Japanese matcha tea (from the English "matcha") actually (in Japanese) sounds like "matcha" and translates as "pulverized tea", so both pronunciations are correct, although the name "matcha" prevails on the Internet. Matcha is a green tea powder made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is traditionally consumed in East Asia, in particular it is traditionally used in the classical Japanese tea ceremony.
Matcha is becoming more and more popular every year all over the world, especially among supporters of a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition. And now we will explain why.
In Japan, matcha tea is considered the most healing drink due to its powerful antioxidant effect. In 2003, University of Colorado researchers found that the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG found in matcha was 137 times higher than that found in other commercially available green teas.
Tea helps protect the skin from UV exposure, prevents skin aging, and can be used as a face mask. Matcha helps to reduce weight by accelerating metabolism and fat oxidation, normalizes cholesterol metabolism, reduces the level of "bad" lipids in the blood and improves the condition of blood vessels. Matcha neutralizes the action of carcinogens, helps slow down the aging process and rejuvenates cells. Unlike green tea, matcha tea is drunk together with tea leaves in the form of a green powder dissolved in water – this way more useful substances enter the body.
Matcha contains a large amount of the "tea" amino acid – L-theanine, it is a natural neurotransmitter. L-theanine increases mental and physical performance and improves mood. A cup of matcha has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but thanks to its L-theanine content, it does not deplete the nervous system. And the presence of amino acids in tea helps to keep cheerfulness and at the same time calmness during the day. In a recent study, scientists from the Netherlands found that the combination of caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine in green tea increases productivity and improves a person's attention.
How green powder is made
Matcha is made from tea leaves that are specially shaded before harvesting. Matcha preparation begins a few weeks before harvest, when the tea bushes are shaded from direct sunlight. This slows down growth, makes the leaves darker, and enriches the tea leaf with amino acids that make the tea sweeter.
After harvest, the leaves are dried straight (not curled), then the stems and veins are removed from them, and then ground into a bright green powder. It can take up to an hour to grind 30 grams of matcha tea.
The taste of matcha tea is determined by the presence of amino acids. Higher grades of matcha have a more intense, sweet taste and deeper aroma than lower grades of tea harvested later in the same year.
The best-known match production areas in Japan are Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Nishio in Aichi Prefecture, Shizuoka, and northern Kyushu.
Matcha is usually more expensive than other teas, although the price depends on the quality of the tea. The quality of Japanese green tea is determined by many factors.
- Location on the tea bush. It is important in which part of the tea bush the leaves are collected for matcha tea. At the very top are young flexible and soft leaves. Expensive varieties of matcha are valued for the taste of young leaves. The more developed leaves are harder and give low quality varieties a sandy texture. The best flavor comes from the growing leaves, to which the plant sends all its nutrients.
- Drying. Tea pours are traditionally dried outdoors in the shade and never in direct sunlight. However, these days, drying has mostly been moved indoors. As a result of this processing, the matcha has a vibrant green color.
- Grinding Grinding tea is an art in itself. Without the right equipment and technique, matcha can taste burnt and lose quality.
- Oxidation. Oxidation (or fermentation) is also a quality determining factor. The taste of matcha deteriorates when exposed to oxygen. Oxidized (fermented) matcha tea has a characteristic smell of hay and a brownish-green color.
Traditional Japanese green tea
There are 2 main ways to prepare matcha: strong (koicha) and weak (usucha).
Before use, matcha tea is often passed through a sieve to remove clumps. There are specially designed stainless steel sieves for this, in which a fine wire sieve and a temporary storage container are connected. To push the tea through the sieve, a special wooden spatula is used, or a small smooth stone is placed on top of the sieve and the device is shaken slightly.
If the sifted green powder is served during the Japanese tea ceremony, it is placed in a small tea container called chaki. In other cases, it can be poured directly from the sieve into a bowl called a tyavan.
A small amount of tea is poured into a cup, traditionally a bamboo chashaku spoon is used for this, then not very hot water (not boiling, about 80 °C) is added. This mixture is then whipped to a smooth consistency with a bamboo chasen whisk. The tea should not have lumps and tea grounds on the edges of the cup. Since matcha can be bitter, it is traditionally served with small wagashi sweets (traditional Japanese desserts) eaten before tea, without milk or sugar. It is generally believed that 40 grams of green powder can make 20 cups of weak or 10 cups of strong tea.
- Usucha (weak tea) is made with approximately 2 grams (equivalent to two tablespoons of chashaku or about half a teaspoon, i.e. without the peas) of matcha powder and approximately 70 ml of hot water per cup. Usuchya can be whipped until foamy or drunk without foaming as desired (or in accordance with the tradition of a particular school of tea ceremony). Usutya tea is lighter in color and slightly more bitter in taste.
- Koycha (strong tea) is made with a much larger amount of powder (usually twice as much powder and half the water is needed): approximately 4 grams (equivalent to 4 tablespoons of chashaku or one full teaspoon, that is, with a slide) of matcha and about 50 ml of hot of water per cup, which is equal to six teaspoons of tea per 3/4 cup of water. Since the resulting mixture is much thicker, it must be mixed with slow rotational movements that do not create foam. Koicha is usually made from the more expensive matcha variety of older tea trees (more than 30 years old) and thus produces a tea that is milder and sweeter than usucha. It is served almost exclusively during the Japanese tea ceremony.
Other uses for matcha tea
Matcha is a common ingredient in Japanese sweets. It is also used as an additive in many chocolates, candies, and desserts such as cakes and pastries (including rolls and cheesecakes), cookies, puddings, mousses, and green tea ice cream. Even Japanese poki sticks are matcha flavored.
Matcha can also be mixed with other teas. For example, it is added to genmaicha (green tea with brown rice) to make the so-called matcha-iri genmaicha (roasted brown rice tea with matcha).
The use of matcha in modern drinks is also common in cafes in North America, where, as in Japan, it is added to coffee lattes, iced drinks, milk and fruit shakes, and alcoholic beverages such as liquors.
The health benefits of green tea (including matcha) have also generated considerable interest in North America. Therefore, this tea is now used in the production of healthy foods, from muesli to energy bars.
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