Meet the Un-coffee
Matcha is made of Ten-cha leaves, which are Gyokuro leaves that have not been rolled into needles. Unlike whole leaf tea, which is steeped, matcha is served by whisking powdered tea in hot water. It contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols and fiber) than other teas, and its flavor is densely rich – almost creamy – compared to other teas. Matcha is traditionally used for Japanese tea ceremonies, but in recent years has gained popularity across the globe, and now comes in different grades for different uses.
Facts About Green Tea
Click each question to expand answer.
+ How is green tea different from other teas?
All teas come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. The main difference lies in the way each tea type is processed.
Tea processing can be roughly divided into four categories:
- Unfermented (green teas)
- Semi-fermented (oolongs)
- Fermented (black teas)
- Post Fermented (pu-erhs)
Japanese green tea is steamed (versus pan-fired, like Chinese green teas) to prevent oxidation. This step is called "the kill-green stage" and is responsible for the grassy, delicate flavor which is distinct to Japanese green tea.
While tea bushes are tropical plant, and thrive in warm, humid climates, their hibernation during the cold winter months brings sweet, rich Sen-cha. These teas are sensitive to water, the acidity of the soil and temperature fluctuations throughout the day. A tea's sensitivity can greatly change its flavor profile. For this reason, teas originating from Japan are far more superior in quality in comparison to green tea cultivated in China, Nepal, Brazil and other regions.
+ What are the different types of Japanese green tea?
- Matcha Matcha is a powdered or milled form of the Ten-cha tea leaf. Ten-cha is made with tea leaves covered from sunlight. The leaves are steamed, dried and milled to become matcha.
- Gyokuro Gyokuro is the highest quality Japanese green tea. It is made with tea leaves covered from sunlight for 20 days. It does not have much bitterness and has a lot of umami (savoriness).
- Sen-cha Sen-cha is the most consumed and typical green tea in Japan. Unlike Gyokuro, Sen-cha is made with tea leaves grown naturally without being covered. It is known for its moderate bitterness and aroma.
- Kuki-cha Kuki-cha is a tea made from twigs and stems of tea collected during processing. It is known for its sweetness.
- Ban-cha Ban-cha is a green tea made with hard and old leaves. Ban-cha leaves are picked between the first picked leaves of the year and the second picked leaves of the year. Although considered a low grade green tea, ban-cha is best suited for children and when you have a cold because of its refreshing taste and mild flavor.
- Genmai-cha Genmai-cha is a tea made with Ban-cha blended with an equal amount of both steamed and roasted brown rice. It is known for its aroma and refreshing taste.
- Houji-cha Houji-cha is a tea typically made with Ban-cha tea leaves roasted at high temperature. Roasting this tea gives it an unique aroma. It is preferred as an after-meal beverage because it does not contain a lot of caffeine and is gentle on the stomach.
- Kona-cha Kona-cha is a tea made with fine pieces of Gyokuro and Sen-cha tea leaves collected during processing. Kona-cha is typically served at your favorite sushi bar.
+ When and how often are green tea leaves harvested?
Tea leaves received a lot of sunshine and stored up nutrients throughout the summer and fall months, go dormant around November. They remain dormant over the winter months and buds start to sprout around early April. The first harvest of the year is called Sen-cha or Ichibancha. During the Ichibancha season, the first leaf opens about two weeks after sprouting. From there, one leaf opens about every five days.
Ichibancha is picked while there are four to five leaves open with some unopened buds. In mid-October, before tea bushes go dormant, they are trimmed to get rid old leaves and branches, and to help new buds come out the following year. The tea leaves picked from the trimming are used for Shutobancha. Tea leaves usually can be harvested four times a year.
+ What are the processing steps of green tea after harvesting?
The process of tea making can be roughly broken down into three steps: steaming, rolling, and finishing.
- Steaming stops leaves from oxidizing, and gives Japanese green tea its characteristic color and grassy aroma. Regular Sen-cha is steamed for 30 to 40 seconds, but deep-steamed (Fukamushi) Sen-cha can be steamed for as long as two minutes.
- Rolling helps to dry the tea leaves and gives its needle-like shape.
- During the finishing step, tea leaves are selected by shape. Then the leaves can be roasted in a quick-fire giving it a caramelized scent called "hiire-ka" (roast scent). Finally, the green tea is blended with other teas to create a stable, reliable tea.
Matcha is made a little differently. First, Matcha leaves are made of Ten-cha, which are steamed, unrolled leaves. The Ten-cha leaves are then finely, and slowly grounded in a stone mill.
+ What is the proper way to brew each type of green tea?
More information coming soon.
+ Can steeped tea leaves be used more than once?
It is safe to say that one can brew up to 3 cups from one batch and enjoy. Brewing a forth cup results in a more astringent and bitterness flavor.
+ What are the health benefits of green tea?
More information coming soon.
+ Where are the major tea producing regions in Japan?
Of Japan's 47 prefectures (provinces), Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Mie are the three major tea-producing regions.
- Shizuoka, located in the area between Mt. Fuju and the Pacific coast west of Tokyo, is Japan's most prolific tea-growing region, accounting for about 40% of Japan's commercial production each year.
- Next is Kagoshima, in southern Kyushu in the far southwest of Japan's main achripelago, which produces over 20% of Japan's tea.
- Third is Mie, in central Japan, famous for its long history of tea cultivation.
Other important tea-growing regions include the areas of the ancient capitals – Nara and Kyoto – where Japanese Buddhism has its roots, and various parts of Kyushu, with its comparatively mild climate.
+ How do I store tea leaves properly?
Tea leaves are weak against oxygen, humidity, temperature and light, and tend to absorb smells more easily than other foods. It is important to seal your tea and store it in a dark, cool area to avoid losing its flavor and change in color.
When you purchase tea put about 10 days' worth of tea in a tea tin. Store the rest of the tea in an air-tight bag and place in the refrigerator. Once you take the bag out of the refrigerator wait until it becomes room temperature.
+ Is there a way to “revive” stale green tea?
To "revive" stale green tea roast it until it turns brown in an aluminum foil lined frying pan. Now your "stale" green tea is Houji-cha!