What is Matcha
Matcha is green tea leaves ground into powder form. Green tea leaves used to make matcha is Tencha. Tencha is a Japanese green tea which grown in a shaded farm just like Gyokuro (Gyokuro is the highest grade tea in Japanese Green tea). The post processing of Tencha is very similar to Gyokuro, except Tencha has no rolling process since it has to be ground to make matcha. Tencha in Japanese actually mean "ground tea" because in general Tencha is only used to make matcha.
International standard do not allow the use of the word "Matcha" if it's not made from Tencha. For green tea powder made with tea leaves other than Tencha, it should be labelled as "Green Tea Powder" instead of "Matcha".
On the other hand, matcha has much tighter quality requirement compare to normal green tea powder. Only green tea powder meeting criteria below can be called matcha
- High quality tea leaves (Tencha) - Only high amino acid, protein, chlorophyll and low caffeine Tencha tea leaves are used to make matcha. Tencha growing method is similar to Gyokuro (Japanese finest tea), it has high umami and low astringency (bitterness)
- Plucking time - In order to produce the best matcha, only first flush tea ( tea leaves pluck during April - May (~around 50 days)) are used. First flush tea also known as Ichibancha. There are many cheaper matcha in the market produced from second flush (nibancha), which is low quality and has high bitterness.
- Tea cultivar - Normally matcha is made with tea trees with pure cultivar (not mixed with other cultivar)
- Matcha ground with stone mill into fine powder, green tea powder ground with machine.
In most cases, there are 4 ways to differentiate between high grade and low grade matcha.
- Color : Higher grade matcha has greener color
- Fineness : Higher grade matcha powder is finer. Normally matcha with 1000 mesh and above is consider a good matcha
- Aroma : High grade matcha has a mellow and smooth aroma
- Taste : High grade matcha has more sweetness. The highest grade matcha does not have the bitterness found in ordinary matcha.
Matcha has already became part of Japanese daily life. Japanese consume average 1.1KG matcha per person per year. Japanese is known to have the longest life expectancy in the world, it's credited to matcha because of its health benefits.
Read about Matcha Misconceptions.