Matcha is a form of tea which has been drunk in Japan for more than 800 years. It was originally used as a Chinese medicine and became a drink in the age of the samurai. The matcha was considered very luxurious and important, which was drunk by the shoguns and aristocrats. Recently matcha has been gaining popularity in many other countries as well as becoming more versatile in its usage.
Matcha was begun to consume in Japan in 12th century, the person who popularized its used is the zen Buddhist master Eisai. He brought tea cultivation methods from china, he wrote a book which showing its medical uses. In the 16th century, Sen no Rikyu developed the tea ceremony, which is known today. Teas are also named to give them identity of where they are picked, how the landscape of the tea is grown etc.
The matcha leaves come from the same bushes of tea that is used in Indian as well as Chinese teas. The difference is the process after the harvest that the leaves go through which give teas their different flavor. Indian tea leaves are fermented and dried out or roasted for a long time before use, Chinese tea (oolong tea) the leaves are partially dried and fermented. The Japanese tea is freshly steamed to avoid the fermentation, which is why it is very herby and bitter. The matcha uses the first buds that grow early in the year, The leaves are then processed – steamed – cooled – removed of moisture- dried in an oven – sorted- filtered – roasted/stored. Japanese drink a lot of variety of tea like Houji cha, sencha.
The matcha, used for tea ceremony is harvested in May stored through the summer and is grinded into a powder in November. The way it is prepared also varies from regular tea. Houjicha, sencha use hot water infused with the leaves where the leaves are not directly consumed, whereas matcha is leaves grinded into a powder and is prepared using a special whisk called (). The powder needs to be dissolved in the water or it forms lumps. Matcha is always accompanied with traditional Japanese sweets as it is very bitter.
A cha shi, is a person who specializes in blending varieties of tea. They analyze the color, smell, age of the leaves, to create a balance of bitterness.
Now a days, you can find matcha in desserts and food. You can find match flavored ice-creams, cakes, cheesecakes, parfaits and soba noodles. The flavor goes well with diary, hence it goes well with both Japanese and western desserts.
The cultivation, production and naming of tea has been cultivated over the years and it has become a quintessential part of the Japanese culture. The long tradition of matcha is being incorporated into the new generation of sweets and food as times change.