At its most basic, matcha is tea leaves that have been finely ground into a powder. While the general perception of matcha is of a spritely green powder, other variations and blends do exist. There is a matcha that includes ground shavings of gold leaf. There is even matcha made from black tea, oolong, and even mugwort tea. But the majority of authentic matcha is the ground powder of processed and dried green tea. The methods of producing matcha involve many little steps. First, the plants are shaded for 3-4 weeks before they are finally harvested. The leaves that are produced are not referred to as matcha yet, but tencha instead. The tencha then has the veins, stems, and twigs removed. Matcha is purely the powdered leaf, and the entire leaf is consumed within the water of the resultant beverage. The reason for shading is because tea plants that are provided with a decent layer of cloud coverage produce more chlorophyll, theanine, and caffeine, while also being sweeter than non-shaded bushes. The means of enjoying matcha are not set in stone either. Matcha can be enjoyed with hot water or fixed with milk to be a latte or milk tea as well. Many different culinary treats and confections exist using matcha powder as a garnish or also as a main ingredient. The catalogue of these items is too extensive, from rice cakes to baked goods to even different types of noodles used in soba and ramen.
What is Japanese Matcha?
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