Japanese agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food
Highlighted Japanese IngredientMatcha
Widely Used in Variety of Occasions from Traditional to Modern
Among the various kinds of "Japanese tea", "Matcha" has a unique position. Many Japanese teas such as Sencha and Gyokuro keep the shape of tea leaves, whereas Matcha is processed into fine powder.
Usually, Matcha is dissolved in hot water and consumed. You can appreciate the beautiful green color, the deep and elegant aroma, and rich flavor with mellow sweetness, even in bitterness. There are many Matcha lovers in and out of Japan. The manner of drinking Matcha is closely related to the tea ceremony, a traditional part of Japanese culture. And one of its benefits is that it serves as a highly versatile ingredient to be used for cooking and making confectionary. It can be said that Matcha is a tea suitable for a broad range of cultures from traditional to modern or from oriental to occidental.
Japanese Original Manufacturing Method, Popularity of Organic Matcha
Matcha’s raw ingredient is Tencha, which is made by steaming and drying tea leaves cultivated by blocking direct sunlight, without kneading. After drying, Tencha is deveined and destemmed, and ground in a stone mill for powdering, and this powder is Matcha. In recent years, some Matcha is processed in a powdering machine not in a stone mill, but this can also be classified as Matcha. Powdered tea using teas other than Tencha are defined not as Matcha but as “powdered tea,” which is used as “Matcha for processing” for products like blended tea.
Matcha is produced mainly in Kyoto, Aichi and Shizuoka prefectures, and Uji City in Kyoto Prefecture and Nishio City in Aichi Prefecture are traditionally famous for Matcha production. Matcha is made with elaboration and time through a careful picking and production process of tea leaves raised in the tea field with painstaking effort, which brings out a delicate taste and aroma that no other tea can provide. An increasing amount of Matcha grown through organic cultivation is certified by the “organic JAS system” which is the international standard equivalent to those applied in the United States and the EU. Widespread popularity across the world is anticipated for Japanese Matcha that is tasty, safe, and gives peace of mind to consumers.
History of Matcha Evolved with Japanese Society
There is a record claiming that consumption of tea initiated in Japan more than 1000 years ago. Eisai, a Buddhist monk in the 12th century, is said to have brought Matcha in the current form to Japan. Eisai (1141-1215) who brought back the tea seeds from Song (then China) wrote "Kissa-yojoki" to promote public awareness of the production method and manner for drinking Matcha. He also said, “Tea is an elixir for curing," referring to the efficacy of teas on the body. In the 16th century, the Way of Tea was established by tea ceremony masters such as Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), and tea ceremonies also became a common practice in the samurai society.
As trade with the United States and other countries began in the latter half of the 19th century, Japanese tea became a major export and the production expanded nationwide. Even general citizens started to enjoy Matcha, and it is a tea that has become familiar in Japanese lifestyle.
How to Drink Matcha and the Culture of the Tea Ceremony
No particular rules exist regarding how to drink Matcha, but a traditional method of drinking is said to be the best way to enjoy it most. The standard method is to put Matcha and hot water in a tea bowl and whisk it with a bamboo whisk, a procedure called “temae (ceremonial way of making tea).” The host serves either “thin tea (usucha)” made through whisking Matcha with a bamboo whisk or “thick tea (koicha)” which uses a smaller amount of hot water in which Matcha is kneaded with a bamboo whisk. You need to get the knack of it, but once you are used to making it, you can enjoy Matcha easily, even at home.
The tea ceremony is a ritual that respects behavior to serve teas, tea utensils, and space like a tea room, and is closely related to the spirit of “Wabi” principles that place importance on minimalism and simplicity. The world of “tea ceremony” is profound and inherited as a culture unique to Japan. Japanese tea is often served when receiving guests, even in general households, and "hospitality," which is based on the tea ceremony knowledge and skills, is still rooted in the spirit of the Japanese people.
Ingest the Nutrients of Tea Leaves Directly, Effective for Detoxification and Relaxation
Japanese tea contains many ingredients that are considered good for health and beauty, and some people in Europe and America drink it out of expectation of a detoxing effect. It's a low-calorie, healthy drink that you can drink and enjoy without adding sugar or milk.
“Catechin” which brings out the astringency of Japanese tea is a component that is said to produce various positive physiological outcomes, such as antioxidant effects. Some Japanese tea products containing abundant catechins are certified by the Consumer Affairs Agency as Food for Specified Health Uses, intended for people with concerns about body fat. A strong level of interest is demonstrated in “Theanine,” a constituent that brings out the umami and sweetness, along with "caffeine" which complements bitterness. These components make Japanese tea suitable for people who are seeking relaxation efficacies.
And, since whole tea leaves are consumed by drinking Matcha, you can ingest the contents intact in the body. According to Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan -2015- (Seventh Revised Edition), 100 g of Matcha contains 38.5 g of dietary fiber, 28.1 mg of vitamin E (α-tocopherol) and 29,000 μg of β-carotene equivalent. Since these are not water-soluble, they cannot be ingested by drinking tea that require disposal of tea leaves after brewing. They are the components that can only be ingested by drinking Matcha.
Matcha World Expands into Sweets and Cafés
Taking advantage of the powder form characteristic, Matcha is widely used for cooking and as an ingredient in confectionery. "Cha soba," Matcha-blended soba (buckwheat noodles), and Japanese sweets, such as "Cha dango (tea dumplings)" are popular dishes. It is delicious even if it is mixed in cakes and cookie dough, and you can add it to flavor chocolate or ice cream. “Matcha latte,” which is Matcha powder dissolved in milk, is popular mainly with young women, and new sweets using Matcha have been developed one after another.
Given that food and beverages using Matcha are available in major café chains in the United States and Matcha cafés have opened in France, "Matcha" has become a signature menu also in the café culture. There will be stronger demand throughout the world in the future for high-quality Matcha, available only in Japan, where painstaking efforts are made in tea making.