Matcha is a shade-grown Japanese green tea which has been ground into a powder. It is whisked with hot water in a bowl to make a frothy beverage of the same name. Matcha is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed. As it is made from top-quality leaves that are treated with great care, it delivers more of the healthful elements of green tea than any other form. What makes matcha so special is the origin, cultivation, and production method of this green tea.
Tea plantations for matcha look like normal green tea farms early in the growing season.
However, several weeks prior to being harvested, the tea plants are covered with dark tarps or cloth. By doing this the tea plants receive 90% less sunlight. In order to compensate, tea plants intensively generate chlorophyll and the leaves produce large amounts of amino acids. The longer they are shaded, the more chlorophyll and amino acids the tea contains. Our tea plants are shaded for three (3) weeks prior to harvest. This turns the leaves a dark green color resulting in a mild, creamy, sweet taste…a signature of high quality. Please note, only tencha from Japan is true matcha. Sencha (tea grown and harvest in full sun) can also be powdered and is often sold as a cheap 'Matcha' imitation. A suspiciously cheap price, brownish-yellow color, and bitter, grassy taste are clear indications of fake matcha.
After harvesting, the leaves are steamed and then laid flat to dry (if they were rolled, they would become Gyokuru tea). Next, the leaves are de-stemmed and de-veined. At this stage, the leaves become tencha, the precursor to matcha. The tencha is then ground and becomes matcha. This high-grade tencha has an intense sweetness and round richness that is unparalleled. Japanese tencha is the only tea that qualifies as true matcha despite the fact that most “matcha” sold in the United States is sencha from China, beware!
Drinking grade matcha is slow-ground on a stone mill to achieve a fine powder texture. The average particle size of matcha powder is only 5-10 microns small (finer than baby powder!). Each stone mill only grinds up to 30-40g (approx. 1 oz) per hour, which is basically the amount of our Ceremonial Grade matcha. Even with all the technology today, the granite stone mill is still the best way to grind matcha from the delicate tencha tea leaves, because only granite can preserve the color, flavor, and the nutritional components of the tea to its utmost quality.
Please note, not all matcha is processed in the old-world style. Some processors grind tencha leaves in high powered, heat generating industrial grinders. This results in a reduced price but also reduced flavor and nutritional content due to oxidation.
All our Ceremonial grade matchas are slow-ground using traditional granite stones. As the organic matcha leaves are harvested, they are initially dried and then stored in airlock containers, waiting for the time to complete production. Production of our matcha is done as the supply is needed, thus maintaining freshness of the original harvest until final processing is needed.
Much like wine, matcha is sold in varying degrees of quality (called "grades") -- which one you choose depends on how you will use it. Matcha grades vary depending on when the tea leaves were harvested and where on the plant the leaves came from. Leaves higher up on the plant, and those harvested earlier, create a higher grade of matcha with a more vibrant color and a sweeter taste. Lower grades made from older leaves have a grassier aroma. All grades, however, have their own advantages and are drunk all over Japan.
BeMatcha offers three (3) grades of matcha: Ceremonial Grade, Spring Grade (also called Cafe Grade), and Summer Grade (also called Culinary Grade). Ceremonial Grade is the highest, most expensive grade, picked by hand in the early spring. Cafe Grade matcha is the intermediate, and Culinary Grade is the last harvest, and the most economical.