Where Does Matcha Green Tea Come From?
Japanese Matcha tea is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. In other articles on this website we have already discussed the different grades of Matcha tea powder, but this article is more about the origin of the powder. Like all tea, Matcha is made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Tea cultivated specifically for Matcha is primarily grown in two Japanese regions: Uji in Kyoto and Nishio in the Aichi prefecture. These tea leaves, specifically for Matcha are specially shade-grown over the course of three weeks. The top photo on this page shows a Matcha tea plant in Japan. Shielding the plant from direct sunlight incites an overproduction of chlorophyll, which contributes to Matcha’s distinctive bright green color. In addition, shading the plant yields an increase in the amino acid theanine, which is thought to give the drink its deep umami flavour.
As you probably know China produces a substitute for nearly every successful product. It is therefore no surprise that when Japanese matcha tea grew in popularity, China began to export its own version as Chinese "matcha" green tea powder. However, the Chinese version, while cheaper, is not the perfect substitute for Japanese matcha.
While tea-powdering is believed to have originated in China, the farming techniques for Matcha were refined and perfected over several centuries in Japan. Preparing Japanese Matcha is an intricate process which has been part of Japanese culture for nearly 800 years. In Japan, tea leaves are grown in the shade to preserve its green color, and dried quickly to prevent them from long exposure with oxygen, which can dull the earthy flavor. Chinese "Matcha" only approximates these farming techniques: Chinese tea leaves are not generally grown in the shade. As a result, Chinese "Matcha" does not froth as much and its texture is different. The Chinese "Matcha" is also sometimes not as green as the Japanese Matcha powder.
While there may be good Chinese "Matcha" teas, and there might be more in the future, on this website we only recommend traditional Japanese Matcha powders. We are passionate for Matcha and believe that there is more to Matcha than "only" the powder. One element of Matcha is its origin and history, as well as the passion for it that is so deeply embedded in Japanese culture!