Matcha refers to specially prepared green tea leaves that have been finely ground, with its name literally translating to “powdered tea”. The preparation and consumption of this tea dates back to the Song Dynasty (1100 AD) where methods of grinding and whisking first became a popular way to prepare preserved tea leaves. This method was soon incorporated into the meditative rituals of the area’s Zen Monks, who then carried these practices to Japan where it took hold in the Buddhist monasteries -quickly becoming the central focus of the culturally rich Japanese tea ceremonies.
While this drink still holds its place in traditional ceremonies, it has become increasingly popular amongst the mainstream due to its rich taste and health promoting properties –resulting from it’s unique cultivation and processing. A big part of this is due to “shade-growing” the plants for the final weeks before harvest -triggering the development of robust flavors in the leaves. The removal of stems and veins, adds another desirable quality to the end product, ensuring that the powders capable of being whisked to silky smooth perfection. This also allows the entire leaves to be consumed, increasing the amount of nutrients absorbed –such as it’s potent load of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols- which have been linked to anti-aging, cancer prevention, and protection against heart disease.
Using at Home
Traditional Japanese matcha preparation entails adding an amount of powder to a ceremonial bowl, pouring in just-below boiling water, and mixing with a bamboo whisk until the powder is dissolved and the liquid is frothy. However, if your looking for the boost without so much Zen, you can make things a lot more casual by simply adding the tea to a bottle of hot water and shaking it.
However, while our all-purpose organic matcha can be used to make the traditional drink, it is more suited for cooking. This variety is often referred to as “culinary grade matcha” as it is made up of specially selected lower-hanging leaves that have an intense green-tea flavor. This usage of matcha, for baking purposes, is popular in a variety of traditional Japanese confectionery -and tends to be quite versatile. Try mixing in a few scoops to your next baked dessert for a delicious flavor twist, add a bit to any light colored treat to give it a beautiful green-tint, or use a scoop in your smoothie for a caffeinated nutrient boost!