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Spreading The Love Of Matcha

Throughout Japanese history, tea has been an important aspect of the Japanese lifestyle. It was Esai, an eleventh century zen priest who initiated tea cultivation in Japan, that once said “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” Although Japan has many forms of tea, this quote was actually referring specifically to matcha. To learn more about matcha and why it is such a treasured beverage still today, I visited matcha LOVE, a tea store produced by the leading tea company, ITO EN.

“First of all, matcha is one type within many types of green teas,” explained Mr. Hiroshi Uetake, general manager of ITO EN, who has practiced the way of tea for a long time. Japanese tea is steamed after the leaves are picked, not roasted like Chinese tea. Japanese tea is then kneaded, but in the case of matcha, this step is skipped. Once the leaves are dried it is directly powdered, traditionally with a stone mill. He explains, “When one is drinking matcha, you are actually drinking the tea leaves themselves, not just the liquid infusion. Therefore, matcha is stronger and healthier than other teas.”

The most beneficial constituents in matcha are Polyphenols, such as tannin and catechin. These are agents that make green tea so healthy fighting free radicals in the body, lowering blood pressure, detoxifying the body, and controlling cholesterol levels. Matcha also includes theanine, an amino acid that protects brain cells, as well as vitamins E, A and fiber that are harder to dissolve in water.

“Since matcha is traditionally used in formal Japanese tea ceremonies, it has an image of being difficult to use, but in fact, it is very easy and anyone can use it,” says Mr. Uetake. To brew a bowl of matcha, take about 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder.  (To avoid the lumps it is best to sift the powder before use.)  Place the powder into a bowl and then add 2 to 3 ounces of hot water at about 160-175 °F.  First, break up the powder lumps with the chasen (bamboo matcha mixer).  Then use your wrist to make quick up down movements with the chasen to froth the tea. Once the bubbles form, bring the chasen closer to the surface to create smaller, smoother foam.

Aside from drinking it in tea form, matcha is often used as a culinary ingredient. Mr. Uetake says, “sprinkle it on ice cream, make matcha latte, matcha salt, matcha chocolate, matcha cake, the possibilities are endless. Most importantly, just have fun.”

—– Reported by Maya Robinson

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matcha LOVE by ITO EN @ Mitsuwa Marketplace
595 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ 07025
TEL: 201-941-1301 / www.itoen.com

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Mr. Uetake demonstrates the traditional way of preparing matcha green tea. ITO EN’s matcha currently has four types: from regular grade to the highest, Usucha, Classic and  Koicha, as well as the special, Organic.

Here is Mr. Uetake’s example of a gorgeously brewed matcha with silky foam. It is not a requirement to create foam, but it does make the tea smoother on the palate.

You can make a matcha latte very easily at home. Simply put matcha powder, sugar and milk in a blender and mix them for 10 seconds.

Some new devices are being created for modern matcha drinkers, such as the long handled chasen for mugs, and the electronic chasen for easy matcha making.