What is matcha?
Matcha is a special variant of green tea that uses the leaves from the Carmellia sinensis plant. Matcha uses hand picked leaves that have been shade grown in the last 3 weeks of their growth which are then ground down into a fine powder.
By shading the leaves from the sun, the leaves become high in chlorophyll which leads to their vibrant green colour.
Matcha has been tied to many Asian cultures and traditions and has created an entire art form behind the Japanese tea ceremony.
Matcha exists in varying qualities and the most premium matcha can fetch extreme prices in Japan. The quality of the matcha is affected by the soil conditions, the amount of sunlight the plant sees as well the grinding methods.
High quality matcha is very green in colour and has almost no bitterness to its taste.
“High quality matcha is very green in colour and has almost no bitterness to its taste.“
The history of matcha
It is believed that a Japanese Buddhist, Eisai Myoan, travelled to China around 1191 A.D., and became intrigued with both Zen Buddhism and green tea.
Upon his return, he introduced both to the Japanese society with an enthusiasm that quickly caught on with the elite high-class samurai. Eisai planted the green tea seeds on the temple grounds and is considered to be the first person to grind the seeds into a fine powder to consume as a tea.
Matcha was thought to elevate one’s status in society so became a highly sought after commodity, and was extensively studied and eventually grown near the Kyoto area. Tea masters developed the drinking of matcha into a highly formalised and choreographed ritual, embodying the simplicity and discipline of Zen Buddhism and thus inextricably linking matcha and zen.
Eventually the matcha tea obsession trickled down into ordinary society, where the tea ceremony became a fundamental part of Japanese culture and history.
“…the tea ceremony became a fundamental part of Japanese culture and history.“
“Chado- meaning ‘the way of the tea’…”
Chado- meaning ‘the way of the tea’ is traditionally a spiritual experience, and intricately bounds the concept of zen and matcha.
Chado celebrates the simple way of life, of being present in the moment, which is why it is often used for achieving a meditative state. However, matcha these days can be enjoyable anywhere, anytime, whether it’s for breakfast, before or after a yoga or meditation practice, or as mid afternoon pick me up (without the crash or sleeplessness often caused by coffee).
The tea ceremony
The tea ceremony is a complex and detailed event, therefore we have simplified the practise into 6 steps.
Preparation for the ceremony
- Host chooses the appropriate utensils used in the ceremony (whisk, bowl, spoon, matcha tea)
- Host cleans the room where the ceremony takes place, including changing the mats used in traditional Japanese homes (host and guests sit on the floor)
Arrival of guests
- Guests wait to be received by the host. Shoes are removed and hands are washed thoroughly as a sign of purification
- When the host is ready to receive them, they must enter the tea room via a small door, which forces them to bow, another signal of respect to the host
Cleaning the utensils
- cleaning of the utensils occurs in front of the guests with slow, deliberate and graceful moves This is all done in silence which heightens the experience of the ceremony
Preparation of matcha
- Approximately 2-3 scoops of matcha tea is placed in the matcha bowl. Hot water is added via ladle and whisked into a thin liquid
Matcha is served!
- The host will present the prepared tea to the first (and usually most important!) guest before bowing to one another
- The bowl is rotated and admired by the guests in a clockwise fashion before they take a sip
- After wiping the rim, the first guest passes the bowl to the guest next to them and the process is repeated until all guests have drunk from the bowl
- Small Japanese sweets are usually present, which complement the taste of the matcha
- The host takes the last sip before cleaning and rinsing all the utensils