What is Matcha?
Matcha is a powdered green tea. While Matcha is commonly known as a Japanese green tea today, it is believed to have originated from China during the Tang Dynasty, from 618 to 907. During those times, tea leaves were pressed into tea cakes for easy storage and transportation. To make tea, the caked tea leaves were ground into a fine powder, and then mixed with salt, water, and sometimes other natural flavors, such as fruits and flowers. It is believed that a Japanese buddhist named Eisai brought buddhism and matcha from China to Japan in 1191.
How is Matcha produced?
Like many green teas, Matcha comes from tea leaves that have been shaded. When the leaves go through a shading process, the leaves produce more chlorophyll, giving the leaves their bright green color. Shading the leaves also produces higher amounts of amino acids, like L-theanine, as well as other nutrients, such as caffeine, EGCG, and antioxidants.
The best time to harvest tea leaves for Matcha is on the 88th day after the start of spring, known as hachijuhachiya, in early May, depending on the season’s weather conditions.
After harvesting, the leaves are taken to a factory where they are steamed for about 20 seconds. Steaming prevents oxidation, which allows the tea leaves to retain their bright green color, their flavor, and brings out a natural sweetness.
After steaming, the leaves are blow-dried, which knocks off tems and leaf veins, separates the leaves that got stuck together during steaming, and removes excess moisture from the surface of the leaf. The leaves are then placed on a conveyor belt that will take the leaves through a convection oven for several minutes for drying and sorting.
The final step of Matcha production is milling, in which the leaves are ground into a fine powder. Mills are either a traditional stone mill or a more modern bread mill.
Which is better - Chinese Matcha or Japanese Matcha?
Chinese and Japanese Matcha varies greatly in terms of visual differences, texture, taste profiles, and nutritional differences, and a lot of these differences are because of the manufacturing and growing processes.
Japanese Matcha has a bright and vibrant green color, while Chinese Matcha is a duller hue of green with brown and yellow tones. This is because the tea leaves that make Japanese Matcha are shaded for the last few weeks of growing before harvest, as mentioned above. Shading the tea leaves before harvest increases the chlorophyll in the leaf, creating the brighter green color.
The manufacturing processes that Japanese Matcha goes through produces a very fine powder that is uniform in texture and size in the powder. Because Japanese Matcha is so fine, it mixes easily with a delicate froth, and has a smooth, silky finish when consumed. The tea leaf processing in China is still by hand, not machine, resulting in inconsistent texture and larger particle size. Many Chinese Matcha powders do not froth, and leave a sandy texture on the palate.
The Japanese take their soil very seriously, fertilizing the soil to ensure the plants provide an abundance of umami and nutrients. The shading also plays a significant role in the flavour profile. For top grade Matcha, the plants grow in near darkness in the weeks leading up to their harvest. This results in a sweeter taste, with very little to no bitterness. Once harvesting takes place, the leaves are steamed to preserve the flavour and nutrients and dried using heat blowers.
Taste profile is sweet yet savory, with little to no bitterness.
Unlike Japanese Matcha, Chinese Matcha is typically not grown in the shade. This means that the unique Umami taste is very subtle or non-existent giving way to an earthy flavour. Tannins develop in Chinese Matcha, this is a result of not growing in the shade; this results in bitterness to your Matcha beverage.
Taste profile is brighter, with an earthier flavour with natural bitterness.
The shading process that Japanese Matcha experiences ensures chlorophyll and other nutrients are concentrated in the leaves. This includes an abundance of the natural antioxidant polyphenols.
Chinese Matcha does still contain many of the same qualities, just not in the same quantity.
What kind of Matcha does OBTC carry?
OBTC carries an organic higher Culinary Grade Matcha from Japan. The difference between Ceremonial Grade and Culinary Grade is due to the harvest time, shading, and production. Culinary Grade Matcha is harvested second after the Ceremonial Grade Matcha, however it still receives and retains all of the benefits from shading. Culinary Grade Matcha is slightly more bitter than Ceremonial Grade Matcha, and is great for enjoying a cuppa, as well as being used in bakery treats, ice cream, and many other recipes.
OBTC Matcha Nutritional Data:
- Typical serving size: 1-3g
- EGCG: 48 mg/g
- Theanine: 4 mg/g
- Caffeine: 16 mg/g
- Calories: 4 kcal/g
- Protein: 0.22 g/g
- Fat: 0.03 g/g
- Carbs: 0.66 g/g
- Sugar: 0.05 g/g
- Fiber:0.34 g/g
- Vitamin A: 280 mg/g
- Calcium: 8.0 mg/g