(Ground matcha powder)
Hey 16oz Days family! How has your week been? Busy, maybe even hectic, but hopefully filled with caffeine. We’ve been brainstorming ways to help grow and establish our Coffee Club program, which if you haven’t checked out yet, you definitely should through this page! We’ve got some exciting things in the works, so stay tuned.
As we’ve been hard at work, we’ve been sipping many caffeinated beverages, and sometimes later in the day we would like to admit. However, to sustain our caffeine intake during the day and to avoid the inevitable crash, we’ve been drinking more matcha than usual. Which got us thinking, we did a whole post of the history of coffee, why not one on matcha?! Through our research we discovered there was a whole lot for us to learn, so here’s our brief recap on the history of matcha.
(Preparation of green tea)
The making of matcha can be tied all the way back to the 8th century when green tea leaves were dried and ground before steeping (Moya). This ancient ritual was practiced by the Chinese Buddhist monks. The preparation of the drink is intrinsically tied with the zen rituals of the monks who used it for its meditative properties (Moya).
In the 11th century, the tradition traveled to Japan where it was popularized through the Japanese Tea Ceremony or “chado”, a sophisticated and artistic practice (Moya). According to an article by Pure Leaf, the word matcha comes from Japanese: “ma” translating to rubbed and “cha” meaning tea.
The ceremony is highly significant to attaining enlightenment; in some rituals, it was common to sacrifice a bowl with the prepared tea to the buddha as an offering (Moya). The tradition grew throughout eastern Asia through the decades, but remains traditionally symbolic and culturally important to the Zen monk communities. Due to its extensive historical significance in religious practice, when we think about matcha today, it is important that we understand its sacred history that is still very much alive today.
What is Matcha?
(Green tea leaves)
Japanese matcha is finely ground green tea leaves, specifically grown and prepared for the drink. It is grown in two main regions: Uji in Kyoto and Nishio in the Aichi prefecture (Pure Leaf). Plants grown specifically for matcha are shaded which causes an overproduction of chlorophyll which aids in matches distinctive bright green color. Essentially, matcha is green tea.
(Modern matcha latte)
There are many different kinds of matcha which indicate the quality of the leaves used. The two main categories are: ceremonial and culinary. Underneath culinary there are 5 types: premium, café, classic, ingredient, and kitchen.
This is the highest grade of matcha. It is made to be used in Japanese tea ceremonies so it is thought to be high end and best of the best. It’s made of the youngest leaves picked, with the stems and veins removed, making the texture silky smooth. The leaves are ground with stone, usually mortar and pestle style. It’s sweet and earthy, served traditionally only with hot water. It isn’t made to be served with milk or sugar, or cooked with (Matcha Bears).
Culinary matcha, although it can still be great quality, has a flavor profile better for lattes and cooking. It’s a bit more bitter and robust.
The first type of culinary matcha, premium grade, is what is traditionally used in cafes for matcha lattes. This is what will most often be found in stores or tossed in a smoothie. It still has a great caffeine boost and flavor, but not as delicate of a flavor profile (Matcha Bear).
Cafe, Classic, Ingredient, and Kitchen grade all use leaves a little less desirable or delicate than the other grades. It has a bit fuller flavor and thicker texture. These grades are better for cooking and for at home, casual use. They also all come at a much more economical price point (Matcha Bear).
Health Benefits of Matcha
(Matcha used as a supplement)
Just like every food or drink, there are many differing opinions on the health benefits of Matcha. What we do know is that the type of caffeine contained in matcha, which includes L-theanine, releases at a much slower rate than the caffeine in coffee. This means no massive crash or rush like is generally felt from caffeinated drinks. Instead, matcha has more focus based properties, due to the slow release and calming effects of green tea.
According to an article by Healthline, matcha is also much higher in antioxidants through catechins continued in the plant. Intake of antioxidants can, “help stabilize harmful free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells and cause chronic disease” (Healthline). Matcha itself has been shown to have 137 times greater amounts of catechins than other types of green tea.
If we haven’t convinced you to at least try matcha yet, we don’t know what will. As we have laid out throughout this article, there are many layers to the delicious drink. It’s important for us as consumers to recognize the religious importance of the drink, and not to misuse or appropriate it either. There are very healthy and appropriate ways to enjoy Matcha but having a proper understanding of its roots is the beginning of that. We hope you all learned something through this post and if you like learning things like this, let us know! We are always happy to talk with over instagram @16ozday or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a green week caffeine addicts, try some matcha, and don’t forget to tip your barista.