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Guest Blog: Your Guide to Matcha

Your Guide To Matcha

Zen Erin PicERIN YOUNG IS THE FOUNDER OF ZEN GREEN TEA AND ALSO A WELL-KNOWN CONTRIBUTOR
TO T-CHING, THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE
TEA BLOG.

Since Zen Green Tea was established, Erin has always ensured that the brand is 100% transparent. She lets customers in, builds brand trust and openly shares the ins and outs of Zen Green Tea Matcha.

Below Erin shares a brief recap of her recent trip to the Japanese tea fields where her Zen Green Tea Matcha is harvested and details the ins and outs of matcha. 

 

Japan really comes alive in spring with its gorgeous weather, beautiful cherry blossoms and tea harvest in full swing.

I took the month of May to visit Japan and be a part of our spring matcha harvest and also to explore a little more of the beautiful country that inspires
my business.

I started my trip in Tokyo, exploring the hustle and bustle of the city and also some crazy matcha creations (matcha waffles, tarts, soft serves).

For any food lovers, you have to try the Yakitori restaurant alleyways at Shinjuku. These narrow, wood clad alleys are filled with tiny restaurants – each with only four to eight seats that serve up traditional cuisine, such as delicious noodles and vegetable skewers.

Erin in Japan

The Yakitori retaurant alleyways at Shinjuku.

 

After exploring the city, I headed down to our tea plantations and factories in Kyoto.

Kyoto is a gorgeous city, much less frenetic than Tokyo and it’s a shrine lover’s heaven!

We support family owned small tea farms in Kyoto, so I was picked up on the first morning by young tea farmer Toshio, whose father owns one of our plantations. Excitedly we drove out into the country side to Uji, a place in Japan renowned for its high quality matcha.

There is something so serene about
the rolling green tea plantations!

We arrived at Toshio’s family farm and I could already see that their harvest was well underway.

Harvest time for these family farms brings the whole community together, where for two weeks every niece, aunt, grandmother and sister are out there in the fields hand picking the finest leaves.

I spent the day under the shaded bamboo tarps learning from Toshio how they select the best leaves to be picked for matcha. Next I was taken to their co-op processing facility onsite where the leaves are immediately steamed and then dried, sorted, destemmed and deveined. After this I toured the freezing (-35 degree) storage facility that preserves the nutritional content of the leaves.

Matcha Storage Facility

The freezing -35 degree Celcius storage
facility, where the matcha is preserved.

 

The next day I was taken to our matcha processing plant. I was clad head to toe in hygienic robes and after being blasted in an air seal, I was permitted entry into the strictly HACCP controlled matcha plant. Here I saw the handmade granite stone mills turning the finest tencha green tea leaves into our vibrant green matcha powder.

 

Matcha processing plant

The handmade granite stone mills in the
matcha processing plant.

 

A trip to Japan  isn’t the only way you can discover the wonders of matcha (although I do highly recommend it). Take a look at the below matcha fast facts and arm yourself with knowledge you can share with your customers.

WHAT IS MATCHA?
Matcha green tea is the whole green tea leaf which is briefly steamed, dried and ground into a fine vibrant green powder. The powder dissolves in water so you consume the whole tea leaf, not just the steeped water. As a result matcha green tea contains 137 times the antioxidants of standard green tea.

Matcha Powder

HOW IS MATCHA PRODUCED?
Not all matcha brands are created equal. Many cheaper varieties are simply pulverized tea leaves from Korea or China, which do not undertake any of the production processes used to create authentic matcha. It is the traditional process which boost the Chlorophyll, amino acids and antioxidants and give matcha its incredible non-bitter taste.

 

These are the traditional steps that Zen Green Tea uses to produce its premium matcha:

1. SHADING

The finest matcha comes from the tea leaves harvested in spring in Japan, which produces the highest quality. In the final weeks before the leaf harvest, the tea farmers shade a portion of the plantation with bamboo tarps to block the amount of sunlight to the tea leaves. This shading process forces the tea plants to work harder for sunlight so they ramp up their Chlorophyll and amino acid production. This turns the shaded portion of the tea plantation into a beautiful dark green colour.

Matcha Pic 1

Shaded tea plantation that will be used to make
matcha. Take note of the gorgeous dark colour
of the leaves from the Chlorophyll.

2. HARVEST

We support family run tea farms, so the harvest season is a time when the whole community (uncles, nieces, cousins, grandparents) comes together to pick the tea leaves. The finest, young tea leaves known as ‘tencha’ are handpicked.

3. STEAMING & GRADING

Immediately after the leaves are picked they are briefly steamed. This deactivates the enzymes to lock in the high level of antioxidants and nutrients. The leaves then undergo the rigorous process of destemming, deveining and grading to ensure the best leaf flesh is set aside for matcha.

Steaming and grading

Matcha is destemmed, deveined and
graded by hand
.

4. DRYING & STORAGE

The leaf flesh is dried in a clay oven and then bundled and stored in freezers at -35 degrees Celsius. Storing the leaves at this temperature keeps the enzymes on pause so that they maintain their quality until the leaves are needed.

 

5. GRINDING

We secure a certain amount of these high quality Tencha leaves at the start of the harvest and then throughout the year, we continue to order our matcha production in small quantities. This means our factory only takes the Tencha leaves from storage and carefully mills them through handmade granite stone mills upon order, ensuring freshness. These stone mills turn the leaf flesh into fine matcha particles. This helps to give our matcha a uniquely smooth texture.

Matcha pic 2

Hand made granite stone mills grinding
matcha to a fine, smooth powder.

 

WHY IS IT DIFFERENT TO STANDARD GREEN TEA?
You can share these few key points with your customers on how matcha is different to standard green tea:

• Matcha is the whole tea leaf which dissolves in water, so you consume a much higher level of antioxidants (10 X standard green tea).

• High quality matcha has no bitterness as it is not processed as heavily as standard green tea

• Matcha has incredibly high levels of Chlorophyll, amino acids and antioxidants because of the shading process.

 

WHAT ARE THE KEY HEALTH BENEFITS OF MATCHA?
The key health benefits of high quality matcha include:

1. ASSISTS WITH WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

Matcha assists with weight loss and weight management in four specific ways:

• Helps boosts fat burning: A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming matcha can raise the bodies fat burning rate (thermogenesis) from the normal 8-10% to 35-43%.

• Can help reduce fat absorption: Matcha can help block the ability of digestive enzymes to break down fat, so the amount of fat entering cells is reduced and instead this fat is passed through the body in digestion.

• Helps to reduce hunger: Matcha can help regulate the hormone Leptin, helping to reduce hunger cravings.

• Can assist in reducing stress: Matcha can help reduce stress and as a result your body does not produce as much of the stress hormone Cortisol, which is a known contributor to stubborn midsection fat.

 

2. BOOSTS ENERGY AND ENDURANCE

Matcha is a natural source of sustained energy due to the unique way it delivers caffeine into your system.

With matcha the natural tea caffeine is absorbed and released slowly by the body over a period of hours. This means that matcha provides a sustainable energy boost and does not deliver the rapid 30 minute spike, slump and ‘jitters’ associated with coffee.

You will feel alert, energized and calm when you drink matcha. This is perfect for marahon runners, who need constant and sustained energy.

 

Matcha Energy Graph

 

3. SUPPORTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Matcha has an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system. The more matcha you drink or use in your food, the better allergic reactions (IGE) are suppressed.

The catechins and L-Theanine in matcha have an anti-viral effect on the flu. The EGCGs have an anti-bacterial effect on different sickness-causing micro-bodies, including Candidias Albicans. Matcha also inhibits the growth of parasites.

Matcha thus helps to curb infections, clear up free radicals, reduce oxidative damage and protect the kidneys.

4. HELPS TO PROTECT FROM DISEASE

Matcha contains the highest levels of disease fighting EGCG antioxidants only found in green tea. Researchers have reported that the EGCG in matcha prevents free radicals from damaging cells.

 

WHAT ARE THE AMAZING WAYS MATCHA CAN BE USED?

It’s not just a tea. There are so many uses for matcha! It is the perfect ingredient in smoothies, baking, lattes and even as an antioxidant rich face mask!

I have compiled some of my favourite recipes into an eBook. Download the Zen Green Tea Recipe E-Book for free and share it with your customers!

 

WHAT ARE MY JAPAN TRAVEL RECOMMENDATIONS?
If you are looking to plan a trip to Japan soon, here’s a couple places I highly recommend you visit!

1. IZU PENNINSULA

While visiting the World Tea Festival in Shizuoka, I took a little overnight trip to the Izu Penninsula. It really surprised me with its blue coastlines and beauty. I stayed at a gorgeous hotel/hostel called ‘K’s House’ which was a one-hundred year old traditional inn.

It was right on a stream so at night you can hear the trickling of water. It also had beautiful hot spring baths – both a private one to enjoy alone or a larger one to enjoy with other guests.

I did a beautiful walk around Mount Omuro. You catch a cable car up to the top and there is a short walking track around the rim of the grass covered volcano with stunning views!

IZU PENNINSULAThe stunning view at Izu Penninsula.

2. MIRAJIMA ISLAND (OFF THE COAST OF HIROSHIMA)

I took a half day trip from Hiroshima by ferry to Mirajima. It’s a gorgeous little island that houses a famous floating Tori Gate. It has all the beautiful traditional style Japanese buildings and some great Shrines. The island is full of friendly deer too! I took a 2 hour hike up the mountain to reach a lovely view point and Shrine at the top. Highly recommend a trip here and if it’s within budget, a stay overnight in a traditional Japanese Ryokan.

MIRAJIMA ISLAND (OFF THE COAST OF HIROSHIMA)A traditional Japanese Ryokan in Mirajima.

 

You can discover our whole Zen Green Tea range on the Unique online shop, and also connect with us on Instagram and on Facebook.

 

 

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