WHAT IS MATCHA?
This powdered green tea is best known for its significance in Japanese culture. However, matcha actually began its story in China, where it played a central role in Zen Buddhist tea rituals. After being introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 12th century, the preparation of matcha remained closely tied to spirituality. It eventually evolved into the Zen-inspired Japanese tea ceremony, ‘chadō’, meaning ‘the way of tea’.
Nowadays, matcha is used both in these traditional ceremonies, and as an everyday drink or flavouring. Rich, earthy, and a striking pea-green colour, this tea certainly packs a punch. But what makes matcha so unique? And what is the best way to enjoy it?
HOW IS MATCHA MADE?
The word ‘matcha’ literally translates as ‘rubbed tea’, which gives us a clue as to how it’s made. First, the tea leaves are steamed, dried and deveined. Unlike other teas, they are then ground or ‘rubbed’ into a fine powder against a stone.
Not just any tea leaves can be used to make matcha. A few weeks before plucking, the tea bush is shaded from the sun. In response, the leaf produces more chlorophyll and theanine which contributes to matcha’s bold intensity.
Since matcha tea is in powdered form, it must also be brewed differently to a tea bag or loose leaf tea. We don’t want any lumps! Most often, it is combined with hot water and mixed into a paste. A bamboo whisk then whips the matcha (with a little extra hot water) into a smooth, frothy drink.
DOES MATCHA CONTAIN CAFFEINE?
Because matcha is made using the tea plant, the camellia sinensis, it contains naturally occurring caffeine. It’s also worth bearing in mind that matcha is consumed in a different way to most teas. Whereas teabags and tea leaves are usually removed after brewing, matcha dissolves into the hot water you drink. This means that the tea itself is often directly ingested. As a result, a cup of matcha might contain more caffeine than a cup of other green teas.
HOW IS MATCHA ENJOYED?
In Japan, matcha’s popularity as a product is comparable to chocolate. You’ll see its distinctive pop of green in all sorts of foods, including matcha ice cream, smoothies, puddings, cookies, cakes and mochi (rice cakes). Due to its vegetal quality, matcha even complements savoury dishes like soba noodles too. Typically, such food products will be made using culinary grade matcha, which is slightly more bitter than other grades of matcha.
Ceremonial grade matcha, meanwhile, is usually reserved for Buddhist temples and Japanese tea ceremonies. A great deal of attention is paid to preparing the tea in such circumstances. The equipment is chosen with immense care, and each gesture, from the rotation of the cup to the position of the whisk, is very deliberate. Being served matcha as a guest at these ceremonies is an incredibly memorable and special experience.
Less formal occasions might call for premium, classic or café grade matcha, from which you can make delicious everyday teas, or add milk to in order to enjoy a creamy matcha latte.
Japanese Matcha tea ceremony
WANT TO TRY MATCHA?
If you’re new to matcha and curious to try it, why not give our Matcha Superblend a whirl? Ready to brew in convenient tea bag form, this blend is an easy and fruity introduction to the world of powdered tea. Here, Matcha is blended alongside a more familiar pan-fired Chinese green tea, to deliver a fresh, balanced, almost nutty flavour. We’ve also added juicy cranberry, which rounds the grassy notes of the tea and lends a marzipan sweetness to the aroma. Finally, lime provides a citrusy lift, without the sharpness of lemon. Brew it for 2-3 minutes in hot water, and remove the tea bag, to avoid your tea becoming too bitter.
Alternatively, treat yourself to a Matcha iced tea! You’ll find iced green tea in just about every Japanese vending machine. Try it for yourself by making a concentrate with one of our Matcha Superblend tea bags and 1/3 of a cup of freshly boiled hot water. Brew for 5 minutes this time and top up with plenty of ice, and cold water. You could even experiment with garnishes like mint and raspberries, and serve in a tall, heatproof latte glass.
MATCHA ON THE GO
For an even simpler approach, our Metabolism Cold Infuse can be added directly to cold water, and is ready to drink in just a few minutes. Matcha, watermelon, apple and green tea make for a revitalising combination. The perfect summer cooler!