How to Grow a Matcha Plant
Although it is processed differently, the matcha tea comes from the same tea plant (Camellia sinensis) as other teas. Tea can be grown outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, but grown well in containers in other areas. Tea should be planted where it will receive part shade as well as protection from winds. Well-drained soil that is rich in organic material works best for tea plants, and nutrient-deficient soil may need to be amended before planting. The plants produce small white flowers in the fall and grow into dense, round shrubs about 15 feet in diameter.
Prune tea immediately after fall flowering or in the summer. Remove dead and damaged limbs during pruning, and shape the plant as desired, shortening lower branches if you want to encourage vertical growth. Thin the tea during pruning if the shrub is so dense that flowers struggle to open completely.
Spread a layer of organic mulch 2 to 6 inches deep around the base of the plant. Spread the mulch out from the trunk to a distance of about 8 to 12 inches. This will help keep the soil moist, and create a buffer between the trunk of the plant and possible damage from lawnmower and weed trimmer blades. Rake up and replace spent mulch every spring to help prevent fungal infections.
Water your tea as often as needed during dry weather to keep the soil moist but never allow the ground to become wet or soggy. Plants that are three years of age or older likely will receive adequate water from rainfall unless drought occurs. Provide regularly irrigated plants an extended deep soaking twice each summer if the water they were irrigated with is high in salt.
Fertilize the plant every two to three weeks from spring throughout the fall with a fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Apply the fertilizer at one-half the strength recommended on the label.
Keep the area around the base of the plant clean, and free of dropped flowers and petals. Good sanitation practices help reduce the chances of disease and insect problems.
Cover the tea plant with a bamboo screen or other porous cover four weeks before harvest. This screen reduces the amount of sunlight available to the tea leaves, making them work harder and produce more chlorophyll. This is what makes the leaves used in matcha tea more tender and a deeper green than other tea leaves.
Harvest and dry the tea leaves. Remove the stems from the dried leaves and grind them into powder to make matcha tea.
How to Grow a Matcha Plant. Although it is processed differently, the matcha tea comes from the same tea plant (Camellia sinensis) as other teas. Tea can be grown outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, but grown well in containers in other areas. Tea should be planted where it …
What Exactly Is Matcha and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?
Everything you need to know about matcha.
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Meet matcha, the current darling of the tea world. This finely milled green tea powder — the staple ingredient upon which traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were built in the 12th century — has seen a surge in popularity recently thanks to its visual appeal, purported health benefits, and beautiful, distinct flavor. Matcha is essentially processed green tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a delicate powder. The powder is then sifted and whisked with hot water. Because of the laborious process required to produce matcha, the tea is generally pricier than others.
Matcha leaves are grown in a number of places and, in fact, the practice of milling tea leaves into a fine powder and then whisking in water originated in China around the 10th century. But, the best matcha comes from Japan and the most popular growing regions are in the southern half of the country: Uji, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Kyushu. What most distinguishes matcha from other green teas is that matcha bushes are covered for up to
. The best matcha comes from Japan and the most popular growing regions are in the southern half of the country.
20 days prior to harvest to shade the leaves from direct sunlight. This is done to boost the plants’ chlorophyll levels (which turns the leaves a darker, vibrant shade of green), and increase the production of L-Theanine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the tea plant and certain types of mushrooms. Notice how tea has a tendency to both calm and stimulate at the same time? That’s thanks to L-Theanine.
Workers only pick the best buds, and depending on whether the leaves are rolled out flat before drying or whether they are laid out to dry will result in two different green teas. If the leaves are rolled out they become a premium green tea named Gyokuro, while the leaves that are laid out to dry become Tencha. Tencha is the leaf used for making matcha. Once the leaf is de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground it becomes the fine powder known as matcha.
In contrast to contemporary matcha culture (it’s as easy as grabbing a green tea latte from a nearby Starbucks), traditionally, Japanese tea ceremonies (called chanoyu) centered around the preparation and offering of matcha. Where everything counts. From the beautiful hand-painted matcha bowls made by local artisans to the art of serving and receiving the tea.
Matcha is usually made in two forms: usucha and koicha. Usucha translates to “thin tea,” and is the most common preparation. Generally what cafes and restaurants serve. Koicha is “thick tea.” It’s made with half the amount of water and twice the amount of matcha powder as usucha. Instead of quickly whisking, the tea is gently kneaded using the chasen or bamboo whisk. The result is a very thick (imagine the texture of paint) tea. Koicha is usually prepared during traditional tea ceremonies and is made from the highest quality of matcha powder. As compared to usucha which is made from the second highest grade of matcha powder. And t he matcha powders used to make usucha and koicha can’t be simply interchanged.
To prepare usucha, matcha powder is sifted into a bowl and whisked with hot water until frothy. The entire tea leaf is consumed in contrast to “regular” tea, which is a brewed beverage of processed tea leaves steeped in hot water. Matcha is also tea. But instead of a brew, it is a suspension. The matcha powder is whisked and suspended in the water. Let that bowl of matcha sit for too long and it will separate unlike a brewed/steeped beverage.
Equipment is an essential part of the experience and key to making great matcha. Start with a chawan, the tea bowl which is used to make and drink the matcha. Also necessary is chashaku, a traditional bamboo tea spoon used to scoop the matcha into the chawan. Also important, the chasen, and a tea sifter to break up all the clumps, which develop because of static in the matcha powder.
The flavor of matcha depends on the quality of powder used and the region from which it comes.
Start by using the chashaku. Sift a teaspoon of matcha powder into a chawan. Gently pour in three ounces of 175°F water. Using a chasen, whisk rapidly in an MW/zig-zag motion until frothy. The result is a hot, frothy (the goal is to get only small bubbles on the surface, not big ones) concoction that is all at once sweet and grassy, occasionally with a hint of bitterness. The flavor of matcha depends on the quality of powder used and the region from which it comes. Some prefer matcha that is a touch sweeter, others might prefer a more umami-rich matcha. There are clear distinctions between good and bad quality matcha (powder that tastes unpleasantly bitter), but once a powder is in the realm of good and above, it’s primarily about personal taste preference.
In addition to drinking matcha both warm and cold, there’s no shortage of creative uses for the powder: infused into cocktails, whipped into lattes, dusted atop savory dishes, and mixed into any number of sweets from macarons to mochi, and cakes to doughnuts. The naturally sweet, grassy notes adapt well to food and drink making it a memorable flavor to showcase in a wide range of creations.
Matcha has also recently been making waves in the health and beauty sectors because the green tea leaves are believed to be high in antioxidants. Regular steeped green tea is considered healthy because the leaves contain antioxidants, but water can only extract a small about of the leaves’ nutritional properties. In the case of matcha, one consumes the entire leaf, making it exponentially more healthful.
Matcha consumed in America is done so in a causal way. But keep in mind the traditional Japanese tea ceremony from which the matcha ritual stems. At its root is the notion of mindfulness and ichi-go ichi-e (“one time, one meeting”), the idea that every encounter is unique and can never be reproduced. In terms of drinking tea, this means that each particular occasion and experience, each cup of matcha, can never be replicated and should thus be treasured.
Everything you need to know about matcha.