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Revered for centuries in the Japanese tea ceremony, Matcha is the premium variety of shade-grown Japanese green tea that’s ground into an ultra-fine green powder. It’s a very flexible tea, since it can be used in all manner of recipes for drinks, meals and cakes. Anyone looking for an alternative to coffee as an energy boost should seriously consider Matcha. Not only is it incredibly healthy, it revives, invigorates and reduces stress (see “Health benefits” below).
The way it’s grown and produced is extraordinary. Made exclusively from the tips of the youngest tea plants (Tencha), the tea leaves are grown slowly in shaded tea plantations. The lack of sunlight boosts the levels of chlorophyll and L-theanine (see “Health benefits” below). A very pure tea due to the exacting standards under which it is made, it’s free of all foreign bodies, such as the veins of the leaf.
The best Matcha is bright green in shade, with lower qualities being less vibrant in hue. It should have an aroma that is subtly plant-like, smooth and sweet. It’s the content of amino acid that affects the taste. In general, if this is high, then the flavour tends to be sweet, whereas a bitter taste means it probably contains a lesser volume of amino acid but a higher level of catechins.
Three different types exist, as detailed below.
The supreme quality of Matcha used mainly in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples. This is stone ground into a powder by granite stone mills. The unschooled drinker is unlikely to notice a large difference between the Ceremonial and Premium grade. Ceremonial is characterized by subtle tones of “Umami” (a vegetal taste unique to the finest green tea).
High quality Matcha that contains the full nutritional content and uses tea leaves from the top of the tea plant. Best for daily consumption by everyone – whether new to the drink or not, it’s characterized by a fresh, subtle flavour.
The cheapest of all, it’s ideal for cooking purposes. The taste is slightly bitter due to the use of leaves growing lower down on the tea plant.
Chlorophyll is truly beneficial for our health. It exhibits an antibacterial effect and has a positive influence on digestion. The high content of L-theanine amino acid is the reason for the full flavour and smoothness of Matcha. It aids relaxation and helps reduce stress. Other beneficial substances in Matcha are antioxidants - catechins, the most appreciated of which is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Consequently, Matcha has 17 times the antioxidising properties of blueberries and 26 times that of acai berries.
The typical way to prepare Matcha is in a bowl, with a whisk for combining the water and tea powder. Pre-heat the bowl by pouring in water at 70 – 80°C, then tip it away. It’s best to boil the water and let it cool to the correct temperature before using it. Next put 1 g of Matcha into the bowl and add 100 ml of the same hot water and whisk thoroughly until the powder is completely dissolved. Vary the amount of Matcha according to taste.
Alternatively, instead of using hot water, it’s possible to mix Matcha into cold water, milk, soya or rice milk and fruit juice.
Matcha should be stored in a dry, dark place and consumed as soon as possible after opening the package for optimum freshness. Some people recommend storing it in the fridge.