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A Brief History of Matcha Tea

Posted by Bean & Bean on
A Brief History of Matcha Tea

Recently, matcha tea has become more popular than ever. Most cafes and restaurants worldwide serve matcha based drinks and desserts. But exactly how was it invented and how did it become the world renowned drink it is today? Let’s find out!

Bright green and delicious with a slightly bitter and earthy taste, matcha tea is usually served hot. While it was originally popular in Japan and was a significant part of Chinese culture, it has now taken over the globe due to its unique taste and versatility.

The history of matcha

Matcha tea has been around for a long time, before the printing press was invented, and centuries before Da Vinci and Michelangelo were even born. 

While matcha tea originated in China, its growth and culture has many roots in Japan. You could say that the artistry behind making matcha tea was perfected in Japan. 

During China’s Song dynasty, tea leaves, which came from the Camellia sinensis plant, were processed, steamed, and then pressed into bricks and cakes. Since it's a shade-grown plant, deprivation of sunlight leads to much more chlorophyll than sunny plants, leading to a bright green color and a sweeter, yet milder, taste. 

The tea was initially prepared by roasting and pulverizing the leaves to brew in hot water and included a little salt. This process then evolved into making powdered tea from steamed and dried tea leaves,The word "mat,” means powdered, and “cha,” means tea, creating “matcha.”

The powdered tea was originally whisked into water with a bamboo brush to mix it properly, which became the norm. Since the 11th century, this method has been used to prepare traditional matcha tea.

Significance in the Japanese culture

Slowly, matcha made its way to Japan where tea farm owners perfected the process to develop and harvest the most powerful and therapeutically advantageous matcha. Since the tea was produced in small batches, it became exclusive and was only available to the SHOGUN and nobility.  

Zen Buddhists in Japan started consuming powdered tea from a plant called “Sencha,” as part of a ritual and for therapeutic benefits. Also known as “matcha," this tea was consumed for improved clarity and focus. In the 11th century, matcha would help Buddhist monks stay awake for all-night prayers. In addition,  Samurais started sipping matcha before battles for an extra boost. Matcha tea was also popular as the drink commonly consumed by high temple priests. 

How matcha became popular

The world embraced this tea with open arms. The hipster crowd of the US took up its flavors in pies and desserts. Dunkin’ Donuts, a world renowned coffee sourcer, now serves hot and cold matcha lattes. The trend which reached its peak in 2015, is now a norm amongst influencers. 

Apart from its delicious, unique, and versatile flavors, the matcha craze also stems from its weight loss and cancer fighting properties. Like all green teas, matcha is loaded with antioxidants. By grinding the tea leaves, matcha has more caffeine and many times more active compounds than other teas, making it great for brain health, reducing cardiovascular and liver diseases, and also prostate cancers. 

Flavor profiles and matcha grades 

Like wine, every matcha you taste will have a different flavor. Common notes consist of sweet-smelling summer grass with a slight bitterness. However, there are matcha grades, each of which has a different color, texture, quality, and uses. 

Let's talk about the two main matcha tea grades: Ceremonial and Culinary. 

Ceremonial grade:

Only meant for drinking. Highest quality tea grade.

Made from the youngest tea leaves.

Vibrant green, fine in texture, naturally sweet. 

  • Premium ceremonial: 

    • Highest quality ceremonial matcha.

    • Made from the tenderest, youngest and greenest tea leaves.

  • Ceremonial blend: 

    • Combination of ceremonial grade and premium matcha.
    • Consists of first and second harvests together, for a better taste and similar price to culinary 

Culinary grade: 

Best for mixing with other ingredients, baking and cooking.

Strong and slightly bitter taste.

Fairly bright green.

Antioxidant level is higher than ceremonial grade.

  • Premium culinary: 

    • An everyday-use matcha that goes well with blended drinks.
    • Potent flavor.
    • Comes from the second harvest.

  • Cafe Culinary: 

    • Robust flavor.
    • Ideal for baking, cooking, and making smoothies.
    • Comes from the second and third harvests.
  • Ingredient: 

    • Mixed with older tea leaves.
    • Strong flavor, with a thicker consistency.
    • Ideal for mixing with dairy products.
  • Kitchen: 

    • Has the least amount of delicate and young leaves.
    • Dark green and very bitter.
    • Ideal for large scale brewing.
  • Classic: 

    • Most commonly available.
    • Strong flavor.
    • Can be used with pretty much all beverages and food items.

A great alternative for coffee lovers 

Looking for something with a kick but not in the mood for coffee?

Matcha is a perfect alternative for those who are looking for a caffeinated drink with a unique taste. In addition, it’s loaded with nutrition and delicious with almost anything!

Looking to bake a matcha cake? Make tea? Or just a good ol 'smoothie? Give the Pepperbot Organic Japanese Matcha a try and find your new favorite drink. If matcha is not your cup of tea, you can also try Bean & Bean’s wide selection of teas! Delicious, ethically sourced, organic, and produced by women. 

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