Matcha is a delicious and healthy drink from Japan that’s taken the world by storm. Instead of tea leaves, matcha is always in powdered form, and its bright green colour might be a bit shocking to first-timers. There are in fact no additives or food colouring in pure matcha, it is made entirely from green tea leaves, ground so fine that they don’t resemble tea leaves at all. In this article, we explore how matcha is made, from how it's grown to how it becomes the powder we all can’t get enough of.
Growing the Best Matcha
This may be a little-known fact, but every single tea, whether black, white, oolong, or green, are all harvested from the same plant- the camellia sinensis, or the tea plant. The main difference comes from the processing methods, though how the shrubs are grown can influence the taste of the end product.
What sets matcha apart from other teas is that matcha is always grown in the shade. Soon after the first sprouts emerge, overhead shades are set up to keep the shrubs covered so that they’re not exposed to direct sunlight. This method of growing subdues photosynthesis, and the tea leaves are a darker green colour as a result. Another product of this growing method is a milder taste compared to leaves grown under the sun.
After harvesting, all tea leaves used to make green tea, including matcha, go through a critical process. The tea leaves are steamed as soon as possible after they are picked, which stops them from oxidising and helps the leaves retain their green colour.
Next, the leaves are dried in a variety of ways. Typically, tea leaves are twisted and rolled, but because matcha must be ground into powder, a machine blows and air dries the the leaves so that they remain flat.
Then, the dried tea leaves are put through another machine that removes the hard stems and veins from the leaves, allowing for easy grinding and produces high-quality matcha free from impurities.
The very last step is of course turning the leaves into powder. Traditionally, the leaves are put through a stone mill and manually ground, but nowadays, machines optimise the process. Matcha must be very fine, and different methods of grinding can give different results. Stone milled matcha is often considered higher grade, as it is a more time consuming process that produces finer powder.
Is Matcha Worth Your Money?
The process of making matcha is longer and more complicated than that of regular green tea, and it’s why matcha is generally more expensive too. You could be paying premium prices for a good stone-milled matcha made from first-harvest spring sprouts, but is there a good reason to splurge?
Taste is of course a huge factor, higher quality matcha generally means better taste, but there’s also the health benefits and versatility of matcha. Because you’re consuming the tea leaf itself when you drink matcha, you can expect more health benefits as opposed to brewed green tea. And you if you like to experiment in the kitchen, you can add matcha to anything from desserts to noodles. Is matcha worth it? We definitely think so!