Matcha is a type of the Japanese Green Tea, ground into a fine powder and used in a Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Matcha, Oolong Tea, and Black Tea, although there are several kinds of Tea when divided according to processing methods, they all are made from the same tea leaves. Tea (Camellia sinensis) is an evergreen tree plant, belong to Camellia genus in Theacea family.
There are different systems of tea classification in China and Japan. Chinese tea is basically divided into six groups: Lucha (Green Tea), Huangcha (Yellow Tea), Heicha (Black Colored Tea), Baicha (White Tea), Qingcha (Blue Tea) and Hongcha (Black Tea). On the base of method of processing Japanese system classifies tea to three groups: Non-Fermented Tea, Semi-Fermented Tea and Fermented Tea.
The critical aspect is the way of activation of oxidizing enzymes (e.g. polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase) contained in the leaves. During fermentation procedure, oxidizing enzymes become active, result in changing the color of tea from green to brown.
Green Tea, non-fermented tea, is manufactured by the following procedures. After being plucked, fresh leaves of tea immediately treated with high temperature (100 degrees C in the steam method or 300-350 degrees C in the pan-fired method) in the factory in order to inactivation of oxidizing enzymes of leaves. The color is undoubtedly green as its name, because inactivated enzymes do not break down the chlorophyll.
In the first step of processing of Semi-Fermented Tea or Fermented Tea, the leaves are withered, rolled, and incubated for 5 to 20 hours without applying high temperature. During this step, so called fermentation process, oxidizing enzymes are especially active and change tannin and other substances in raw leaves to the oxidized forms. As a result, the color of the leaves become typically brown or red and their taste and aroma enhanced.
In Japan, Green Tea (Non-Fermented Tea) is further classified into several varieties by cultivation method and processing method.
Matcha tealeaves are called Tencha before being ground into powder, and are brought up under reed blinds of straw (recently, artificial fiber cloth such as cheesecloth has come into use) to shade them from the sun for several weeks during the last stage of cultivation. Tea leaves are dried without rolling for grinding.
Although most Japanese Teas are made from tea leaves grown in tea fields with plenty of sunlight (Open-Air Tea Field), Matcha (Tencha) tealeaves are grown in the Shading Tea Field. Why?
Open-Air Tea Field
Shaded Tea Field
The Answer is the secret palatability of Matcha.
Theanine, a flavor-enhancing element contained in green tea, is produced in the roots and moves into the leaves. Amino acids in this element, which produce mellowness, transform into an astringency element, catechins, when exposed to sunlight.
Because of this, Matcha (Tencha) leaves have a rich mellow taste compared with the Teas grown in Open-Air Tea Fields.
Right after the tealeaves are plucked, they are steamed evenly to stop the oxidation process and to remove the grassy smell while maintaining a rich green color, then dried without rolling to make Tencha, and stored.
After going through the refining process, in which Tencha tealeaves are sorted out in uniform shape by cutting, separating, and sorting, and stems, veins, and buds are removed, tealeaves are ground into fine powder to be Matcha.
The first amazing benefit of Matcha is its extremely high antioxidant level, for which all health-conscious people seek from foods such as raw fruits, and green veggies – the highest rated by the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) method.
*units per gram
Secondly, unlike regular steeped green tea, Matcha tea leaves are consumed whole mixed into liquid, or added in other ingredients as they are in very fine powder.
Green Tea tea leaves are an exceptionally great source of not only antioxidants, but also other nutrients such as various vitamins, and minerals, however, over half of the nutrients contained in the tealeaves including Vitamin A, E, Chlorophyll, and Dietary Fiber are water insoluble. Drinking Matcha means you have full benefits of Green Tea by taking both water soluble and insoluble nutrients.
Catechin, Caffein, Amino Acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Fluorine, Flavonol, Complex Polysaccharide, Organic Acid, Saponin, Water-soluble Pectin, and etc.
Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Chlorophyll, Lipid, Essence, and etc.
Minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc), Protein, Dietary Fiber, and etc.
Nutritional Comparison between Matcha, Sensha (Regular Green Tea) Infusion, and Coffee Infusion
Reference: 5th Revised Edition Food Composition Table
1) Infusion: 10g tealeaves / 430 ml hot water (90 degrees C) / steep 1 min
2) Infusion: 10g ground coffee / 150 ml boiling water
(0): Estimate 0
Tea Catechin, traditionally called Tea Tannin, is the special component of tea leaf with bitter and acerbic taste as well as astringency. The Catechins exist in Green Tea are mainly Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), Epigallocatechin (EGC), Epicatechin Gallate (ECG), Epicatechin (EC).
Based on Scientific Studies, it can;
Amino Acid (L-Theanine)
L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found almost solely in tea plants and the main component responsible for the exotic taste of green tea.
Based on the Scientific Studies, it can;
Chlorophyll is a green pigment that is instrumental in photosynthesis.
Based on the Scientific Studies, it can;
Over 800 years ago a young Buddhist priest by the name Myoan Eisai (1141-1215) left his native Japan on a spiritual journey for greater awareness and knowledge. Eisai returned to Japan with a new found philosophy called “Chan”.
Eisai also brought seeds of the tea plant from China, and presented the Sung style of manufacturing and drinking of ground tea, called “Matcha”.
Using Chan philosophy Myoan Eisai created the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism in Japan and became “Zen Master Eisai”.
The Buddhist monks at the Zen Monasteries soon adopted the drinking of Matcha for its valuable healing properties and focused “Chi” Energy in the quest for Zen meditation and enlightenment.
Master Eisai instructed his highly-talented monk Myoe Shonin to plant the special tea seeds on the grounds of his temple. The name of his temple was Kozanji and lay northwest of Kyoto in the region Toganoo.
Myoe Shonin began with the cultivation of tea in Toganoo, but looked after an area with a more suitable climate. Finally, he found a most sacred place with the perfect climate and soil to grow superior Matcha - Uji. Very soon the fame of the Uji Tea made widespread notice and from that time Uji has been well-known as the Best Tea-Growing Region of the country.
In 1450, Shogun (General) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built a Tea Farm called “Uji Shichimeien (the seven excellent tea gardens in Uji)” later, who also built the famous Zen Temple “Kinkakuji (Golden Temple)”, and it led to the world-famous Uji Tea. In the Age of Provincial Wars, each Shogun (General) enjoyed drinking teas and requested tea masters in Uji to prepare teas, and Uji tea increasingly became valued.
Around this time the technique of covering young tea buds (Shading Tea Field) was begun in Uji, and the quality of the tea was steadily improved through careful processing to date.
In the Momoyama period (1568-1615), probably determined by the aesthetic sense of Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the style of the tea making was defined with Cha-no-Yu or Chado “Tea Way". In the West it is known as the so-called “Tea Ceremony".
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) supported the tea growers of Uji which was continued by the Shoguns (Generals) of the Edo period (1603-1868). Every year a Tea Parade “Chatsubo-Dochu” was performed. Uji Tea was therefore continually supported and promoted by the ruler of the land within the meaning of Tea-Way “Cha-no-Yu”.
In 1738, Nagatani Soen, a tea grower from Uji had the idea to roll the tealeaves to crush the cell walls and thereby facilitating a faster infusion, and developed Sencha, This treatment of the leaves, known as the “Uji method of growth and Sencha manufacturing” has been continued and further developed to this very day.
Towards the end of the Edo period, in 1834, the production of Gyokuro began in Uji. Uji Tea is what people think of when asked what tea they see as the highest grade Japanese tea
The history of Uji, is the history of Japanese Tea.
Matcha quality differs depending on where it is produced, and how it is treated during production process.
Quality Green Tea production area must meet several natural conditions such as:
Uji (Kyoto, Japan) has Uji River around where the ground is fertile, foggy mist during night time, which helps to prevent frost, and humid weather in summer. Tea fields in Uji are on the rolling hills, and well-ventilated with good water drainage ability.
Matcha tea leaves are grown in, so called, the Shading Tea Field. Around 4 weeks before plucking tealeaves, the tea fields are covered from the top with the traditional straw screens or recently artificial fiber cloth to slowly and gradually decrease the amount of sunlight, and hence photosynthesis.
By doing this, tea leaves begin to crank out increasing amounts of both Chlorophyll and Amino Acids (Theanine) that makes Matcha color nice and bright green, and gives its intense “Umami” taste. Tea leaves are handpicked with special care, and processed with traditional method with a long period of history right after they are picked.
The highest quality Matcha tealeaves are only the smallest, youngest, and greenest parts of the plant - the two leaves at the tip of each new shoot, and its taste is not solely sweet, but a distinctive complex taste that is full-bodied, rich, and mature, never chalky, bitter, or bland. This top quality Matcha from the first harvesting days (First Flush) in Japan is used in the Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, in which people enjoy and appreciate its delicate full flavor without masking with any additions.
Depending on the methods of hand-plucking tealeaves, plucking amounts per day (8 hours) per person varies considerably:
Tea leaves get harvested several times throughout the year in Japan, but the First Flush of the year is considered the most delicious and has the most nutrients. Tea-plucking in Japan begins with the spring warmth. During the winter, tea plants store nutrients, and the tender new leaves which sprout in the spring contain concentrated nutrients.
In Uji, only First and Second Flush are harvested, which gives tea trees more time to store the nutrients compared with other tea production areas.
Second Flush tealeaves treated with special care are also bright green color and have natural sweet taste, but compared with First Flush, the color is less vibrant, and have slightly refreshing bitter taste. Usually Matcha from these tea leaves is used for culinary purposes mixing with other ingredients for baking, adding it in smoothies, lattes, and etc., so called “Culinary Grade Matcha”. It is less expensive than “Ceremony Grade Matcha” and easier to have full of Matcha’s health benefits on daily basis.
Our Ujido Matcha is a blend with First and Second Flush so can be tasted with hot water to enjoy its original taste.
If you understand “What decides Matcha quality”, it will be easy for you to know that Low Quality Matcha is made from the tealeaves that are not properly shaded, may be older and/or harvested from lower on the stalk of the plant plucked by cutting machine, or be produced in the region with unfavorable weather and/or soil condition for tea production.
Today there are many Matcha products out in the market for you to choose from, and here we have some points to help you understand how our Ujido Matcha differes from others in quality.
Color is a good indicator in assessing Matcha quality. As High Quality Matcha is properly shade-grown and has plenty of Chlorophyll, its color is really nice vibrant green in powder, and dark deep green in water. The greener its color, the higher the quality is. Low Quality Matcha, by comparison, is dull green, or even yellowish.
Low Quality Matcha
Low Quality Matcha
As conducted a research on Culinary Purpose (Grade) Matcha products in the market, we found many Low Quality Matcha products like as above, however, there were also a few High Quality Matcha products as Culinary Grade.
Even for comparing two High Quality Matcha products, if you look them carefully, you will notice a slight color difference to tell which is higher in quality as in the below pictures.
High Quality Culinary Grade Matcha
High Quality Culinary Grade Matcha
The Higher Quality Matcha, the sweeter and the less bitter it tastes. The Highest Grade (First Flush) Matcha never tastes bitter, and has full-bodied, rich, and mature sweet taste coming from the Amino Acid (L-Theanine) produced in the Shading Tea Field with careful treatment.
Our Ujido Matcha has a perfect combination of sweet and slightly bitter taste. When you get it your mouth around, refreshing slightly bitter taste comes first, and then when it goes through your throat, “Umami” and sweetness come after and remain.
Low Quality Matcha, by comparison, has a strongly unpleasant bitter and astringent flavor that never tastes sweet by lacking L-Theanine.
Matcha can be divided into two major categories: Ceremony Grade Matcha and Culinary (Cooking) Grade Matcha. This does not mean the differences of High Quality and Low Quality Matcha. Culinary (Cooking) Grade Matcha is less expensive and lower in grade compared with Ceremony Grade Matcha.
Ceremony Grade Matcha is made for drinking it straight with hot water using tea whisk just as in the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony to appreciate its full flavor. The price for this grade of Matcha is expensive because of the high costs on its super careful growing and processing.
Culinary (Cooking) Grade Matcha, on the other hand, is usually from Second Flush or a blend with First Flush tealeaves, which has a bit bitter taste. It is made for mixing with other ingredients to enjoy its original pleasant flavor masking its bitterness as well as having full health benefits of Matcha with more reasonable price.
Comparing the color and taste of Organic and Non-Organic Matcha, Organic Matcha has less vibrant green color, and less sweet to taste.
Matcha tealeaves (Tencha tealeaves) are shade-grown to produce the high levels of Chlorophyll and Amino Acids (L-Theanine), that gives Matcha its vibrant green color, and enhances the natural sweetness, however, as Matcha tealeaves do not get energy from the sun, they need to get it from somewhere else, usually fertilizers. The organic fertilizers need over 3 months to take effect and does not give the plants enough energy to develop maximum Chlorophyll and Amino Acid content. As a result, the plants grows, but tealeaves have inferior color, and taste weak and flat.
As the chemical fertilizers work rapidly, allowing the “boost” that the plants need during the most important part of their life under the shade, most of the farmers use them for their Matcha production. This does not mean they are just dumping them into their farms. What they do is using a little of both organic and non-organic ones. They start the year off with using organic ones, and will turn to a minimal amount of non-organic ones at the crucial moments.
Also, the Positive System of Agricultural Chemicals in Japan strictly regulates what types of pesticides can be used, how much can be used, and when they can be used. Farmers are bound by strict regulations to record what was used, when it was used, and how much used, and then submit the reports to the authorities. Furthermore, the tealeaves are tested for chemical residue, and are not allowed in the market if they go even slightly above the safety standard.
Our Matcha is non-organic, however, we are confident it is safe for consumption, and it has been loved by our customers for long, long time.
Matcha contains Caffeine, but also the Amino Acid, L-Theanine, which can work synergistically with caffeine to improve brain function.*1 Because of the L-theanine, Matcha can give you a much milder and different kind of “buzz” than coffee. *2 Many people report having more stable energy and being much more productive when they drink Matcha, compared to coffee.
Matcha is sensitive to heat, humidity, light, and odor from other substances. When exposed to them, it loses its vibrant color and sweet taste so quickly. It is recommended to keep it refrigerated. Once the bag is opened, it should be consumed within a short period because it begins to degrade. After opening the bag, please seal it firmly and keep it in a refrigerator.
When you take the bag out of the fridge, it is recommend to let it warm up to room temperature before opening it in order to avoid condensation.