Matcha does literally translate "powdered tea" but what is the best Matcha green tea powder?
Though green tea originated in China and was introduced to Japan 800 years ago, the best and most authentic Matcha that you have heard so much about is grown and produced in the Kyoto and Shizuoka (where Brilliant Green Company Matcha comes from), along with the Aichi Prefecture and Kyushu region of Japan. This is due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, the regions where it is grown have very iron rich soil, sloping hills and ideal temperatures. Secondly, the process of growing and producing Matcha in Japan has been developed and tweaked for over 800 years there. Other Asian countries produce similar "matcha" powders but to their taste, methods and regulations. In Japan tea is shade grown and once cultivated it is steamed and then air dried, keeping the young tea leaves nutrients in tact, then stone ground into Matcha powder. The Japanese are very proud of their Matcha, as we discovered when trying various samples from Japan and asking what the difference was between their tea and the ones from places like China and Thailand. We were politely informed that we were insane to compare Japanese Matcha to any other powdered tea being made outside of Japan. There is no substitute for, nor any contender to, Japanese Matcha.
Picking and Processing
In mid April of each year, green tea bushes are covered with a screen made from reed to shade them from sunlight. 10 days or so later, growers will cover that screen with straw to shade the bushes further. This process lets the young tea leaves grow quite thin and wide to capture what light is available. This process increases the amount of chlorophyll in the tea leaves, giving them a bright green colour that is familiar with quality Matcha.
In May, the tea leaves are picked by hand. The leaves at the top of the plant, the youngest, freshest and brightest, are picked for the highest grade teas, such as our Ceremonial Grade. The lower, older leaves, which are a darker green, are picked for lower grades, such as Premium and cooking grade Matcha. They are then brought straight to a processing facility, where they are steamed to prevent fermentation. The moisture from steaming is shaken off, the leaves are then cooled. Once cooled they go into a brick oven (Hoiro) where the moisture is dried out. The dried leaves, known as Tencha, are stored in wooded boxes and refrigerated.
The Tencha leaves have their stalks and veins removed, then sifted, cut and dried again. The Tencha is then put through another process to remove older leaves and the rest of the stalks and veins. Then finally it is ground by stone mills into Matcha powder. And this is just a brief breakdown of the process!