We have had a great response to our Matcha lately. Along with this has come quite a few questions on the making process for Matcha. Whilst visiting Uji, where our Matcha is grown, we were lucky enough to learn about this fascinating type of tea from the master below - both the process and the ceremony. For this post we are focusing on production - hope you find it an interesting read and that it makes your next Matcha experience even better!
The creation of the great taste of Matcha starts at the beginning of April. This is when the first new shoots of the season appear on the tea plant, signifying the start of a unique process.
The tea bushes which will be used for for matcha are shaded for about twenty days to thirty days before harvesting, traditionally using a large overhead framework of reed screens and rice straw. Today more modern materials are used This cover shuts out the direct sunlight and therefore reduces the rate of photosynthesis, resulting in high levels of theanine, an amino acid responsible for the full-bodied flavour of matcha.
Harvesting usually occurs in early-May when the ‘first flush’ of tea leaves is carefully picked. This is the year’s first harvest of young leaves and is considered to be the finest in quality, freshness and flavour.
Once picked the leaves goes through several steps of production. The first is unique to Japanese green teas and is steaming. Freshly picked leaves are steamed for 30 to 40 seconds. Steaming temperatures and times are adjusted by the condition of the tea leaves. Steaming prevents oxidation and means that most of the leaves natural green colour, aroma and nutrient are retained.
After steaming the leaves are dried and cooled using a large multi-chambered air machine where they are gently blown around and cooled using a mild flow of air. They are then scattered evenly over a flat surface and allowed to dry further. Before they are completely dry, a drum-like machine is used to separate the veins and the stems from the main part of the leaf. The part that remains, after drying, is referred to as tencha. Tencha is the raw material for matcha powder.
The last step in the processing of matcha is the grinding of the tencha leaves into a fine powder. The traditional method was to manually grind the tencha on a stone mill. Today, eight hundred years later, automated stone mills are used. These produce a superior consistency for ultra fine matcha powder. However, it is a slow process as It takes one hour to grind 40g of top-quality Matcha.
Once milled the Matcha is packaged immediately to preserve its flavour and freshness. Then it’s just down to the preparation at the Tea House when it arrives in the UK…