Matcha (抹茶) is finely milled green tea powder which shade-grown tea leaves have been stone-ground into a delicate powder. It has been around for 800 years in Japan, and it was originally introduced from China. Matcha was used by monks to center themselves during meditation and it became part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies over time. For the past 50 years or so, matcha has been used in traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi), baked goods, ice cream, and drinks.
Unlike regular green tea that we drink, matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves to prevent direct sunlight, which slows down growth and stimulates an increase in chlorophyll level (basically turns the leaves a darker shade of green). Then only finest tea buds are hand-picked, leaves de-veined and de-stemmed, and then stone-ground to the fine bright green powder and that’s matcha. It could take one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha (Continue reading here).
The high grade matcha are for drinking and the lower grades are used for cooking. High grade matcha tends to be bright green. Regardless of the grade, remember to use your matcha powder quickly after opening as it’ll oxidize and lose flavor.
Matcha is an antioxidant powerhouse. Antioxidants are the magical nutrients and enzymes responsible for giving us younger-looking skin, boosting memory and concentration, increasing energy level, burning fat, and preventing a number of life-threatening diseases like cancer.
If there is no Japanese supermarket, then try tea stores, Asian grocery stores, and gourmet grocery stores; however, make sure you check the color of matcha powder. When matcha is good quality, it always has beautiful green color, not yellowish/brownish green. And sugar should not be included in the ingredients.
Seal the package tightly and store inside the can. Avoid storing in direct sunlight and areas with high temperature or humidity. The shelf-life of an unopened package depends on how it’s packaged. In general, high quality (unopened) matcha lasts for 6 months. It’s best to use up the matcha within 2-3 weeks of opening the package. Drink more matcha green tea or delicious matcha desserts!