Posted in Kafevend Blog
Time for another in our series of blogs based around the Japanese tea ceremony and having focussed last week on what is worn to the ceremony, it's high time we had a look at what is drunk there. Tea is the obvious answer, but not just any old tea. Most ceremonies are centred on matcha, a fine powdered green tea, which has gained in popularity in the West in recent years as a health food.
To produce matcha the tea leaves are covered for the final two to four of weeks of cultivation, protecting them from direct sunlight, slowing growth and resulting in the production of high levels of chlorophyll. The youngest, most tender leaves are picked, then lightly steamed to prevent oxidisation and dried flat. Next the veins and stems are removed before the leaves undergo a lengthy grinding process between granite stones. During the tea ceremony the resulting fine green powder is whisked together with hot, but not boiling, water using a bamboo tea whisk called a chasen.
Where once matcha was almost exclusively drunk by the Japanese, many health conscious westerners have now added it to their superfoods list. When brewing regular green tea the leaves are discarded once they've imparted their flavour, but with matcha none of the goodness is wasted because the fine powder is part and parcel of the end result. In addition matcha's gentle processing methods help it to retain a far higher percentage of its antioxidants. As well as caffeine, matcha contains an amino acid called L-theanine which is believed to promote concentration, calmness and a more prolonged energising effect than is experienced after a drink containing caffeine alone.
If you're keen to try some matcha for yourself, but don't have an invitation to a Japanese tea ceremony in the offing, you can readily buy it online from tea specialist company 'teapigs' or on the High Street from well known health food store 'Holland and Barrett'.