Matcha is a type of green tea made by pulverizing shade grown green tea leaves into a fine powder.
The shading process increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves, which helps them preserve theanine,
an antioxidant amino acid that fights against stress, and provides the particular sweetness and umami.
Instead of steeping tea leaves into water, matcha is consumed whole as powdered leaves, resulting in a higher nutrition intake.
Tea Leaf Process
The tea harvest begins in the spring season. Several weeks prior to the harvest season in spring, the tea leaves are covered to block out the sunlight. This results in amplifying the production of chlorophyl and amino acids in the leaves. The unique shading process gives matcha its distinctive health benefits, and a deep, intense, umami flavour.
To prevent oxidization, the freshly picked leaves are steamed and dried, slowly removing the water content. The end product is called "aracha" which means "unprocessed tea".
This process involves sieving and cutting the tea leaves so that it can be sorted by size and colour. The dried leaves are sorted by grade – only the best leaves are selected for ceremonial grade matcha. These leaves are known as "tencha" which translates as "ground tea".
Finally, the tencha is ground into fine powder in a stone mill. Although most tea today is processed by machines, stone-grinding by hand will take hours to produce several grams of tea, and still a process used today.