What is Matcha? All you need to know about this elixir of long life
No doubt you’ve heard of Green Tea, a drink that used to be favoured in Asia but in the last decade, has grown in immense popularity in Western culture and throughout the world. Infused with antioxidant vitamins and a natural stimulant, Green Tea is doubtless an extremely healthy beverage.
Matcha is a type of Green Tea that is even more abundant in health benefits and has a creamy, exotic flavour with a hint of sweetness and plenty of earthy goodness. Its young tea-leaves are ground into a fine, powdered form that is whisked into hot water (below boiling point) and creates a heavenly frothy drink. Our Matcha Café matcha is extra-special. It is grown in the Kyoto region of Japan, which has the perfect conditions for quality matcha growing and favours traditional methods that date back 800 years, when matcha was first brought over to Japan from China by a Zen monk called Eisai.
The Japanese drink matcha in preference to Green Tea. Not only does it contain more nutrients than regular Green Tea, there is a process in the preparation of matcha tea that forms Japanese tea-making ceremonies. It is the way that matcha is prepared, presented and enjoyed that is so important for Japanese people, it is revered as a ceremony, hence the name “Ceremonial Matcha”. Of course, while matcha is enjoyed in Japan as a drink, and many other parts of Asia (and the world too!), it can also be used to enhance cooking and you’ll find that Culinary Matcha (matcha designed for cooking) is used in lots of different recipes, such as lattes, sweet treats, baked goods and even Italian gnocchi! Why not visit our recipe page for some culinary matcha inspiration here?
Matcha – A Brief History
So now you know a little about matcha – what about its history? It’s definitely interesting and next time you enjoy your matcha tea, think about where it came from. Matcha actually originated in China where originally, tea drinkers used to grind their tea leaves into a fine powder and then whip up the powder with hot water in a bowl. Later on, the Chinese changed their tea-making habits into steeping tea (much like people do in the West today) but the Japanese who adopted matcha, continued to whip it up into a frothy beverage! That age-old method is still favoured today by keen matcha drinkers around the world.
In the 12th century, the Japanese Zen monk we mentioned earlier was studying in China in a Buddhist monastery. He used to drink the Chinese matcha tea and brought it back to Japan upon his return. Back in Japan, his tea became popular, as did his method of preparing it, whisking the powder in a bowl with hot water to produce the frothiness. It became ceremonial, and was soon referred to as “The Way of Tea”, so much so that it became a meditational ritual for his community of Buddhist monks. The tea was excellent for meditation, because of its ability to focus the mind, and its detoxification properties were an extra benefit too. It wasn’t long before this new tea-drinking custom spread through the rest of Japan and even Samurai warriors adopted it, because of its calming properties. Matcha had an additional benefit of keeping the mind alert without feeling jittery. No doubt, the tea ceremony helped with Samurai training, as it sharpened the mind, encouraged better concentration and gave Samurai warriors a calm approach to pending battles – essential for winning!
Types of Matcha
As already mentioned, there are different types of Matcha. There’s Ceremonial Matcha, this is traditional tea-drinking matcha and is the finest grade matcha available. You can buy your Ceremonial Matcha here. Ours is made using the age-old traditions involved in Japanese matcha growing, using techniques that date back over 800 years.
There’s also Culinary Grade Matcha, this is used in cooking. We don’t recommend it for tea-drinking as it generally has a slightly bitter taste when used for tea. It also doesn’t boast the same, vivid green colour of Ceremonial Matcha. However, Culinary Matcha is ideal for cooking purposes and can be used for a variety of food and drink recipes – have a look at our Culinary Matcha here.
Then there’s organic matcha and non-organic matcha, which is a whole subject on its own! Our Culinary Matcha is organic, favouring the same growing conditions as our Ceremonial Matcha but using techniques that date back approximately 10 years and that have achieved organic certification. Our Ceremonial Matcha does not have organic certification but there are specific reasons why. It is perfectly safe to drink, it does not use fertilisers that have any harmful chemicals and by all intent and purpose it is we believe, organic. It cannot be labelled as organic because it is grown using those age-old techniques, the very same techniques favoured by Japanese matcha tea farmers 800 years ago. However, both organic and non-organic matcha meet the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) (more information on www.maff.go.jp/e/policies/standard/jas/). Those techniques cannot be altered, and that is why it cannot be labelled as organic. However, it’s worth noting that Japanese people are among the healthiest in the world, often living to a ripe old age and the Japanese love matcha green tea!
Caffeine Content and Health
One of the beauties of matcha is that it increases alertness without those jittery feelings that you get with coffee drinking. Matcha does contain caffeine, approximately 34mg per serving (less than a third of a cup of coffee) and matcha caffeine is released very slowly into the body. Far better than the caffeine in coffee! It’s like a slow-release energy that increases alertness but it increases relaxation. So, you feel alert but calm – a much healthier feeling than being jittery and on-edge.
As mentioned, matcha is also an antioxidant drink, packed with vitamins and nutrients that promote a better immune system, bolstering it with what it needs to fight against attack. If you research matcha, you’ll find that it is high in EGCG (epigallocatechin Gallate), catechins that are believed to be able to help the fight against cancerous attack too. Matcha’s nutrients are also linked to heart health and because of its caffeine content, it encourages weight-loss due to its fat-burning properties (only together with a healthy lifestyle).
Hopefully, you have a good grounding in matcha and you’re ready to take the plunge and try our own fabulous matcha. Click here and buy a pack, we’re sure you’ll love it! Don’t forget to tell us about your matcha drinking experience.