A drink that likes the dark but has a bright flavor
Making Matcha is no simple process. It needs to be harvested in a certain time period, under the right conditions, and many steps are taken to produce a tiny amount of the magical green powder we’ve fallen in love with. We caught up with d:Matcha to learn more about their family-owned tea farm, and how they’re looking to pay homage with ancient tradition while innovating and having fun.
Wait, what is Matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground powder made of whole Japanese green tea leaves. Matcha is jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants, and you can read all about that in this blog. Matcha was popularized in Japan in the late 12th century when it became a popular item for monasteries. After nearly 900 years, Japan is the largest Matcha producer and one of the top consumers of it as well.
They are a relatively new company (just like us!), starting in 2016, however, they’ve already grown their farm to 3 hectares (that would cover about 7.5 football fields). Daiki, his wife Misato Tanaka, and brother Chisei Tanaka believed they could carry on one of Japan's most cherished traditions. They believe this message so strongly that they offer tea tours of their farm to help spread their culture to other people. If you ever get a chance to visit Wazuka, which is only an hour south of Kyoto, make sure to get immersed into the culture of tea farming, and stop by to try their chocolates and other tasty Matcha desserts.
How Does the Matcha Process Start?
It all starts with a plant called camellia sinensis, which is the same plant that is used to make black and oolong tea. Matcha can be harvested multiple times per year, but the very best Matcha, ceremonial grade, is harvested during the ‘first flush’, which is the harvest that occurs in May. A month or two before harvest, d:matcha farmers shade the plants. The decrease in sunlight increases the plant’s production of chlorophyll (what gives Matcha the green color), and amino acids (what gives the umami flavor). After 3 weeks, only the youngest part of the plant is harvested.
Steaming, Drying, and Grinding
As soon as the harvest is complete, the leaves are instantly steamed to stop the oxidization process that takes place in the leaves. If this is not done almost instantly the leaves will oxidize and become a different form of tea. Depending how long they oxidize for they will become oolong tea (some oxidization) or black tea (longer oxidization). They are then put into a blower to dry the leaves out and also help separate them.
After being dried multiple times, the leaves are then cut as to separate the leaf from the vines and twigs that might have made its way through the process. Finally the leaves are put through a grinder to achieve that perfect powder.
What makes d:matcha unique?
We partnered with d:Matcha to deliver their amazing ceremonial grade tea, Samidori Matcha. d:Matcha is located in Wazuka, Kyoto. While not a large city, only having a population of 3,775 people, it is an amazing place to grow tea. d:Matcha’s owner Daiki Tanaka shares how "the fog produced due to the mountain is quite important because it produces a natural shade for the tea”. d:Matcha reserves the first flush harvest for their drinking Matcha. The leaves harvest in the other two flushes are used for cakes and other bakery items.