In the Song Dynasty
(960–1279), the method of making powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves, and preparing the beverage by whipping the tea powder and hot water together in a bowl became popular.
Preparation and consumption of powdered tea was formed into a ritual by Chan or Zen
Buddhists. The earliest extant Chan monastic code, entitled Chanyuan Qinggui
(Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery, 1103), describes in detail the etiquette for tea ceremonies.Zen Buddhism
and the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai
. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China
for some time, now there is a global resurgence in Matcha tea consumption, including in China. In Japan it continued to be an important item at Zen monasteries, and became highly appreciated by others in the upper echelons of society during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries.
Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves that also are used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest and may last up to 20 days, when the teabushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production ofamino acids, in particular theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as in the production of sencha, the result will be gyokuro(jade dew) tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, however, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha (碾茶). Then, tencha may be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.
Grinding the leaves is a slow process, because the mill stones must not get too warm, lest the aroma of the leaves is altered. It may take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha.
The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.
In general, matcha is expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality.
Location on the tea bush
Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea bush (Camellia sinensis) is vital.
The very top should have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades of matcha. More-developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavour is a result of the plant sending the majority of its nutrients to the growing leaves.
Treatment before processing
Traditionally, tencha leaves are dried outside in the shade and never are exposed to direct sunlight, however, now drying mostly has moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green also as a result of this treatment.
Without the correct equipment and technique, matcha can become “burnt” and suffer degraded quality. Typically in Japan matcha is stone-ground to a fine powder through the use of specially designed granite stone mills.
Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen may easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish-green colour.
A three-piece set for making matcha, including a whisk (chasen), bowl (chawan), and spoon (chashaku)
There are two main ways of preparing matcha: thick (濃茶 koicha?) and thin (薄茶 usucha?). www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matcha
“Matcha has been part of our family lifestyle for years. I personally prefer mine thick, I find it gives a very rich flavour which satisfies my palate as a morning, or afternoon tea.”
Rose A. Weinberg; Wellness Expert | Author | Speaker | Fulfilled Wife and Mom | Loves Dogs