The second most commonly consumed beverage in the world (next to water), teas are made by infusing boiled water and either herbs or varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant (related to the evergreen shrub and known as green, white, or black teas). Tea can bring a variety of health benefits, clinical studies indicate that green teas may help decrease the risk of various forms of cancer, heart disease, and other health conditions.
The practice of pouring just boiled water over dried herbs or tea leaves is called an "infusion," where just boiled water is used to extract healthful components from dried plant materials. The time the boiled water is in contact with the herbs or tea is often also called "steeping," After the steeping period, usually anywhere from 3-15 minutes, and longer with certain medicinal herbal tea concoctions (C-Blend, etc.) the herbs are discarded, and the liquid drunk. In a true infusion, the plant material (herbs, tea leaves, etc.) is not consumed.
While the majority of teas consumed use the infusion method, the most healthful green tea of all consists of a specially processed green tea called matcha. What is unique about drinking matcha green tea, is that the tea leaves are NOT discarded after infusion, but consumed completely, which increases the level of consumed nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols by up to 85%, as compared to green tea infusions, where the tea leaves are discarded and not consumed.
Well known as the premier form of green tea, matcha is a variety of the Camellia sinensis plant from which all green tea is derived, called gyokuro. Matcha tea leaves are picked young, usually in May. The stems and veins are removed (which can make the tea bitter), the leaves are lightly steamed to prevent fermentation, and stone ground to a consistency of talcum powder, resulting in a beautiful green colored tea powder.
The combination of special processing, combined with consuming the entire plant, results in a beverage that is much higher in polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and catechins (like EGCG, the most important antioxidant for which green tea is known) than green or white tea infusions or traditional fermented teas, including black teas like oolong, because you consume the entire tea plant.
To make matcha, the microfine powder is either whisked or blended into hot water or other liquids. You can increase the absorption of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in all green teas (not just matcha) by adding lemon or lime juice. Matcha tea lovers often use a unique bamboo whisk, made of a single piece of bamboo, and a special ceremonial matcha tea bowl, where the water and matcha tea are whisked together.
A favorite at many Japanese restaurants and upscale coffee houses is soymilk matcha, where matcha tea is whipped or blended into soymilk that has been slightly sweetened. High quality blenders like the Vitamix, LeQuip, and Breville, or hand blenders like the Lequip, Breville or Bamix are perfect for whipping Matcha into a wonderful frothy drink. Whipped with steamed soy, rice, or other veggie milks, you can make a matcha latte.
Matcha green tea is also used to improve the nutritional qualities of baked goods, cereals, energy/protein bars, and to color and flavor the green ice cream sold in Japanese restaurants and sushi bars.
Matcha Canada -- Add Matcha to super green food powders, shakes, soups, porridge, punches, ice creams, jellies and jams. You can also mix it with flour to make bread, cookies, and much more.