As many prize pu-er and start collecting them, I have a habit of collecting matcha. When its the right quality it has beautiful chocolate notes that vary from make to make. I was lucky enough to have Kono-en as my first matcha. David’s tea had opened their first shop on Queen Street here in Toronto and they had it!
I was a poor student at the time but I quickly grabbed my first whisk (chasen) and asked for a can. Then got out. The first sip of this Jade brew changed how I feel about tea and pushed me to try different kinds, meet other tea people and learn more. I would not be where I am without this experience.
Recently I have been coming across posts stating matcha is made from Gyokuro. Another fine Japanese tea that was my push to try matcha. Even a company handbook I read stated the same thing. This I mentioned my previous post.
The truth is that this tea is made from “Tencha”. This is made by first shading tea bushes for thirty days, this concentrates the theanine amino acid (to put it simply, its one of the many antioxidants). It gives the tea its full bodied flavour.
Once Hachijuhachiya (88 days) after spring has begun harvesting begins. This marks the beginning of the first harvest which lands in early May.
When the leaves are taken back to the factory, they “kill the green”. This is a great process that will prevent the leaves from oxidizing and (oh noes!) become a different kind of tea. For this the leaves are steamed for 15-20 seconds within the first 12-20 hours of plucking.
My favorite part is drying, because the leaves get blown around in a multi-chamber air machine. Before they completely dry they pass through a special drum like machine where stems and veins are removed. The tea is now “Tencha”, aka. pre-matcha.
The fun part starts, the leaves are ground by a stone grinder, but before that the tea is aged. The leaves are packed up and stored for 6 months to a full year. The taste over time rounds out to become smoother and develops the harvests unique taste for the matcha being made. Then in the stone grinder,once its time to take the leaves out, the slight heat created from the friction of the stones grinding together give the tea its unique smoothness.
Matcha is a wonderful tea with a very unique practice for creating just the tea to be used to brew. I enjoy learning and making this fabulous tea because of the process involved, that may be due to my being an artist. If you have not tried matcha before I highly advise you give it a whirl. Keep an eye out on my youtube and here for a simple step by step matcha making video. Till next time, keep steepin’ on~
Photo credit to: Mr.Randazzo also Thank you to Dr.Ralph Fareber for answering my questions and allowing us to become friends.