Matcha is the finely ground powder of shade-grown and hand-picked Japanese green tea leaves. It has been celebrated in the artistic and Zen-inspired Japanese tea ceremony for hundreds of years and is considered the highest quality of tea available in Japan.
Introduced in the 12th century by Buddhist monks returning from China, Matcha was the first type of tea consumed in Japan. The Uji region of Kyoto Prefecture is considered the birthplace of Matcha, as the first tea plants brought back from China were transplanted to this area. Today, Uji is renowned for producing the best-quality Matcha in Japan.
Matcha's distinctive rich flavor and bright green color is a result of its unique processing method. The young spring tea leaves are shaded with special reed and straw screens for more than 20 days prior to harvest to reduce exposure to the sun. Shading stimulates the tea leaves to produce more chlorophyll, giving Matcha its vibrant green color. Shading also changes the taste and aroma of Matcha. It enhances the production of L-theanine and other amino acids which contribute to Matcha's umami sweetness with little to no bitterness and its invigorating energy. Studies have shown that L-theanine helps improve cognitive function, increase focus, and relieve stress. Due to the high levels of L-theanine, the caffeine in Matcha is moderated to provide a state of relaxed alertness.
After picking, the leaves are steamed and dried and then the stalks and veins are removed so that the tea can be easily ground to a fine powder. This produces Tencha, which is then stone-ground into Matcha.