Matcha Production & Grades
Matcha is powdered green tea leaves, however these are not the same type of leaves we as in regular type of green tea. Around April, just after the new shoots appear on the bushes, the fields are shaded, blocking almost all sunlight. For centuries, in Uji region in Japan, traditional farmers have used reeds spread on bamboo poles. Today, a few farmers have remained with the traditional method - most of them replace the reed with dark fabrics. Thanks to shade, nutritional values accumulate in the tea. Sun-deprived shrubs increase the production of chlorophyll several times. Also production of L-theanine is increased, which is the amino acid responsible for the umami flavor in tea. It is formed in the roots of the shrub, from where it is released into the leaves; but when fully exposed to the sun it turns into catechin, which causes bitterness. Avoiding this results in the matcha's sweet taste.
After harvesting, to prevent oxidation and fermentation, the tea leaves are immediately transported for evaporation. Thanks to this process, the tea retains its vivid green color, fresh aroma and nutritional value. After the steam bath, the tea is dried with gentle blasts of air. It slowly flies through the chambers of the drying machine, and its leaves shrink to about one sixth of their volume in fresh form. Then stems are separated from leaves. The end result is small, dark green, perfectly cleaned leaf petals. This tea is called tencha and it is the raw material, which after precise stone grinding becomes matcha.
Thanks to its powdery structure, it perfectly combines with water, giving the impression of being soluble. A cup of ready-made matcha tea is then perfectly solid and creamy.
The harvest of green tea, in Japanese called chatsumi, begins at the end of April and last until the end of May. The leaves from the first harvest are the highest quality tea, used for the traditional tea ceremony - only the tip of the shoot with the two smallest leaves is harvested. It has a deep green color, a delicate sweet and creamy umami flavor without any bitterness.
After the leaves are torn off, new leaves appear in their place, which are harvested in June and July. The second harvest match has an intense green color, a well-balanced bitter-sweet taste and a delicate tea aftertaste. It is used for drinking in a traditional form, as well as for making matcha latte, smoothies and cocktails.
The third harvest of the year takes place in August and it is a culinary matcha. It has light green color, strong tea flavor with noticeable bitterness. As a beautiful, natural green dye, it is recommended for culinary purposes, baking cakes, making ice cream and other foods with the addition of matcha.