– Food and Wine India
The Green Goodness
From those heavy cups of coffee, the world has now switched to some green goodness, Matcha. From chefs to nutritionist and food lovers, Matcha is ruling over hearts and minds with its immense health benefits and of course, it’s pretty too.
Matcha is actually the powdered form of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. These green tea plants for Matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing. The origin of green tea dates back approximately around 7th-10th Century sometime in the Tang Dynasty of China. People used to drink this tea as a common practice both for culinary and ceremonial purposes. It was around 12th century Matcha came into being when a Zen Monk Eisai brought some Chinese green tea leaves to Japan and started the practice of consuming the tea in its powdered form. He was impressed by this incredible ingredient packed with immense nutrition and thus played a major role in the promotion of Matcha all around Japan. Eisai also known as the ‘Zen Master Eisai’wrote a book named ‘KissaYōjōki’ which means Drinking Tea for Health and thus began the journey of Matcha starting from Japan and now ruling round the globe.
Did you know?
1 cup of Matcha accounts for 10 cups of green tea.
This is because when the green tea leaves are pulverized and grind, the powdered form contains a lot more antioxidants than the normally brewed tea which we generally have. Also, the beautiful green color is because of a large amount of chlorophyll the plant has as it is shade grown while farming. The fascinating fact is that Matcha is made from tench produced from a tea shrub Camellia Sinensis, same plant from where all the true teas come from depending on the level the tea leaves are processed. Green tea is thus produced by just steaming and drying the leaves without any kind of fermentation. The quality of the powder depends on the location of the tea leaves on the shrub. The very top leaves are supple which results in high-quality soft powder while the lower leaves are harder resulting in powder with grainy texture.
The Japanese are very particular about using what quality of Matcha produced in their country to be used for what purposes. The grades are classified according to its color, texture, processing method, grinding methods used etc.
Let’s go through how the how they have classified this powdered tea according to its quality:
This is the highest quality and the most expensive version of Matcha used in tea ceremonies and temples. This Matcha powder is made from the youngest and top leaves of the tea shrub with their stems and veins entirely removed. The leaves are stone ground into a powder by granite stone mills resulting in a fine powder with talc-like texture. The ceremonial grade can be easily recognized with its bright green color fine texture. This green tea is generally consumed straight by whisking into hot water without adding any kind of preservatives according to traditional Japanese culture.
The premium grade is the in-between grade of Matcha with flavor that juggles in between by being less sweet than the ceremonial grade and being less bitter than the cooking grade. It has a balanced subtle flavor you can say. The premium grade of the Match powder is generally consumed by adding sweeteners than drinking it straight.
This grade is little difficult to recognize for a naïve Matcha drinker but being less expensive than the ceremonial grade, most people prefer using the premium grade than the cooking one.
The culinary grade Matcha powder is made from the lower leaves of the tea shrub giving it a coarse texture than the other two grades. This grade of the tea powder should not be considered as the lowest quality, as this grade is specifically used to be blended with other ingredients so that it can used in cooking Matcha dishes. The flavor of this powder is distinctive, more on the bitter side than the ceremonial and premium grade and color is less greenish than the other two. You can easily distinguish this grade from the other two depending upon its texture.