About Uji Matcha

Matcha is a type of green tea just like Sencha or Gyokuro.  Tea leaves are ground into a powder by a stone mill and used in a number of ways, from drinking applications, cooking sweets to traditional tea ceremony.  Matcha is considered a highly functional food because it is rich in Vitamins C and E, Catechin, Theanine, and dietary fiber.  We can ingest the nutrients and umami as we drink the whole tea leaves in the form of powdered green tea dissolved in hot water.

 

Definition of Uji Matcha

 

We define Uji Matcha as tea grown in one or more of the Japanese prefectures of Kyoto, Nara, Shiga or Mie (with highest proportion on Kyoto) and processed by a tea manufacturer within Kyoto.  In other areas, we are seeing tea processed without adopting traditional covering method and using machinery.  However, Uji Matcha still relies heavily on manual labor.  Tea plantations are covered manually by experienced farmers, tea leaves are hand picked and tea is processed through an exclusive furnace with utmost care.  Premium matcha like Uji can only be manufactured 40g (1.4oz) in an hour per mill.  This is why Uji matcha is considered a premium tea.

 

The Stone Mill for Grinding Tea Leaves

The Stone Mill for Grinding Tea Leaves

 

Matcha turned into powder after grinding.

Matcha turned into powder after grinding.

 

Why Does Uji Matcha Taste Good?

 

          The sweetness of matcha comes from the good climate in which the tea leaves are grown.
The area around Kyoto is a vast fertile land through which a big river runs.  It gets an appropriate amount of rainfall that is essential in growing quality tea leaves.  The temperature drop during the night in Uji is another factor that brings out its sweetness.

*       How Does Temperature Drop Bring Out the Sweetness in Matcha?
Photosynthesis takes place during the day but it stops at night and tea leaves start consuming sugar that was produced during the day.  However, the temperature drop during the night slows the sugar consumption and it is instead accumulated within the leaves.

 

          Umami Component of Theanine (a type of amino acid) Production Promoted by Covering Method
Sencha is grown in full sun but matcha and gyokuro grow in covered fields for about 20 days prior to picking.  By covering the tea leaves from the sunlight, it prevents the production of Catechins which is a bitter component in tea and instead promotes the production of amino acid called Theanine, the base for Umami.  Theanine works as relaxant.

          Successful Matcha Production due to its proximity to Kyoto, where the people appreciate expensive tastes.
Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years until just 150 years ago. The demand for premium tea leaves such as matcha or gyokuro increased during this period and pushed the production of flavorful tea.  From there, the tea was distributed nationwide.

 

The Traditional Leaf-picking Method Still Used in Uji.


Matcha or tencha as it is called more specifically and gyokuro are covered with reed screens over the field.  It restricts the amount of sunlight that shines through in order to produce tea rich in umami and low in bitterness.  This tea plantation is one of the best as it still adopts the traditional system.  They manage bamboo and log stakes to create a canopy and spread straw over the reed screens.

 

 

Beginning of March

They set up a tower using logs and bamboos.  Covering the tea garden is an essential step to produce matcha that is mild and rich in umami.

They set up a tower using logs and bamboos.  Covering the tea garden is an essential step to produce matcha that is mild and rich in umami.

 

The tower is ready.

The tower is ready.

 

 

Late March to Beginning of April

The reed screens are placed on top of the tower waiting to be spread out at the right timing.

The reed screens are placed on top of the tower waiting to be spread out at the right timing.

 

A baby leaf is sprouting, still small.

A baby leaf is sprouting, still small.

 

 

Beginning of April

The reed screens are spread wide and bundles of straw are placed on top waiting for the right moment.

The reed screens are spread wide and bundles of straw are placed on top waiting for the right moment.

 

The new buds are growing even more.

The new buds are growing even more.

 

 

Middle of April

The sides of the field are covered with reed screens by which the sunlight penetration is down to about 40%.

The sides of the field are covered with reed screens by which the sunlight penetration is down to about 40%.

 

The baby leaves are growing even more.

The baby leaves are growing even more.

 

 

Late April

Healthy young leaves are growing steadily.

Healthy young leaves are growing steadily.

 

 

Tea farmers climb up on the tower and spread out the straw.  They must be careful not to fall as they are standing on top of the bamboo fence.

Tea farmers climb up on the tower and spread out the straw.  They must be careful not to fall as they are standing on top of the bamboo fence.

 

 

It is dark inside the canopy.  95% to 98% of the sunlight is now blocked.  This controls the bitter taste of tea and improves the umami production.

It is dark inside the canopy.  95% to 98% of the sunlight is now blocked.  This controls the bitter taste of tea and improves the umami production.

 

 

 

May 2nd, Before the harvest

Now, young leaves are growing slowly so that the umami factor is maximized to make it a good quality tea. 

Now, young leaves are growing slowly so that the umami factor is maximized to make it a good quality tea.

 

 

 

Middle to End of May

Start of the tea-picking season.  Tea farmers endure the tedious process sweating to pick the young tealeaves gently by hand.

Start of the tea-picking season.  Tea farmers endure the tedious process sweating to pick the young tealeaves gently by hand.

 

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