Matcha Green Tea
Green tea is considered to be one of the healthiest beverages today. There are so many benefits that green tea offers, that a number of people around the world are replacing their morning cup of coffee or tea with a cup of hot green tea. Today, there are a number of varieties of green tea, made of flavors that suit the tastes of people from all corners of the world. You may have heard of several types, like Earl Grey green tea, lemon green tea, mint tea, fruit-flavored green tea and even flower-based green tea, that offer various benefits. One of the most popular varieties of green tea in the east is Matcha green tea, which is made from specially harvested tea plants in Japan. Also known as fine powder tea, Matcha green tea offers many benefits including a high energy boost and improvement in mental focus. The tea has a stronger flavor when compared to other green teas because of the fineness of the tea powder.
Matcha is a special type of green tea that is harvested using traditional techniques in Japan. The fine tea powder, which is used for more than just making a beverage, was first prepared way back during the Tang Dynasty rule in China. Back then, tea leaves were steamed and made into bricks for trade. The resultant tea powder was concocted using hot water and salt. Tea preparation using fine tea powder first began during the Song dynasty. At that time, tea leaves were first steamed and then powdered to prepare a beverage. The powdered tea was whipped in a glass of hot or warm water to prepare tea. The process of pulverizing tea leaves and the exact method of preparing tea with tea powder has also been described in the ancient texts of the Chan monastic codes. Matcha tea harvesting and brewing process was brought from China to Japan in 1911, by a monk named Eisai, who also brought the practices of Zen Buddhism into the country. Although it was in China that the origins of Matcha tea are found, the tea has not been as popular as it became in Japan. However, with the resurgence of this specialty tea around the world, China also saw a growth in demand for the Matcha green tea.
The literal term "Matcha" means fine, powdered tea. While the roots of Matcha tea may have been laid in China, the Matcha green tea that we use today originated in Japan. There is also a traditional ritual for harvesting and also preparing the Matcha green tea in Japan. Here is an overview of how the Matcha green tea plant is harvested and how the tea is prepared to extract maximum benefits from the tea leaf. Matcha green tea is made from leaves of tea plants that are grown in shady areas of land. The preparation of this tea starts way before harvesting of the tea plants, by covering the tea leaves to prevent direct contact from sunlight. This is done by setting up shades or simply covering the leaves on the tea plant with a cloth or other light material. This results in slowing the growth process, while also boosting the chlorophyll levels in the plant. The higher the chlorophyll level, the higher is the production of amino acids in the plant. The Matcha tea plant is especially rich in L-Theanine, a particular amino acid found in green tea. Tea plantation workers growing the Matcha are trained to pick the finest tea buds for harvesting. After that, the leaves are rolled out as usually done in production of any other kind of tea. The leaves are dried out, and the result is jade tea or gyokuro. The dried leaves, known as sencha, are de-stemmed and de-veined after which the sencha is ground into a fine powder. The process of turning the dried sencha into fine Matcha can take quite a long time. It can take as much as an hour to grind 30 grams of Matcha, which gets its strong flavor from the amino acids that it is rich in. High grade Matcha green tea has a stronger and sweeter taste than the standard Matcha tea which is harvested later in the year. The grade of the Matcha is determined by several factors like where the Matcha tea bush is located or planted, the kind of equipment used for grinding the fine tea powder, oxidation and the treatment of the Matcha leaves before they are processed.
For a long time, Matcha has been in the center of most Japanese tea ceremonies. For more than a century now, this green tea preparation has also been linked with Zen meditation and has become popular mostly because of that. The preparation method that is used by Zen Buddhist monks is a slow and disciplined process that allows you to slow down and be in the moment. The process makes it possible for you to be mindful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that allows you to calm down and also helps you reduce the levels of stress-inducing hormone called cortisol. Cortisol also decreases belly fat, which is why the intake of Matcha tea can help in weight loss in a quick and healthy way. Just as the traditional harvesting and tea grinding process should have the right equipment, the traditional preparation of the Matcha should also have the right equipment - which includes a whisk, a bowl and a spoon. The required amount of Matcha is placed in a bowl, using a traditional bamboo scoop, and mixed with the necessary amount of hot water. The concoction is whisked into a smooth liquid without any lumps or any ground tea powder to the sides of the bowl. The beverage can be bitter than most other green teas, which is why it is usually served with a dessert called the wagashi sweet, which you are supposed to eat before consuming the tea. Matcha tea, like all other green teas, is consumed without any milk.
Around 40 grams of Matcha green tea can be used to make 20 cups or bowls of usucha, which is a form of thin green tea, or 10 bowls of koicha, which is a form of thick Matcha tea. Usucha is a thin liquid which is prepared using just 1.75 gms of Matcha and around 75 ml of water per serving. This beverage can be whisked to form froth or simply stirred with a spoon, depending on the drinkers' preference. The method of preparation can also differ from one culture and school of tea preparation to another. The Usucha is a light and thin beverage, but more bitter than the koicha, which is a thicker form of the tea. The koicha is made by mixing more Matcha, around 3.75 grams with only 40 ml of water, to form a thick, milkshake like beverage, except that it is bitter and not sweet. In simpler words, the amount of powder used to prepare the koicha should be doubled and the water must be half that is used in preparing the usucha. This form of Matcha green tea is not served with froth formed by whisking. The ingredients are simply stirred with a spoon and mixed before serving. The taste of the Matcha tea may differ based on the grade of the tea. Some might find it extremely bitter while others find that it has a spinach or grass-like taste to it. Note that you will find different varieties of Matcha, some in the form of powdered mixes, which can include sugar and or other sweeteners. Matcha in its original form can also be incorporated into your regular meals, desserts and other dishes for health benefits. But for maximum benefits, it is best consumed as a beverage.
All forms of green tea are rich in antioxidants. The Matcha green tea especially is rich in amino acids which give it a unique flavor. Also, Matcha is made of high quality tea leaves which are completely ingested due to the fineness of the tea powder, making it much better and healthier than most other forms of green teas. The tea has high quantities of an antioxidant called the polyphenols, which have been proven effective in reducing the risk of major illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Polyphenols also help in blood sugar regulation, reduction or control of blood pressure and also in anti-aging. The tea also boosts metabolism, like most other green teas, which makes it a great beverage that people trying to lose weight should consider. As the leaves of the Matcha green tea are completely ground, the tea contains three times more caffeine than other green teas. However, most people who drink Matcha say that rather than the kick or buzz that caffeine usually gives, Matcha makes them alert while keeping them calm at the same time.