Our beloved matcha is a green tea that comes from the camellia sinensis plant, the same plant that all teas come from, that is grown, harvested and produced in a different way from other teas.
Traditionally, Buddhist monks drank matcha to assist in their meditation, as the synergy between matcha’s amino acids and its caffeine content offer a sustained calm alertness. L-theanine, is known to relax the mind which contributes to matcha’s reputation as a mood enhancer. The flavour profile of matcha is dominated by its amino acid profile. These contribute to what is known as the fifth taste, or umami and are characterised by a rich vegetal, astringent taste which blossoms into a lingering sweetness.
The main area of matcha cultivation in Japan is a place called Uji, which sits on the southeast border of the city of Kyoto, the homeland of the traditional Japanese arts. Many matcha connoisseurs consider Uji to have the ultimate terrain for matcha cultivation.
The other distinguished matcha area is in Aichi Prefecture, in a town called Nishio, a historic tea-cultivating region dating back to the12th century. Nishio has an ideal terrain for matcha: it is elevated, remote, the climate is mild and the soils are fertile.
Matcha preparation starts several weeks before harvest when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight and to slow down the growth of the plant. The highest grade matcha is grown in near-darkness. The decreased light turns the leaves a darker shade of green, producing more of the amino acid theanine and caffeine.
As we consume the entire plant when drinking matcha we are ingesting a much higher dose of antioxidants, polyphenols and chlorophyll.
At harvest, the finest tea buds are picked and laid out flat to dry, causing them to crumble. They are then de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to produce the fine, bright green powder we have come to love. The grinding process is slow. The stones must stay at a moderate temperature in order to preserve the flavour of the leaves (it can take up to an hour to grind 30grams of matcha powder). This is one of the reasons premium grade matcha is so expensive. It is from this grinding process that matcha derives its name which literally translates as ground tea.
Matcha is one of the key functional ingredients in in our brand new coconut PLANTMILK range. Launching on 5 September across Waitrose stores nationwide. Pop into the chiller and pick one up or read more about it on our website.