Not all matcha green tea is created equally. As with almost everything in life, you get what you pay for and it pays to do your research if want to achieve the very best benefits and results from your consumption of matcha green tea.
Today, we de-mystify the process which goes into the tins of matcha green tea becuase its fascinating. At the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the factors which are important to produce our high-quality, organic grade matcha tea. It also means you will know what you’re looking for from your matcha tea.
The shading process – boost nutrients & flavour
Prior to being harvested, true matcha green tea leaves are ‘shaded’ for at least 20 days. Preparation for shading matcha green tea leaves begins in spring. This means covering the tea leaves in order to reduce the amount of sunlight they receive. This boosts the production of chlorophyll, thereby giving the tea its iconic bright green colour. It also enhances the L-theanine content and preserves the caffeine levels of matcha green tea leaves. The combination of these two agents is responsible for many of the benefits of matcha green tea such as focus and a calm sense of alertness; so-called ‘zenergy’. In contrast, too much sunlight increases the catechins in the leaves, resulting in an unpleasant bitter and astringent taste. High-quality matcha green tea powder should have a mildly sweet and creamy taste.
The harvesting process – protect the nutrients
As we enter May, the tea harvest begins; almost two weeks later than the harvest of ‘sencha’ (unshaded green tea leaves), which can begin as early as mid-April. The process of hand-picking the leaves ensures that only the best quality tea leaves make it into the final product. Although there is no limit to the number of times a year that matcha tea can be harvested, the first harvest of spring yields the finest matcha green tea powder which is reserved for traditional Japanese ceremonies.
Initial processing – maintain vibrant green colour
Once the matcha green tea leaves make their way from the fields to the processing facility, the process of halting oxidation begins. The newly hand-picked leaves are first subjected to some seconds of steaming. Steaming is a traditional Japanese technique and its brief execution amplifies the brightness of the tea leaves. The leaves are then blow-dried in order to reduce their moisture content. Subsequent to this, the leaves are sent through an oven and it is at this point that almost all of their water content evaporates and the oxidation process is ended once and for all. Finally, the dried leaves (referred to as ‘aracha’) are packaged and refrigerated until they are put to use.
The refining process – vibrant green and fresh smell
Once the leaves are ready for final processing, they are removed from refrigeration and both de-stemmed and de-veined until only the soft tissue of the leaf remains. Sub-grade or counterfeit green tea would skip this process entirely resulting in yellow and brown colour tones plus a bitterness. In contrast, for our high-quality powdered green tea, a special piece of equipment called an ‘electrostatic separator’, is used to remove any stray straw or unwanted parts of the leaf from the batches produced for consumers. The final product, called ‘tencha’ is what is then ground into the bright green powder seen on many urban high streets today.
Grinding the leaves – maintain all the powerful nutrients
There is an art to the process of grinding which gives each brand of matcha green tea its unique flavour profile. The room in which grind masters grind the produce, must be humidity, temperature and light-controlled lest the colour or flavour of the matcha powder be impaired. High-grade matcha also calls for high-quality grinding equipment. A quality stone mill should be used to grind the top grade of tea leaves as this influences the flavour profile of the tea powder and protects the nutrients from heat. Once ground, the fine powder is then packaged, ready for consumer consumption.
This is a brief overview of how matcha tea is made. There are so many deviations and corners that can be cut to reduce the price of Matcha Tea but every time a corner is cut so is the nutritional profile and taste. You really do get what you pay for! You can purchase our fine selection of green tea powders in our online store here.