Japanese Matcha Green Tea
While green tea is generally grown throughout several different countries in the world, Matcha Green Tea is a specific first-class, high quality finely ground green tea powder completely unique to Japan.
The growing, harvest and preparation of Matcha is rather intricate. Preparation of the purely shade-grown leaves starts several weeks before the harvest and can last up to three weeks. The tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sun light which results in increased chlorophyll levels and slower growth so that the leaves turn a deep green color. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked before being left out to dry. They are then de-veined, de-stemmed and stone ground into fine powder named Matcha. It can take up to an hour to grind just 30 grams of Matcha!
High quality matcha will have a very intense and deep flavour as well as countless health benefits. High in antioxidants, it boosts memory, concentration and energy while still having a calming effect. It also fortifies and detoxes your immune system.
We thought it to be the perfect ingredient to use in our artisan ice creams…
Matcha TEA holds a very special place in Japanese culture. So much so, that we went on a quest to find some personal matcha-related stories to share with you.
This tea is at the very heart of Japanese tea drinking ceremonies.
Something so intricate and beautiful, that we asked our friend, Megumi Ito, a Japanese Light Designer based in Vienna for her fondest memories related to Matcha green tea.
“The ceremony is really a kind of mystery and magic” says Megumi.
“Because the tea culture is so ancient, several theories have developed over time. The story known to me goes as follows:
Before a Samurai/General had to go to fight a war, he would have a last meeting with a Monk. It was common to get a Monk’s opinion, guidance and mentoring as they were known to be very wise and they were very well respected at that time. This method has disappeared a little now since there is no war or the times are different. But still the idea of having a meeting with a Monk is very special for Japanese people. While meeting, they had to accept the fact, or at least expect that they may see each other for the last time. So they created the absolutely perfect time for having tea together. The tea ceremony was born.
The tea cup itself may have come from Korea many centuries ago. We have learned the method to make the form and shape of the cup and each tea cup was made of a master who is a ceramic artist. Everyone can see and feel what kind of passion is inside or what kind of feeling was put onto the cup when it was made. Rainy season, summer, loneliness or happiness and so on.
Therefore, we have come to enjoy not only the tea, but the entire atmosphere – the feeling of joy to enjoy the tea and the cup (these are the part of art). Conversation is savoured and enjoyed. Perhaps also with a little sadness.
The tea is powdered from the leaf and once in a year the tea masters celebrate the day of the new tea. I remember it is in November. They get the big box with the new green tea inside – even the boxes are so beautiful because of the Japanese tradition and art of wrapping and packing – so stunning. We all enjoy the smell of the new leaf and memories the season we had this year. It really is a gorgeous experience.”
And luckily, for all of us here in Munich, there are opportunities to take part in Japanese tea drinking ceremonies.
We caught up with Axel Schwab, curator of Japan in München who was kind enough to share his experiences with us:
“One of the most impressive experiences to understand Japanese culture is to join a traditional tea ceremony. When I am visiting Tokyo, I always try to join in on at least one ceremony during my stay. For the first time visitor it looks like a simple rite at the first glance, however is a quite complex issue. Originally tea has been introduced from China to Japan in the 9th century, but the refinement of the tea ceremony called chado (“way of tea”) into a distinctively Japanese custom has developed throughout a long time. In the 16th century it was perfected by Sen no Rikyu and up to today around 40 different schools developed to teach about the “way of tea”. A tea-master which I met in April this year taught me the philosophy by simply remembering the word “WA-KEI-SEI-JAKU”:
WA stands for Harmony; the harmony between guest, host and the surroundings. KEI stands for Respect; it is shown by the multiple bowings during the ceremony. SEI stands for Purity; the purity of the objects used for the tea ceremony and purity of heart and mind. There is a small cloth made of silk, called fukusa, which is used to clean the tea bowl etc. during the ceremony. JAKU stands for Tranquility; meaning peace of heart and mind, it is the connection with Zen Buddhism.
As a guest, there are many things to consider. One of the basics to be conscious of, is receiving the bowl. When you are receiving the tea bowl, you turn the bowl 180° clockwise with two movements. After drinking the tea, you turn the bowl another 180° (counter-clockwise) before giving back the empty tea bowl to your host. There is much more to write about actually, but doing so wont replace your own experience of joining a real tea ceremony…
The photo below is a photo of mine which I took at an old tea house Muan at the Happo-en in Tokyo, which in my opinion, is one of the best places to experience a traditional tea ceremony. But even if you are living in Munich and do not plan to visit to Japan in the near future you are able to experience a tea ceremony at the tea house in the English Garden“
We really love the symbolism and history associated with Green Tea. It makes preparing and serving it as artisan ice cream all the more significant! Have you tried it? What are you waiting for?