Matcha is a powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha is also used as a green food dye (such as for Japanese noodles such as mochi and soba). It is also used to prepare green tea icecream.
Matcha is also known as Maccha. The name literally translates as "rubbed tea", in reference to the grounding method used to create its appearance.
Matcha has a sweet taste and has a bright green, talc-like, powder appearance.
History of Matcha
Powdered tea was first invented in China during the Song dynasty (960-1276). It became a sacrament in Chan Buddhism, which was later imported to Japan and became Zen. When Chan Buddhism was imported into Japan, powdered tea was also imported into the country.
In the 16th century, tea master Sen no Rikyu formulated the rules of Japanese tea ceremony which incorporated the use of Matcha. By this time, powdered tea had been forgotten in China.
Processing of Matcha
Unlike most tea, the processing of Match begins several weeks before harvesting. Before harvesting, the tea plants are shielded from direct sunlight. This causes the leaves to turn a darker shade of green, and results in a sweeter-tasting tea.
After harvesting, the leaves are dried using either one of two methods, and the resultant tea is labeled differently. Tea leaves that have been rolled out before drying are called gyokuro tea. Tea leaves that have been laid flat to dry are called tencha.
It is through tencha that Matcha is made: Matcha is made from tencha that has been stone grounded into powder.
Serving of Matcha
Matcha is served in the Japanese tea ceremony, with a complex set of rules. However, Matcha is not solely confined to the Japanese tea ceremony and can be served using a simpler method.
The basic method is to place a small amount of Matcha into a tea bowl, followed by warm water that has not reached boiling point. The water and tea is then whisked, traditionally using a whisk made from bamboo.
A strong-tasting Matcha is known as koicha, while a mild-tasting Matcha is known as usucha.