The Basics of Matcha

Let’s just get it out there: The nation has a case of Matcha Madness!

So many of Kat’s friends have been talking about it – Matcha Lattes, Matcha cookies, Matcha smoothies – but most of them are not sure what it really is.

Here’s the scoop: All matcha is powdered tea, but not all powdered tea is truly matcha.

Matcha 3

Matcha, the word itself, is a Japanese word that embodies not only the cultivation but the processing of the tea leaves. For you wine aficionados, you may be familiar with the term, “terroir.” This refers to the impact of the soil and environment impact the flavor of the wine grapes. A Cabernet from a certain region of France, for example, will have slightly different flavor characteristics from a Cabernet from Napa even if they are processed in the exact same way. Terroir affects tea as well.

With that in mind, we start with the uniqueness of the terroir in different regions of Japan. Then we add the process, with starts with Tencha. In Japan, there are strict regulations of the cultivation of Tencha. For weeks prior to the harvest, the tea plants are shaded, which increases the production of chlorophyll within the leaves, intensifying the natural sweetness and delicate, smooth flavor. Then the leaves are plucked by hand, steamed to stop the oxidation and slowly dried. The stems and leaves’ veins are typically removed to reduce potential bitterness. The dried leaves are then slowly ground in hand crafted stone granite mills, which is believed to get the finest grade of ultra-fine powder.

In Japan, the matcha label is backed with these high standards, and any other form of powdered tea is listed as that: Powdered Tea. Outside of Japan, there are no universally accepted standards for matcha, so what you find labeled as matcha in the U.S. might not necessarily be Japanese-defined matcha.

Does it matter?

As wine lovers will tell you, there is no replicating the impact terroir has on their favorite wine. Lovers of Japanese Matcha will tell you there’s no replicating the oceanic, strongly vegetal quality it has. Char loved using powdered green teas for cooking, and Kat has inherited that love of infusing dishes with powdered green tea, but when it comes to a cup of matcha, there is no substitute for Japanese-defined matcha.

Then there’s preparation! But, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million. We love this video demonstration of matcha preparation by tea blogger, Nicole Martin.

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