouraged followers to concentrate on the three elements of
tea preparation and drinking: water, fire, and the tea leaf.
After Rikku's death, his three grandsons developed their own
schools teaching Chado-Urasenke, Omotesenke, and
Mushanokojisenke, which still exist today, an amazing sixteen
Matcha tea has an intense flavor, like no other tea you have
ever tasted. It's thick and frothy with a smooth, vegetal flavor,
with a bitter kick that's immediately balanced out by a sweet
aftertaste, that lingers in the back of your mouth.
Because the tencha leaves it's made from are air dried rather than
roasted, you get only the pure unadulterated taste of the leaf.
With matcha tea the entire leaf is consumed, rather than just an
infusion, so you're getting 100% of the vitamins, minerals, and an-
tioxidants, so it's beyond healthy.
Along with gyokuro, which is also a shade grown tea, matcha is
one of Japan's most expensive teas. Prices vary according to
grade, but even the commercial grade is up there.
Just to give you some "ball park" figures, a half ounce of commercial grade matcha can start at
$14 up to $40+. For second level usucha matcha for every day drinking starts at around $40
for half an ounce up to $80 plus. And for ceremonial grade koicha matcha, or best grade, you're
looking at $80 and up for half an ounce, or 20 grams. Enjoy.
|For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our other pages:
Genmaicha-from poor people's tea
to pour me another cup, please.
Which of Japan's teas is prized
Which one of Japan's teas is
their most popular?
What is shincha tea?
What is Japan's largest tea
Where were Japan's first
tea gardens located?
What types and styles of
tea are grown in Japan?
Which of Japan's tea growing regions
has the world's largest active volcano?
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