Traditionally, matcha tea is made with only the highest quality Japanese green tea leaves available in the market – however, there are different grades of green tea, and the highest is known as ‘gyokuro’.
About 4 weeks before the harvest, the entire tea plantation is covered with bamboo to allow for shading – essentially, this causes the tea plants’ physiology to recognize that there is not enough light to continue the process of photosynthesis. As a result, the tea plant takes natural countermeasures – namely, the base of the plant begins to synthesize much greater concentrations of chlorophyll and deposits them in the leaves. Indeed, this physiological response is to help absorb and convert into energy the little light that comes through the shading. Of course, this is all part of the tea farmer’s strategy – by taking advantage of this natural mechanism, the tea farmers immediately harvest these now highly chlorophyll-rich tea leaves and steam, dry and sift them.
From there, the dried tea leaves are ground using granite grinding wheels – this produces a very fine powder, known as matcha powder. Subsequently, the matcha powder is inspected by laboratories for quality, packed in air tight containers, and flown across the globe to consumers world-wide. Actually, upon opening the tin of matcha, one can immediately assess the freshness and fineness of the tea – if the tea is fresh and was packaged and prepared properly, the green powder will “puff” into the air upon opening.