With a ripple-like texture, the vibrant jade-green foliage shelters the porcelain white blossoms.
Despite being born of the same mother as green and oolong tea, what separates matcha from other teas is not only its consumption and dedicated manner of preparation, but its essence and ritualistic status.
In our contemporary landscape, aesthetics are pursued for and often valued over other mounting benefits, when it comes to our daily consumption.
There is an undeniable ring to the phrase – you eat with your eyes – with no surprise that matcha enthusiasts queue out the door.
However, its hypnotic appeal is rooted far deeper than its delicately powdered form and earthy, emerald hues.
Comparable to its green tea sibling, matcha carries various health benefits.
At the top of the abbreviated list of noteworthy traits, matcha is renowned for its high concentration of antioxidants and rich amino acids, the source it’s soothing and tranquil effect on the brain.
The calm state of mind has been demonstrated to facilitate a strengthened focus, memory, and reaction time.
Caffeine and L-theanine are also present, which can aid with an array of cognitive functions.
Cancer cells may also be inhibited by chemicals found in matcha, with studies exhibiting evidence of its talent to reduce a number of heart disease risk factors.
Green tea and matcha also enhance the functionality of the metabolism, encouraging a faster digestion and assisting in the stabilizing of weight.
Culinary grade matcha is also uncomplicatedly incorporated into a vast variety of recipes to suit every palate.
Traditionally, the leaves are dried under soft shading with either bamboo mats or mounted rice straws, away from any direct sunlight.
This is thought to boost chlorophyll concentration and force antioxidants to the top of the leaves' outermost layer.
Matcha's lush color comes from chlorophyll, while the tea's powerful umami flavor derives from rich amino acids.
After the leaves have been gathered, they are promptly steamed for around 20 seconds. This is intended to keep the leaves from oxidizing. Astencha is the raw material following this stage.
After the fastidious procedure, it is important to ensure the quality of the matcha and prepare it for its final grading.
The steamed leaves are de-veined and de-stemmed before being ground into the familiar rich green powder using specially designed granite stone mills.
The final step consists of a grading process based on color, texture, and aroma. To evaluate the quality of the tea itself, hot water is added to the tencha.
To provide an accurate distinction on the varying grades of matcha, it is important to note where the tencha leaves are gathered from on the bush.
Higher grades of matcha are produced from the soft and youthful leaflings which rest on the top tier of the plant.
They produce a finer texture and overall flavour, while the more matured leaves from the lower parts of the bush result in a grittier texture and slightly bitter flavour profile.
The grading of matcha is classed into three separate categories suiting varying purposes: ceremonial, premium and culinary.
Predominantly reserved for its quality and therefore sourced for traditional tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples.
A high-quality green tea that stems from the same top tier region as the ceremonial matcha. It is ideal for daily consumption with a delicate and subtle flavor.
Primarily harmonized with other ingredients and therefore thrives in gastronomic environments. It is produced from the more mature, lower-lying leaves on the plant. Due to factors such as terroir, harvest period, and manufacturing procedure, the final product is described as slightly astringent in taste.
As true with much of the beauty of the natural world, matcha’s development and origin story is shrouded in mystery - similarly are the figures who shaped the ceremonies and it’s traditions.
One key piece of knowledge is indisputable; the tea's growth and culture have its heritage homed in China, although it could be argued that the culmination of its artistry was perfected in Japan.
In a compressed version of events, legend dictates that Japanese monks would routinely travel to acquire knowledge and insight from Chinese monks, often returning with tea for the purpose of strengthening their focus with meditation practices.
Matcha was also favored by the upper tier of society, who would host extravagant tea ceremonies to demonstrate their wealth, as much of a tea ceremony focuses on the amalgamation of both sensory and spiritual connectivity.
Samurais, who in constant preparation of death, would drink not only to activate alertness but to find their own moment of stillness in an otherwise violent existence.
As popularity for the exotic tea grew, seedlings were eventually brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks during the 8th-9th century where they began cultivating their own tea plants on the grounds of the sacred Kozanji temple.
Matcha was framed as a spiritual pursuit, one that would later challenge the practice of extravagance for a more intentionally based simplicity and with this instilled mentality, a birthplace for more organic aesthetics.
Its consumption and preparation were developed into a cultural activity, famed as a Japanese tea ceremony.
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