Matcha is also one of the most popular superfoods on the Paleo market. Not without reason.
1. Short and sweet: What is Matcha?
Matcha is a green tea which is specially grown and processed to the finest powder possible. Either it is poured with hot water in a certain way and enjoyed as a tea, or combined with other foods like ice cream, cake, fruits, milk or similar products.
The word “matcha” originally comes from Japan and means “ground tea”. Mat stands for ground and Cha means tea.
2. Origin and history
Although Matcha is currently known as a “trend product”, it also reflects back upon a centuries-old tradition.
Originally the tea came to life in the epoch of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. From there it became an ideal export product. Between 630 and 838 AD the Japanese Emperor sent delegates to China several times. They were given the task of researching the Tang Dynasty culture. The Japanese people were so enchanted by the Chinese culture that they took over a few elements, including Matcha and the associated tea ceremony. While in China the ceremony fell into oblivion over time, in Japan the ceremony was kept and optimized.
Nowadays Matcha is rather linked with Japan than China. But nevertheless, for some time now the Chinese people have started again to go back and explore its roots. More and more tea manufacturers are trying to revive the cultivation of this traditional variety of tea. Matcha is becoming increasingly internationally popular, although the total volume of sales abroad is still very low. Thus, Japan exports only 4% of its Matcha production.
3. Growth and production
Matcha is known as a very high-quality green tea which is derived exclusively from the leaves of the Tencha plant. But one tea is not like another (or in this case: powder). Both in cultivation and processing, Matcha passes through several different processes which are not very common for “normal” green tea.
Firstly the leaves grow 2 months longer than common tea leaves. Furthermore. the leaves should build as much chlorophyll and polyphenols as possible, as both of these substances have a positive effect on the impact and the matcha taste.
This is best achieved by protecting the leaves from sunlight. In doing so, the tee-plantations are covered with textiles or bamboo mats more than 4 weeks before the harvest. Up to 90% of solar radiation is intercepted, and the leaves can grow another 4 weeks in the shade. After harvesting, the leaves are steamed, dried, seperated from their stalks and leaf barks, and are gently and slowly ground into a jade-green powder. This process is very time-consuming and explains the high production costs of matcha tea.
4. Packaging and storage
The correct storage is very important. You will find the tea in small packages with 20-50 grams, protected from light and air. Even at home you should keep the Matcha away from brightness as it can quickly lose its taste and effects. It is even suggested to keep the powder in the fridge. Thereby you have to pay particular attention to ensuring that the package is completely closed. Otherwise the Matcha will absorb moisture and foreign smells. The best practice is to store it in the original package after opening (only if it’s airproof and protected from light of course). As a general rule a shelf life of more than 12 months can surely be assumed. This is the estimated time Matcha will stay fresh. After opening, a good Matcha tea does not stay fresh longer than at least 3 to 4 weeks. Best-before dates up to 2 years should be regarded more critically.
5. Quality differences
Smell, colour and taste: it is definitely worth taking a look at the quality characteristics of your Matcha. Origin, processing, storage and smell can be already recognized by opening the Matcha package. The best would be to let yourself go to your senses. What do you smell? At best a tangy and yet pleasant green-tea odour. If the Matcha is smelling bad or – in the worst case – penetrating like oil colours, you should change over to another product. Does the Matcha powder have a strong green colour? It should have! The stronger the green colour, the more chlorophyll there is in it. This in turn is important for the special flavour of Matcha, which is characterized by a slightly bitter and sweet taste. Of course there are different preferences amongst consumers, but a good Matcha should never be too bitter.
5. Preparation of Matcha
You can prepare Matcha in many different ways. Traditionally it is served with 80 degree hot water. For the preparation you need a tea bowl and a broom made from bamboo. Before making your drink, it’s helpful to warm up the tea bowl a bit. After that you put 1 g of powder in the tea bowl and infuse it with 10 ml of water. Then you start mixing the Matcha powder with the bamboo broom until it dissolves in the water and a mush develops. This mush will then be filled up with 80 ml of hot water (at 80°C). Subsequently the tea is foamed for 15 seconds with the bamboo broom. In doing so, the typical matcha aroma develops the best. The bamboo broom should follow the letters “W” or “M”. The foaming is just a matter of practice and requires a bit of sensitivity at the beginning. Nevertheless, practice makes perfect, so just be patient.
By the way: The quantities may vary depending on the taste. “Usucha” is drunk very thin. Here it is advisable to use 1 g of powder togehter with 80 ml of water. If you prefer your tea stronger, you can prepare yourself a so called “Koicha“. This is the thicker alternative of Matcha tea. It is made with twice the amount of powder (2 g).
Traditionally Matcha is infused and stirred with hot water. But of course, it is also suitable as an addition in smoothies, cakes or ice cream. There are almost no restrictions on your imagination here.
6. Positive effects of Matcha
It is said that Matcha has umpteen positive characteristics, as anybody who knows and loves Matcha has learnt from experience: It awakens you and allows you to concentrate more easily. Furthermore, it has a pleasant effect on your metabolism. These positive actions are the result of a specific mix of vitamins and minerals, and makes Matcha so special. Amongst other things it contains:
- amino acids
- various vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, C, E, K)
The high amount of vitamin A (beta carotene) which is extremely important for your eyes, skin, mucous membranes and metabolism should definitely be noted. Furthermore, Matcha contains about 10-17 mg per 100 g of powder, one of the richest sources of iron of all food products (of course it depends on the quality the Matcha).
One of the best characteristics of Matcha is the fact that the antioxidants also act as free radical avengers. Nowadays the production of free radicals is increasing due to solar radiation, ultrasound, nicotine, chemicals and the consumption of some food products. It is scientifically proven that free radicals can influence the aging process as well as cancer, circulatory disorders and their secondary diseases. This happens because they can damage the human DNA structure. The consequences of these attacks on human DNA and proteins are from accelerated ageing processes and cell mutations, which can cause tumour formation at the worst.
Particularly relevant for body-conscious people and athletes: Matcha contains catechine which should support muscle building and fat loss, strengthen the immune system, stimulate the metabolism and help prevent sore muscles.
Currently, additional benefits of Matcha are still being scientifically discovered. The many convincing studies on the health-enhancing effects of green tea can also be transferred to Matcha tea. Actually, the amount of beneficial ingredients in Matcha is far higher than that of a normal green tea. this is because Matcha is not a tea infusion, but an extract from fresh tealeaves. This contributes substantially towards the easy absorption of healthy ingredients into the human body.
As you can see, Matcha is an exciting product in many ways: Universally applicable and full of excellent properties for you and your body. Thus, Matcha will contribute to your overall health and well-being.