WHAT IS MATCHA?
Matcha, before reaching its fine powder state, starts off as tencha. This is the "matcha plant". Tencha is part of the family of green teas, but is grown in different conditions in order to make matcha green tea.
GROWN UNDER SHADE
As the growing season advances, tea farmers will progressively start protecting the tea bushes from direct sunlight. Production of matcha requires a wire frame to be installed over sections of bushes and the farmers add layers bamboo and nets over the frame to eventually allow only 10 – 20 % of direct sunlight. Although most of the sun is blocked, rain still filters through and the structure keeps a good level of humidity.
A second method, called jikagise, and consists of wrapping tencha bushes with cloths, essentially producing the same effect as the first technique.
In either scenario, the purpose of having tea growing protected from the sun is to reduce the photosynthesis process.This has numerous effects on matcha tea. First of all, it creates a mellower taste, as the reduction of photosynthesis reduces astringency, the sharp and bitter taste of matcha tea. This makes for a more delicate and sweet tea, from which a unique personality can arise. The process of shade growing also increases the concentration of the L-Theanine, a chemical compound which is known increases calm awareness and focus. This si a crucial component of how matcha powder is made.
HOW TO MAKE MATCHA INTO POWDER
When ripe, tencha leaves are handpicked steamed and air dried. Unlike other tea leaves, they are kept flat so that stems and veins can be removed. At that point, the leaves get stone grounded, an ancient technique kept alive for the most refined tea. The matcha is now ready to be brewed!