WHAT IS MATCHA?
So you might be wondering - what exactly is matcha? Is it the same as green tea? The answer is: yes and no! Matcha was invented and then perfected by Japanese monks for over 800 years. Matcha powder is made by stone-milling green tea leaves that have been specially grown and cared for to give matcha that vibrant green colour and sweet, earthy taste. Read on below to see how matcha is made :)
HOW IS MATCHA MADE?
1. The Tea Plant
It all starts with the green tea plant! Matcha is made from the same tea variety that is also used to make regular green tea. Matcha, however, is made from select Japanese tea cultivars that are deemed to produce superior taste suitable for making matcha. St Matcha's certified organic matcha powder is made from the yabukita (やぶきた) cultivar, which is known for its bold aroma and strong "umami" flavour (savoury, mouth-watering flavour) - a desirable trait of high quality matcha and green tea. Our matcha is grown without the use of pesticides and is nourished only with organic fertilisers.
Prior to harvesting, the tea plants are shaded from the sun. The shading stimulates the leaves to produce more chlorophyll (making the leaves greener) and amino acids including theanine, which is responsible for the desired umami flavour of matcha. The tea plants are typically shaded screens for up to 3 weeks prior to harvesting.
After shading, the tea leaves are harvested for drying. The highest grades matcha (such as our YUTAKA Ceremonial Matcha) are made from the youngest leaves at the tip of the new shoot, and collected (usually by hand) at first harvest, or "first flush", at the start of Spring. This means the tea leaves are at their richest in nutrients, making them fresher, fuller and sweeter in flavour with less bitterness. Culinary grade matcha (including our HAYATE Organic Matcha, RYO Organic Matcha and AKARI Organic Matcha) are usually made from tea leaves further from the buds and may be collected at second or third harvest.
4. Steaming, Drying & De-stemming
The harvested tea leaves are immediately quick-steamed (10-20 seconds) to preserve their colours, aroma and nutrients, and to prevent enzyme degradation. After steaming, the leaves are flatly laid out to dry completely. The dried leaves are then sorted into different grades and have their stems and veins removed. The resultant stem-less tea is called tencha (碾茶). Tencha is then milled to become matcha or is sold as premium tea itself.
The tencha tea leaves are then milled into very fine matcha powder using low-speed automated stone mills (pictured above). This low-speed milling prevents heat from being generated which would damage the colour, flavour, aroma and nutrients of the matcha powder. After milling, the matcha is immediately packaged to prevent oxidation / degradation by light and oxygen.
WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC MATCHA?
The majority of green tea is grown inorganically with the use of large amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. This not only leaves chemical residues in the tea leaves but long term use of fertilisers also damage the soil by making it more acidic. That is why at St Matcha, we only source certified organic matcha that is made from non-GMO Japanese tea farms that do not use any pesticides or chemical fertilisers. All our matcha powder is certified organic according to the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS), which is one of the most stringent organic certification systems in the world.
Non-GMO tea leaves
No pesticides used
No chemical fertilisers used
Tea processed in dedicated organic facilities