What is Matcha tea? And how can it benefit my health?

by Steven Popec 25. September 2012 11:27

You may have heard of ‘matcha’ tea. In fact, matcha comes in a variety of products. There’s matcha ice cream, matcha cupcakes, and matcha noodles. Matcha is found all over the grocery store, and many people have no idea what it is.

Basically, matcha is finely powdered green tea. Normally, green tea consists of a blend of fresh tea leaves. As opposed to other types of tea, which have been left to ferment, dry, and curl up, green tea is usually left unfermented. When green tea is ground into a fine powder, it retains its natural green coloring, giving it a unique appearance and natural food dyeing properties. Matcha has also been linked to a range of health benefits.

Creating matcha

The Japanese word for matcha means ‘fine powder tea’, and that is exactly what matcha is. Matcha is made from tea bushes that are ‘shaded’. 20 days before being harvested, tea plants are covered in order to prevent exposure to sunlight. This stunts growth of the tea and causes the shades to turn a deep, leafy shade of green. In terms of health benefits, shading the tea also stimulates the production of amino acids. Interestingly enough, these amino acids also contribute flavor to the matcha.

After being harvested, the leaves are laid out flat in order to dry. This causes parts of the leaf to crumble. The veins and stems of the leaves are then removed. Finally, the remainder of the leaf is ground into matcha powder.

In the past, creating matcha was a very labor-intensive process. If the tea producer made an error while grinding the tea, it could become ‘burnt’, in which case the matcha was declared to be of an inferior level of quality. Today, most matcha production is performed by machines. 

Uses for matcha

Today, matcha is used in a variety of food products. It plays a particularly important role in Japanese tea culture. It’s also used to make all of the following food products:

-Matcha chocolates

-Matcha tempura

-Green tea ice cream

-Matcha cookies

-Matcha milk

-Matcha rice

Matcha is even used in Green Tea Lattes from Starbucks, which shows that it’s popular in both Japan and other parts of the world.

Health benefits of matcha

Most people know green tea is a healthy beverage. Like green tea, matcha has been linked to a number of different health benefits. However, since matcha tea is ingested (as opposed to regular green tea just being steeped in green tea leaves), its health benefits are often magnified.

Here are a few of matcha’s most popular health benefits:

-Increases antioxidant EGCG

-Boosts metabolism

-Lowers cholesterol

-High in antioxidants

-Mental health benefits.

Because of these health benefits, you can find matcha tea in health products like cereals and energy bars.

What’s The Story Behind Japanese Tea?

by Steven Popec 10. September 2012 01:11

Many Asian countries produce loose leaf tea. However, Japan is one tea-producing country that you don’t hear a lot about. Much of the attention is focused on Indian, Chinese, and Sri Lankan teas.

This has given Japan plenty of time to quietly refine the quality of its tea. While Japanese green tea might not be as well-known as the tea of its neighbors, teas like Genmaicha, Bancha, and Sencha remain popular to this day. In fact, Japan has developed a rich tea culture for hundreds of years, and today, ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ plays an important role at social events.

The history of Japanese tea

Tea has not always been grown in Japan. Unlike other parts of Asia, tea does not grow naturally in Japan, which means that the original seeds had to be imported. This didn’t occur until the 9th century, when Japanese explorers began traveling to and from neighboring China to learn about its culture. After these travelers discovered how important tea was to the Chinese, they decided to bring it back to the islands of Japan. 

Tea grew in popularity in Japan from that point forward. Japanese travelers to China continued to bring back different varieties of tea over the next few centuries, and Japanese priests were particularly interested in the beverage due to its healing properties. In fact, some of the most frequent tea drinkers in Japan during this period were priests.

Just how important was tea to Japanese health? One of the oldest tea specialty books in the world was written in Japan in 1211. It was called Kissa Yojoki, which means “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” in Japanese. That book begins by stating “tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” This is quite the spectacular endorsement, and the beverage continued to grow in popularity among all classes in Japan.

Modern Japanese tea

All different types of tea are produced in Japan. However, certain types of tea – like green tea – are particularly popular. The Japanese make several different varieties of green tea, including the popular Japan Sencha green tea.

In the past, Japanese tea was rolled, dried, and steamed by hand. Today, that is no longer the case. Except for the most expensive tea blends, all Japanese tea is produced by automation. However, due to the quality of Japanese manufacturing, automating tea production actually improved its quality as opposed to taking away from it.

Japanese tea ceremony

For hundreds of years, the Japanese have made tea an important part of their culture. ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ is an important part of welcoming guests into the home, and tea must be prepared and presented in a certain way. In more formal settings, hosts are judged by the artistry of the tea ceremony. Zen Buddhists played a key role in bringing tea ceremonies into Japan, as certain types of tea – like matcha and sencha - are important to the Zen Buddhism religion.

ESP Emporium has several popular Japanese tea blends from which to choose, including the Cherry Green Tea Blend and Bancha Green Tea. Whatever your tastes may be, Japanese tea has been refined over hundreds of years, leading to the quality flavor and rich history we know today.

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