Hey there Teacups…Happy Matcha Monday! Before I get into todays Matcha Monday Masterclass post I just want to take a moment to thank you all for being so understand over on Instagram when it come to me taking a little bit of a posting break throughout the later end of last week, I really needed the time just to rest and refresh myself, while my pain levels have still be quite high and I’m still getting used to the new medication I’ve been prescribed, in terms of creative burn out I’m feeling much more inspired and motivated. For todays Matcha Monday Masterclass were going to be focusing on the ways in which it is produced and what makes matcha, matcha.
Since I started planning what I wanted to do for this series after focusing in the different ways you can prepare matcha I knew the next thing I wanted to do was to do an in depth post based on how matcha is produced as I know not everyone knows what goes on behind the scenes to produce the matcha we all know and love. A lot of hard work each and every year goes into creating matcha and I don’t think may people respect just how much work goes into it and how much time will have been spent masters the techniques used.
How Matcha Is Made – A Step By Step Process
Matcha comes from the same plant as all other types of tea, the Camlilea Sinensis the leaves are used to make White tea oolong, black tea, green tea, yellow tea and Pu’erh. Matcha belongs to the Japanese category of tea which means that it is steamed after harvesting which in turn strops the oxidation process and is part of what helps matcha keep it’s bright green colour. What sets apart matcha from all other kinds of tea is that it has growing style, harvest and production process that is completely unique to it and the conditions its is produced under can really effect it’s colour, aroma and taste.
The production process of matcha goes as follows: Shade Growing – Harvest – Steam & Dry – Destem & Devein – Stone Grinding,
Shade Growing | This process is completely unique to matcha and start early April when the first shoots appear on the plants. The leaves are covered with bamboo mats or rice straws to block out the sunlight and reduce the rate of photosynthesis, which results in increased levels of L-theanine which is an amino acid that is responsible for matchas mellow and sweet flavour profile. The darker the conditions under which the matcha is shaded results in a higher grade of matcha, some of the highest quality matchas are grown in complete darkness by the time it comes to harvesting.
Harvesting | Harvesting for matcha begins early may meaning it is the first flush of the year (Ichibancha 一番茶). The harvesters pick only the youngest and greenest tea leaves these leaves then become namacha (生茶) / raw tea. These tea leaves from the first harvest Are thought to be the highest quality, compared to the second harvest which occurs 40-45 days after while the quality from this harvest is still good in terms of quality it’s not as high in quality as the first harvest.
Steaming and Drying | The steaming process lasts for 20 seconds and is normally done within 20 hours after picking. This is amused as another way to halt the oxidisation process and enables the leaves to retain their vivid colour, along with the natural amino acids and nutritional components. After steaming the leaves pass through an air blower to get rid of any moister & condensation, after doing so the leaves are then crushed to make the sorting and destemming process much easier.
Destemming – Deveining & Grading | The leaves are destemmed and deveined to ensure only the best quality leaves around ground into matcha. They are then sorted into containers according to colour, texture and aroma. The tea processors are with then add water determine the quality of the Tencha. Then until the tea is ground it is refrigerated to help it maintain its quality.
Stone Grinding | This is the final step in the production process of matcha, during which the leaves are ground using a stone mill to assure a fine smooth powered, consistent in texture and consistency. This step is one of the most time and labour intensive. steps of the whole process. sometimes only 40 grams per hour can be made due to the care needed to be taken to insure the best quality. The matcha will then normally undergo vacuum packing ad will go into storage until it needs to be picked.
The processes that matcha goes through from growing to grinding is so fascinating and I don’t think many people truly realise just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes and I hope more than anything that this post will help people learn more about it and give the people who do all the hard work the respect they truly deserve. As always if you have any questions at all either stick them in the comments or send them to me on Twitter/Instagram @teaisawishblog and I’ll do my best to answer them as soon as I can. I hope you’ve all had a great matcha Monday as always thank you all for tagging me on your fantastic matcha Monday posts.
Speak to you all again soon. Happy Steeping – Kimberley