Matcha is a form of powdered green tea that is used as much for a flavouring in confectionery as it is for drinking. Tea leaves intended for matcha production are left to grow in the shade for three or four weeks prior to harvest. This causes the plant to produce more caffeine and theanine, giving its unique flavour and vibrant green colour. Unlike other forms of tea, matcha is not steeped in hot water, but suspended in either water or milk, depending on the preference of the consumer.
The whole of the powder is mixed with hot water to create the tea, unlike other teas where the leaves are simply steeped then removed. Because you are drinking and consuming the whole leaf, it's thought to provide more health benefits than standard green tea.
You will now find the taste and the colour is so revered, that many chefs and food companies are using it in baking and confectionary, such as mochi, cheesecake and even ice cream.
Matcha is almost exclusively used as the tea of choice in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.ISHIDA TEA TIN, PINK FLORAL DESIGN SAIKAI BROWN TEAPOT
Matcha tea making isn't as simple as boiling a kettle in most instances - matcha is often used in tea ceremony, and thus more care is taken over it's preparation. You can prepare it in two ways; thick, or thin. Thick tea uses a lot more powder in ratio to water.
Matcha preparation begins with a small sieve which is used to ensure there are no clumps in the powder that would be difficult to mix. Traditionally, the Japanese use a wooden spatula to force it through the sieve, so it is very fine.
In Japanese tea ceremony, the finely sieved powder is presented in a beautiful caddy at the table, from which the host will take a small spoonful from, using a 'chashaku' scoop. Water which is cooler than boiling (around 75C) is then poured onto the matcha.
But don't use a teaspoon to mix it! Traditionally matcha is mixed into water using a bamboo whisk, which helps ensure the powder has combined well.
Traditionally, matcha tea is served with wagashi, which are small, often beautifully crafted sweets.
Preparation of the matcha plant begins long before harvest. The plants are covered to prevent direct sunlight, which forces them to produce a lot more chlorophyll, turning the leaves a very dark shade of green. Matcha is so expensive because the process is labour rich - once dried and carefully de-veined, the leaves are ground to a talc-fine consistency, and grinding 30g of matcha may take up to an hour!
Matcha is graded on the time of harvest, the quality of the tea leaves picked, the colour (which indicates good drying), the grinding and the oxidisation. Once oxidised it loses it's colour and obtains a hay-like smell.
In Japan, there is an annual contest called the "Kariya Matcha Ice Cream Grand Prix" where local ice cream makers compete to create the best matcha-flavored ice cream!
Tobaya is a Japanese vinegar producer that has been in business for over 300 years. They use traditional methods to produce their vinegars, using only the highest quality ingredients and carefully controlling the fermentation process to ensure the best flavour and quality.