5 things you didn't know about Matcha

Japan

1. It’s been around a (very) long time.

So you’ve only just heard about Matcha? Don’t worry; you’re not the only one. The Matcha hype is still relatively new on the Australian scene, but the word is out and Matcha is gaining in popularity, particularly among the health-conscious.

A Buddhist monk named Eisai Myoan first brought Matcha to Japan in the late 1180’s after discovering the unique tea powder on a trip to China. Zen Monasteries in Japan quickly embraced it and Matcha became favoured by Buddhist monks for its ability to keep them alert and focused during their meditation practice (see Matcha health benefits for more info).

Matcha continued to grow in popularity, particularly among the Samurai class and Matcha production and quality increased as the tea growers learned more about the harvest and cultivation methods.

By the 16th century, tea masters, such as Sen No Rikyu, had developed the Matcha tea ceremony, which became an integral part of Japanese way of life among all levels of society.

Nowadays, Matcha production in Japan has been perfected and Matcha is becoming more well known internationally, thanks in part to its unparalleled health benefits and many uses. In fact, I believe 2015 is shaping up to be the year of Matcha. Packed with antioxidants, chlorophyll and other essential vitamins, it’s no surprise that Matcha has made its way into the list of new superfoods and is starting to turn heads in Australia.

2. Not all Matcha is equal.

There’s a common misconception that Matcha is Matcha. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Because Matcha is still relatively unknown in Australia, it is often only recognised as the ingredient in the ‘green tea latte’ from Starbucks; a highly sweetened, processed drink that doesn’t do Matcha any justice.

If you’re trying Matcha for the first time, it’s so important that you know what to look out for to avoid being disappointed with a murky coloured, stale tasting powder. This could turn you off Matcha all together and you’d be missing out on all the wonderful things this drink has to offer. As explained on our about our Matcha page, there are some key things to look out for when buying your Matcha.

Origin:

Simply put, the best Matcha is grown and produced in Japan. I’ve tried green tea powder from various regions in China and nothing came close to the quality of Japanese Matcha. The two top producing Matcha areas are the Nishio region, Aichi prefecture, and Uji, in the Kyoto prefecture. Mista Matcha is grown in the Nishio region, perfect for Matcha production due to its stable climate and fertile soil.

Price:

Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with most things in life, and Matcha is no different. If you find a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Matcha production is very labor intensive and requires a high level of skill and knowledge. As with a fine wine, it’s worth spending the extra dollars to get the most out of your Matcha experience.

Colour:

When shopping for quality Matcha, colour matters. Good quality Matcha should be a vibrant green, fresh, healthy colour. If your Matcha looks pale, dull, slightly yellow or even brownish, it is more than likely poor quality, often made from leaves that haven’t been shade grown or properly harvested.

Colour 

Taste/smell:

Quality Matcha smells and tastes amazing. It has a beautifully fresh, vegetal smell with a hint of subtle sweetness from the amino acid L-Theanine. It’s smooth to drink and leaves a pleasant aftertaste lingering in your mouth.

3. You’re consuming the whole leaf

With normal tea, you infuse the tea leaves in water for a few minutes and then throw them away. This method generally only gives you about 10-20% of the nutrients.

With Matcha, the Tencha (raw tea plant material used to make Matcha) is ground using granite grinding wheels, allowing the entire leaf, and 100% of the nutrients, to be consumed. This means that 1 cup of Matcha is nutritionally equivalent to roughly 10 cups of regular green tea.

These intricate stone grinding wheels produce roughly 30-40 grams of Matcha per hour, grinding it into a super-fine powder of 5 microns, similar to talcum powder consistency. Properly ground Matcha powder is so fine, it can penetrate into fingerprints.

4. It’s great for impressing your friends

One of the great things about Matcha is that it’s not just a drink. Matcha is becoming increasingly popular in kitchen because of its ability to be added to so many recipes. Nothing says 'I know what I'm doing in the kitchen' like rocking up to a dinner party with a dish that's bright green in colour. From green tea lattes to delicious banana Matcha pancakes, there really is something for everyone. If you’re looking for inspiration, have a look at our recipes page, or check out some beautiful recipes from the team at Love & Lemons.

5. It’s better than coffee (in my opinion)

I love coffee, so I don’t say this lightly. I love the aroma of freshly ground beans, the sound of the milk being perfectly frothed and the morning ritual of picking up my flat white on the way to the office.

What I don’t enjoy is the short burst of energy (let's take on the day!) followed by the inevitable coffee slump (I need a place to lie down). By the time 2pm rolls around I feel like I need another coffee, which in turn makes me anxious and jittery due to the caffeine overload.

When I discovered Matcha, I was amazed at its ability to provide me with the same energy, but none of the crash. It provides a sort of sustained energy boost that lasts for 3-6 hours, but also creates a calm alertness that helps me focus and think clearly.

Research shows that this is largely due to the presence of an amino acid called L-Theanine, found almost exclusively in tea plants. The L-Theanine and caffeine in Matcha are slowly absorbed and work together to improve cognitive performance and alertness.

So if you’re looking for a substitute for coffee, or are simply keen to see what all the hype is about, why not give Matcha a try – I’m sure you’ll love it.

 

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