Matcha production and cultivation is not just a delicate task, but also an art of its own. Below is a step-by-step guide that explains the matcha production process — from the farm to your cup. This will also help you understand why this green tea powder is relatively more expensive than any other green teas.
At the beginning of April, the first new shoots of the season appear at the tips of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. Shortly after that, the tea plantations designated for matcha and gyokuro are completely shaded for about 20 days using a large overhead framework of reed screens and rice straw. This serves to shut out the direct sunlight and to reduce the rate of photosynthesis, resulting in high levels of theanine, the amino acid responsible for the full-bodied flavor of the matcha and gyokuro teas.
On the traditional Japanese calendar,Risshun refers to the first day of spring in a given year; hachijuhachiya refers to the 88th day after Risshun. Hachijuhachiya is special because it marks the beginning of the year’s first tea picking. Though it varies slightly from year to year, hachijuhachiya typically occurs in early-May. At that time, the ‘first flush’ of tea leaves is carefully picked. ‘First flush’ is the year’s first harvest of young leaves, considered by connoisseurs to be the absolute finest in quality, freshness and flavor.
A key difference between Japanese green tea and other teas (black tea, oolong tea, Chinese green tea) is that Japanese tea leaves are steamed after being harvested. The steaming process lasts for about 15 - 20 seconds, and is performed soon (within 12- 20 hours) after the leaves are picked. The purpose of the steaming is to prevent the leaves from being oxidized. Thanks to this steaming process, most of the leaves' natural green color, fragrance and nutritional components are retained.
While the loose-leaf teas like gyokuro and sencha are rolled into tight twists after being steamed, the leaves used to make matcha are not rolled nor twisted. Instead, they are passed through the various stages of a large multi-chambered air machine where they are gently blown around and cooled using a mild flow of air. They are then scattered evenly over a flat surface and allowed to dry further. Before completely drying, they pass through a special drum-like machine where the veins and stem are separated from the main part of the leaf. The part that remains, after drying, is referred to as tencha. Tencha is the raw material for matcha powder.
After the steam treatment the tea leaves are rolled and dried in several stages. For this process, special machines are used that may have different pressure during rolling, and allow to set different drying temperature. Rolling causes cracking of cell walls of leaves and gives them a slender conifer shapes.
Tea leaves of picked sprouts are brought to a coarse tea processing plant. And by steaming at high temperature, you can stop the activities of fermented enzymes and keep vivid green color. After that, it is made into dry tea by slowly draining moisture with a large dryer. This state is called rough tea, or rough tea
Refined tencha is delivered to the matcha factory. Micron-sized matcha is produced using tea grinders in a manufacturing room under constant temperature and humidity 24 hours a day. High-class matcha for tea ceremony is ground very carefully so one tea grinder can only produce 40 grams per hour.
Organic Matcha passes numerous quality tests before it is sealed in a Vacuum. Ground matcha is packed after final inspection. Only products that pass the final inspection are kept fresh and delivered across Japan and worldwide. Finally ready to get packed!