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Matcha green tea is steeped in Japanese history, culture, and tradition.
Way of Tea
Centuries ago, Zen Buddhists in Japan made a discovery. They found that the way to inner harmony and spiritual awakening lies through the cup of tea. Not just any tea, though. Their preferred variety was, and continues to be, matcha, the tea used in traditional tea ceremonies. Harmony, respect, purity, tranquility are the principles of the Japanese tea ceremony, “way of tea”.
What is Matcha?
It’s a special, chlorophyll rich green tea with a long list of health benefits. To begin with, the way we consume matcha tea is unique. Matcha consists of finely powdered green tea leaves which are dissolved in water when preparing the tea. What this means is that all the nutrients and minerals are actually delivered to your body, instead of being thrown out once you’ve steeped your tea.
Speaking of nutrients and minerals…
Matcha tea is extremely rich in antioxidants, leaving even pomegranates and blueberries far behind. The tea antioxidants themselves belong to a special type – catechins, that are especially effective in tracking down free radicals from the body. In the holistic community, matcha tea is known to speed up metabolism and fat burning rates, reduce stress, and boost mental concentration with L-theanine. It also gets you a healthy dose of vitamin C.
Why so special?
The key to matcha tea’s unique properties lies in the way it is cultivated. Premium Japanese matcha teas are made of gyokuro tea leaves that are grown in the shade, covered with straw mats. This slows the growth of the tea plants, thus increasing their levels of chlorophyll. Hence the color – the most beautiful shade of green. Slow growth of the tea leaves also allows them to accumulate more antioxidants, amino acids… and flavor.
Grades of Matcha tea
Did you know that it isn’t just premium matcha teas that deserve a special place on your kitchen shelf? Lower grade matchas work great as additives in baked goodies, smoothies, ice-creams, and so on.
Different retailers might use their own classifications of matcha products. However, there are only three traditional grades:
- Ceremonial grade
- Classic, Café, “In-between” grade
- Cooking or Kitchen grade
What you pay for is brighter emerald color, finer powder, and delicately sweet taste with a slightly astringent finish. Only the youngest and most tender leaves are used for high-grade matcha. At approximately half or third of the price you would get a lower grade green tea powder, which is a little more bitter, but actually, has a stronger flavor. It will work better for cooking, baking, and making smoothies, not to mention it is more economical for that purpose. Culinary grade matcha would still make a great cup of tea and it would be perfectly appropriate to mix it with some milk and a bit of sugar. The difference in nutritional value between the grades is really insignificant.
Making the most of matcha tea
Special tea calls for special handling. Never pair matcha tea with boiling water; it can lead to an unpleasant ‘grassy’ taste. Instead, give the boiling water about 5 minutes to cool down before dissolving the powdered tea in it. First, add just a few drops of water to the teaspoon of matcha and mix it into a paste. Then, add more water to the cup.
And just like that, your matcha is ready for you to savor…