Matcha 101: Introduction to Matcha

Matcha 101: Introduction to Matcha

What is Matcha? Where did it come from? How do I make it? Our Matcha 101 series serves as a quick, introductory guide to all things Matcha.

Matcha 101: Introduction to Matcha

The practice of preparing and drinking powdered tea was first popularized over 900 years ago by Chinese Zen Buddhist monks. Traditional Matcha preparation is therefore ritualistic and meditative by nature, requiring customary tools and following a careful step-by-step process. In the 11th century, this ritual was shared with the Japanese, who have been preparing and sipping the frothy tea drink ever since. Even when powdered tea fell out of popularity in other parts of Eastern Asia, it has consistently maintained its prominence in Japanese culture. In fact, the word Matcha comes from Japanese: “ma” translates to rubbed or ground, while “cha” means tea.

Japanese Matcha tea is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. Like all tea, Matcha is made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Tea cultivated specifically for Matcha is primarily grown in two Japanese regions: Uji in Kyoto and Nishio in the Aichi prefecture. Tea leaves grown for Matcha are specially shade-grown over the course of three weeks. Shielding the plant from direct sunlight incites an overproduction of chlorophyll, which contributes to Matcha’s distinctive bright green color. In addition, shading the plant yields an increase in the amino acid theanine, which is thought to give the drink its deep umami flavor.

When the plants are ready for harvest, the leaves are hand-picked, steamed, dried, destemmed and deveined. The pure leaves, known as “tencha” at this stage, are then expertly ground into a fine powder. While the grinding process is traditionally done with a stone mill or mortar and pestle, powdering machines are now often used to produce a higher volume of Matcha in a shorter amount of time.

Ready to learn how to transform Matcha from its powdered form into a delicious, frothy drink? Check out our how-to guide, Matcha 101: Preparation. Want to taste for yourself? Try our Pure Matcha or Matcha with Ginger Tea!