What comes to mind with the word “matcha”? A matcha latte? Your favorite cafe? Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder made from finely powdered dried tea leaves, and its origins begin long before it gained the popularity it has today. Its history dates back to nearly a thousand years ago when China was ruled by dynasties, and Japan by Shogun clans. While matcha’s humble beginnings can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China (7th-10th centuries), it is during the Song Dynasty (10th-13th centuries) that the particular form of tea preparation became popular.
In the 10th century, a Japanese Buddhist Monk by the name of Eisai returned to his home country after studying Buddhism in China — carrying with him tea seeds along with Zen Buddhist methods of preparing powdered green tea: the green tea was reduced to a powder, and was whisked with hot water in a bowl. He proceeded to plant them throughout the temple grounds in Kyoto. During this time, matcha tea was consumed mainly for two purposes: as medicine, and as a stimulant to keep Zen Buddhist monks focused and awake during their meditation sessions.
In the 16th century, Zen monk Sen no Rikyū established the “Cha-No-Yu”, or the Japanese tea ceremony that is still practiced to this day. His hope in laying the foundations for these tea ceremonies was to create harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku) in a room between people, over a bowl of matcha.
The popularity of matcha eventually made its way to the U.S. after its health benefits became widely known. People already knew that regular green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, but what matcha provides may be much more impressive. When regular green tea is made, the leaves are steeped in hot water, then discarded. When matcha is made, you whisk the powder into hot water or milk. This means that you’re actually consuming the entire tea leaf when drinking it! And it’s no secret that antioxidants can lower blood pressure, boost your metabolism, and even reduce the risk of heart disease!
While the ceremony isn't required to have the tea, perhaps a sip of matcha a day can benefit not only in antioxidants, but also in harmony and tranquility.
How to Prepare Matcha Green Tea
- Sift 1-2 tsp of matcha into a matcha bowl using a small sifter
- Add 2 oz of hot water or steamed milk with temperature just under a boil
- Whisk vigorously with a whisk, in a zig zag motion until the tea is frothy
- Enjoy your matcha tea straight from the bowl, or transfer to a mug
- Sweeten to taste, if desired