29 March 2023
Matcha: A Beginners Guide to Japanese Green Tea
Matcha is a beloved Japanese drink that has been around for centuries! This bright green tea has been cultivated to perfection, known for its vegetal flavor and many health benefits. Matcha also plays an integral role in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and follows the aesthetics of wabi sabi–an artistic value centered on the beauty of simplicity and imperfection.
In addition to being enjoyed as a standalone beverage, you can find matcha powder used as an ingredient in desserts such as matcha ice cream and cake. In recent years, matcha's vibrancy and unique earthiness has made it all the rage within and outside of Japan. Read further for an in-depth look at matcha and all it has to offer!
- Health Benefits
- How to Enjoy Matcha
So, what is matcha? Matcha is a type of powdered green tea, made from whole tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a fine powder. It contains the same beneficial antioxidants, polyphenols, and catechins that are found in traditional green tea, but in higher amounts.
When it comes to cultivation, matcha tea bushes are typically grown in shaded conditions, which slows down their growth and encourages the development of chlorophyll and amino acids. The tea leaves are carefully hand-picked, usually in the spring or early summer. Fresh tea leaves are immediately steamed to stop the oxidation process and preserve their color and flavor.
Once the leaves are steamed, they are dried and sorted to remove stems or impurities. The dried tea leaves are then ground into a fine powder using a traditional stone mill. The matcha powder is carefully stored in airtight containers to preserve its freshness and flavor. When preparing matcha as tea, the powder is sifted to remove any lumps, then whisked with hot water using a bamboo whisk until frothy. The resulting beverage is a bright green color and has a slightly sweet, and bitter flavor!
The history of matcha dates back over 800 years to the Song Dynasty in China. However, it was in Japan that matcha became an integral part of the country's culture and identity.
According to records, matcha was introduced to Japan by Eisai, a Buddhist monk and the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Upon his return from China in around 1191, he brought back tea seeds and introduced a method of mixing powdered tea with hot water.
This was presented to shogun Minamoto no Sanetomo–spreading matcha to the warrior class. By the Nanbokucho period (c. 1337-1392), it was a popular drink among the common folk.
The seeds Eisai brought over were also planted and cultivated by Buddhist monks, mainly to be used for medicinal purposes. It was not until the 1500s that the ritual of the tea ceremony was perfected under the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility by tea master Sen no Rikyu. Rules differ depending on tea schools, but traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were held in minimalistic tea rooms surrounded by a garden.
Over time, the tea ceremony became a symbol of Japanese culture, and matcha became an integral part of Japanese cuisine and daily life. As of today, Japan is known for producing some of the highest quality matcha in the world, and the drink has become popular worldwide due to its unique flavor.
Matcha is also praised for its many potential health benefits! Firstly, it is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. The high concentration of antioxidants in matcha is due to the fact that the whole tea leaf is consumed, rather than just the brewed water. It also contains a catechin called EGCG, which has been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat burning.
Another health benefit to matcha is that it contains the amino acid L-theanine, which is known to improve cognitive function and enhance mental clarity. L-theanine also promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Some studies have even suggested that consuming matcha may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and improving blood pressure.
Lastly, matcha contains vitamins A and C, which can help boost the immune system and support overall health. All of these factors have made it a popular choice among health-conscious consumers, and have contributed to its international popularity.
How to Enjoy Matcha
At MUSUBI KILN, we offer a range of products for matcha-lovers! We especially recommend taking advantage of our selection of beautiful matcha bowls! Items such as the Kutani Ware Matcha bowl Chawan by Sousei Kiln are a great option for beginners. This is a beautiful bowl with a dogwood motif, and elegant red glaze–giving it a traditional feel. What's more, the wide base makes it easier to stir the matcha powder! It also comes in an original wooden box and is a wonderful gift for yourself or loved ones.
Why not add to your authentic matcha experience with a Nambu ironware kettle? The Arare Nambu ironware cast iron kettle is made of pure iron of the highest quality, and water boiled in the kettle will contain iron that is good for your health! Coupled with the benefits of matcha, it is sure to give you a boost of energy!
Another convenient item to have when making matcha at home is a "natsume." A "natsume" is a type of container for powdered matcha, not used for daily storage, but for holding powdered matcha during tea ceremonies. The bamboo grass and paulownia Yamanaka lacquerware natsume is lacquered with a technique called "tame-urushi," in which a base coat of vermilion is applied and finished with a coat of translucent lacquer, so that the reddish color increases with time. It's an eye-catching and sophisticated piece that will accentuate any cupboard or table! What's more, it's a great item to pair with a "chasuku"(tea scoop).
Matcha can be consumed as a hot or cold beverage, and in recent years, it's been used as an ingredient in a variety of foods and drinks, including smoothies, lattes, and baked goods. This versatility has made it easy for consumers to incorporate matcha into their daily routine–adding to its trendiness! Matcha also brings Japanese culture closer, through practices such as the traditional tea ceremony. We hope this article inspires you to go out and enjoy some matcha, or make it at home with some of our MUSUBI KILN products!