What Exactly Is Matcha?

by Danny Taing

Many people are now familiar with matcha-flavored drinks (Starbucks' Matcha Latte) or matcha-flavored foods (Green Tea Kit Kats), but what exactly is matcha? With this month's Matcha Love Bokksu headed your way very soon, I thought it would be helpful if I briefly explained the story behind matcha.

Matcha (抹茶) literally means "grounded tea" because as you can see from the image below, matcha is a finely ground green tea powder.

Matcha Tea Powder

What distinguishes matcha from other teas is the special way it is grown and processed. Matcha bushes are shaded from direct sunlight for up to 20 days in order to increase the the matcha leaves' chlorophyll levels, which then turns the leaves a darker vibrant shade of green and increases the production of amino acids like theanine. After harvesting only the best buds, if the leaves are rolled out to dry as is typical with sencha, they become a premium green tea called Gyokuro. But if they are laid out flat to dry, the leaves will crumble a bit and become Tencha. Tencha leaves that are de-stemmed, de-veined, and stone-ground become the fine powder we all know as Matcha.

As you now know, the matcha powder used in many of the snacks in this month's box involved a good amount of labor and processing so I hope you thoroughly enjoy each and every one of them! If you're looking for more matcha snacks to try, check out this list of our favorites!

Happy snacking!

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