Matcha is a finely powdered green tea used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony CHANOYU.
Tea bushes which produce Matcha are covered with bamboo mats prior to being picked.
This produces a slightly darker leaf and is said to increase the quality of nutrients, giving rise to many claims relating to its health benefits.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is slow and formal and performed with deliberate purpose.
However, Matcha can be drunk by adding it to very hot (not boiling) water which is then whisked into a frothy drink.
Matcha is considered a modern super food because of its health benefits, although it has been used by the Japanese people for centuries!
Apart from being a drink which has a cleansing flavour and grassy overtones, it is now added to smoothies, lattes, biscuits, sweets, cakes and ice cream.
Japan has a very old and established history of tea. However almost all tea produced in Japan is consumed domestically.
Tea is grown mainly in the Southern prefectures (regions) such as Kagoshima, Shizuku and Kyoto.
Sencha teas where the harvested leaves are steamed to enhance flavour and appearance, make up almost 80 per cent of teas produced in Japan.
Matcha tea, a bright green powdered tea used in the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony (Chanoyu) is also sought after. Bancha is another style of Japanese tea.
The highest quality of Japanese tea is Gyokuru tea, where the plants are shaded for weeks before picking and processing. Gyokuru is a rare tea which produces a pale green infusion.
Genmaicha, a green Sencha tea with the interesting addition of roasted rice (popcorn) has a distinctive and nutty flavour.
Among the flavoured teas, Sakura (Cherry Blossom) is a popular blend due to its refreshing and crisp taste.
Have you ever noticed that eating meals with good quality crockery and drinking from good glassware, enhances the dining experience and seems to make the food and drink taste better?
It is the same with tea. Use good quality teapots and cups and above all, use the right type of teapot for the tea you are drinking.
The best quality teapots are of fine china, pottery, stoneware or glass. Silver or aluminium are not as good.
Also remember that plungers are meant for coffee not tea, as coffee floats and tea sinks.
Yixing teapots are made of different coloured clays and only used for one type of tea – as the pot absorbs the flavour of the tea over time.
Tea cup infusers made of fine China (with a removable tea ‘basket’) are becoming increasingly popular and are a convenient alternative to the tea bag.
Quality tea strainers are also available, the finer the mesh the better. Tea balls if used should be as large as possible to allow the tea to infuse and expand.
So, when drinking traditional black tea always use fine China, predominantly white in colour.
Similarly Chinese and Japanese tea must be drunk using the traditionally shaped Oriental style teapot together with drinking bowls, not tea cups.
Herbal and fruit infusions are best enjoyed in quality glass teapots with glass cups.