The popularity of Matcha has been growing at a very tremendous pace. This is evident from the high demand of Matcha tea in western countries. One might tend to think that Matcha is popular in Asian countries but that isn’t the case. Matcha Green Tea originated from China and Japan. Surprisingly, the consumption in these countries has been declining.
Today, this product is more popular in the west because of its health benefits. Most of the health conscious people have been using Matcha Green tea on a regular basis. Besides, Matcha is a very popular ingredient in restaurants and coffee shops. Those who have treated their taste buds with Matcha Tea know its importance and nutritional value. The only issue that does not bother people is the origin and history of Matcha. Once you understand these two factors, you’ll feel more connected to Matcha Tea.
Origin & History
This traditional Green Tea was not discovered recently. It has been in existence since the 11th century when it was only used in China.
Studies show that Matcha was discovered during the Tang Dynasty in China. During this period, the Tang Dynasty used to steam tea leaves and later process them into solid bricks. Processing was a bit easier as it only involved roasting and pulverizing the tea leaves to form a powder. The substance would then be mixed with water and salt to form bricks. The essence of this process was to ease the work of harvesting and transportation.
Although Matcha Tea originated from the Tang Dynasty, it was the ensuing Song Dynasty which made Matcha Tea preparation popular. During the reign of the Song Dynasty, there happened to be a Japanese Buddhist Monk who spent several years studying Buddhism in China. After completing his studies, Eisai carried some tea seeds with him. Besides, he had also mastered the Zen Buddhist methods of preparing powdered tea.
After returning to Japan, Eisai passed the knowledge to one of his students who became obsessed with the cultivation of tea bushes. The student learned how to grow the tea bushes in excellent conditions in order to achieve high-quality yield. During this period, the consumption of powdered tea started to spread in Japan. The product was mostly consumed in Buddhist monasteries and was later embraced by the military elites.
With the increasing demand for powdered tea, production began to expand in order to meet the demands of the consumers. Thanks to the 3rd Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate for allowing more tea gardens to be launched in Kyoto, Uji. Production was not that good and this ruined the quality of the Matcha Tea Fortunately, The quality of the tea leaves improved significantly when they started planting in Taganoo. The area used to provide a conducive environment for growing Tea bushes. For instance, there was a forest that was providing enough shade to the tea bushes.
The producers in Kyoto, Uji had no choice other than to embrace the use of artificial methods in order to match the quality of the tea produced in Taganoo. They had to build roofed structures which could provide enough shade to the tea bushes. Amazingly, Uji producers were able to beat the Taganoo farmers easily and this made their product to be the most favored tea in Japan.
Since the 11th century, Japanese have been consistently preparing the frothy tea drink up to date. Honestly, Japan deserves all the credit for the popularity of Matcha Tea. With time this product fell out of popularity in most parts of Eastern Asia apart from Japan. Mind you, Matcha is a Japanese name which means ground tea.
Traditional Uses Of Matcha Tea
Now that you have learned about the origin and history of Matcha, it is time to know how it was used. During ancient times, Matcha was a rare commodity which was not accessible to every dick and harries. In fact, not everybody was allowed to grow or sell tea bushes.
According to Eisai, Cultivating the tea seeds helped him to develop a strong connection with Buddhism. He used to crush the matured leaves and make a thick earthy tea which would complement a zen experience. In fact, this is how tea rituals in Japan came to be. Matcha tea was mostly used in upper-class social gatherings. The main purpose of the tea ceremonies was to bring people together and celebrate the simple things of life. Monks used to take Matcha tea to enhance alertness and create a good environment for meditation.
Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremonies
As I mentioned earlier, Matcha Tea was commonly used for religious practices only. This explains why it was only available to a few people before it began being used by the common man. The use of Matcha tea shifted from being a religious practice to a transformative practice.
The Ceremonial Use of Matcha Tea was unique because it incorporated the Sabis and Wabis Principles. During tea ceremonies, drinkers had to remember these principles in order to experience a spiritual awakening. Drinkers believed that the tea ceremonies would prepare them for spiritual enlightening.
By the 16th century, Matcha tea was a common beverage in Japan and this led to the creation of a philosophy that would govern tea ceremonies. This philosophy allowed people to respect and treasure each tea meeting. In fact, this simple philosophy resulted in the development of three central elements during tea ceremonies. These include harmony, tranquility, and peace.
Do Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremonies Still exist?
Sure, Matcha Tea Ceremonies are still valued in Japan. What’s more? Locals and tourists can participate in tea ceremonies as opposed to the past when it was only open to a few people. Nowadays, anyone can join any group to gain some insights regarding tea ceremonies. Moreover, schools and colleges in Japan have Tea Clubs that offer the perfect platform for people to learn how ancient tea ceremonies were conducted.
All Tea Clubs have experts who train new students to make some good Matcha tea. Amazingly, the so-called experts are advanced students who have mastered the way of tea just by observing and practicing. The good thing about Tea Clubs is that they teach students even the basic things and rules that should be observed during Matcha Tea Ceremonies. Students graduate to higher levels with time and most importantly, they are awarded certificates. Having gone through these tea cubs, we as the CuppaTea Fraternity have mastered the various levels of tea ceremonies.
Grades of Matcha
Matcha tea has been one of the few refreshing traditional green tea since ancient times. For your information, Matcha is not the ordinary green tea you’ve been using. It features a unique profile of nutrients, smell and character. Unlike traditional tea, Matcha comes in powder form instead of tea bags. Amazingly, Matcha powder is available in a variety of grades. The grades are determined by the ingredients, quality, processing method, texture, exposure to oxygen, and appearance.
- Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Just like the name suggests, this is a grade that was consumed during traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It is characterized by a vibrant green color, fine texture, and delicate taste. Ceremonial grade Matcha is purely made from young tea leaves. The stems and veins are removed and the leaves are stone ground to a very fine powder. This grade is ideal for making thick Matcha Tea. Honestly, Ceremonial grade Matcha has a good taste, therefore, you won’t require additional ingredients or sweeteners. You should definitely try the CuppaTea Ceremonial Matcha Tea to get an idea of how it tastes.
- Culinary Grade
The other major category that is available is the culinary grade. Unlike the Ceremonial grade Matcha, this one can be used for cooking and baking. It also makes some nice flavored tea although it doesn’t match the quality and taste of the Japanese ceremonial Matcha grade. What’s better? You can use it with other ingredients and still achieve a good flavor. Secondly, it can be used to make green tea lattes, as well as Matcha smoothies. The color of the culinary-grade is not as vibrant as the ceremonial grade. Take a look at out Bakers Blend Culinary Matcha and see for yourself.
- Premium Grade
In case you are looking for something that you can drink on a daily basis, the premium grade Matcha is the best option. Premium grade Matcha is made from tea leaves that contain full nutritional content. You should treat yourself with the CuppaTea’s Premium Matcha Tea and get to experience a fresh and subtle flavor.
Traditional Preparation Of Matcha
Preparing Matcha tea the traditional way is quite simple. In fact, there are only two famous traditional methods which you can use to prepare thick Matcha (also known as Koi-cha) and thin Matcha (Popularly known as Usucha)
The first step is mashing the clumps through a special sieve in order to achieve a fine powder. The best sieve for this job is a one that has a fine wire mesh. Place the sieve on a storage container to collect the tea powder. You will also require a wooden spatula to crush the tea through the sieve.
During Japanese tea ceremonies, the sieved Matcha should be emptied in a special tea caddy which is commonly referred to as a Chaki. In normal circumstances, the sieved Matcha can be emptied directly into a tea bowl.
Two to four grams of Matcha is enough to make around 60-80 ml of tea. Traditionally, a bamboo scoop can be used to add the ground leaves into the tea boll. Once you are done with this process, pour 80 ml of hot water and whisk the mixture to dissolve the powder evenly. There is a special bamboo whisk which does the job; it is known as a chasen. Matcha Tea should be served with a small wagashi sweet to neutralize the bitter taste. The sweet should only be consumed before you drink the Matcha.
If you want to make thin tea or Usucha, one is required to dissolve 1.75 grams of Matcha in 75ml of hot water. Depending on your tea club or tea school, you can whisk the mixture to produce froth. It all depends on the drinker’s preference. Usucha is characterized by a lighter color and slightly bitter taste.
On the other hand, Koicha requires you to use more Matcha. This can be achieved by doubling the amount of powder and reducing the amount of water by half. The resulting mixture will be thicker and dark in color. You need to use a slow stirring motion when preparing Koicha. At CuppaTea, we have the best Matcha Tea for making a nice cup of Koicha. There is no doubt that our handpicked products are the best when it comes to making milder and sweeter Koicha tea as compared to what you’ll get with other dealers.
Modern Day Matcha
Today, Matcha has so many uses as compared to ancient times when it was used for meditation and ceremonies. Experts have been working tirelessly to ensure that we reap huge benefits from Matcha Tea. Since the product is more popular in the West, people have found new ways to use it. Of course, people still use it to make tea because of its color and flavor profile. Americans have been using this product to color foods such as ice cream and cookies. Besides, it can also be used as a salad dressing. The color and flavor of this awesome product is enough reason to get yourself some packets. In case you are not sure about the grade, we are always available to help you out.
I am pretty sure most of you have been using Matcha Tea especially because of its immense benefits. However, I won’t be surprised that 70% of Matcha users do not know about its origins. Next time you try a new product, make sure you take time to research its history. This is how you learn to appreciate the simple things in life. Anyway, CuppaTea is always looking to update you with any information you require. Make sure you browse through the website and choose the Best Matcha green tea for you. You definitely need to enjoy the pure and earthy flavors of the different Matcha Tea grades.