The hallmarks of quality matcha powder
Matcha has emerged as a superfood, reigns superior among beverages for its energizing effects and has withstood the test of time for both ritual and daily enjoyment. What is lesser-known, is how to distinguish between tiers of quality or how to select the desired characteristics of a high-grade matcha. Here are three qualities that can help you find your perfect matcha powder.
- Look for shade grown
- Harvest timing
- Farm location
- What’s the taste difference?
- How is freshly ground powder better than pre-ground?
- How should I grind the leaves?
1. Perfect matcha powder begins with perfect tencha leaves.
Tencha (“ten” meaning grind and “cha” meaning tea) is the ground tea leaf comprising matcha. This type of green tea is shade grown for 20 to 30 days and dried with a series of precise steps. Good tencha is based on the cultivation technique, the harvest time, the farm location and the proper grinding equipment.
Look for shade grown
Perfect tencha leaves come from a legacy of specific shade-growing practices. Shade growing produces a favorable, mellower, umami-rich flavor. It does this by limiting the conversion of L-theanine (an amino acid occurring naturally in green tea) into catechins (a bitter-tasting chemical and antioxidant), which give the leaves a sweeter, more pleasant taste. Shade-growing perfects the balance of L-theanine and catechins. An increase in L-theanine is an increase of stabilized energy levels and focus throughout the day.
“Cuzen Matcha uses leaves that are shade-grown for three weeks – the perfect amount of time.”
Harvesting is the process of gathering ripe leaves and the harvesting technique defines the perfect matcha powder. The longer the leaves and buds stay on the plant, the more bitter they will become, so precise timing is essential.
The best time to harvest is either spring or summer. If you want a more smooth and sweet flavor, look for leaves harvested in spring. If you are looking for a more balanced and full-bodied flavor, spring and summer are best.
“Cuzen Matcha uses a combination of leaves harvested in spring and summer.”
Tencha leaves require special care. We searched high and low (but mainly high for altitude) to find an ideal sustainable farm that sits at just the right altitude and with optimal levels of sun and moisture in the air. A family-owned organic tea farm located in the Kirishima area of Kagoshima, Japan exhibited the level of care we hoped to find. We now work closely with these dedicated tea farmers who produce the leaves we use for Cuzen Matcha.
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2. Just like coffee, blending matcha enhances qualities.
To blend tencha is to combine more than one green tea leaf, resulting in a unique flavor with distinctive characteristics. Blending leaves for matcha powder has similar benefits as blending beans for ground coffee. To blend a variety of leaves is to take advantage of the palette of flavors, combine those that complement one another and to produce a new and exceptional profile.
What’s the taste difference?
The taste that develops will vary depending on the quantities of each blend and the type of blend. You can adjust the flavor profile to precisely suit your taste. We currently have two blends. Our Signature Matcha Leaf combines balanced and full-bodied flavors; our Premium Matcha Leaf blend offers a smooth and umami-rich flavor.
3. Freshly ground matcha powder is best.
The best entrees comprise whole ingredients. The most flavorful coffee comes from whole beans ground the day the coffee is brewed. Similarly, freshly ground tea leaves , rather than pre-ground powder, result in the best cup of matcha.
How is freshly ground matcha powder better than pre-ground?
The evidence is in the color. A pre-ground matcha will slowly fade to a tinted yellow-brown because of the oxidation process. Once leaves are ground, the powder oxidizes quickly, due to a greater surface area being exposed to oxygen. A vibrant matcha comes from a vibrant powder. When the color fades, so does the flavor. In addition, the oxidation process lessens the potency of the beneficial chemicals, L-theanine and catechins. The more time passes after grinding, the weaker matcha’s medicinal benefits become.
“Matcha lovers would not drink pre-ground matcha just as coffee lovers would not drink pre-ground coffee, and Cuzen Matcha offers THE best freshly ground matcha.”
How should I grind the leaves?
To elevate the quality of your matcha powder, you need the right tool. Not every grinding tool will deliver a smooth tea. Traditionally, matcha was ground on a large round stone into very small particles. While most kitchens don’t have space for large tencha-grinding stones, we have engineered a Matcha Maker with a small stone mechanism to grind the leaves into a fine powder, immediately before they drop into the water for whisking. The small particle setting of a high-caliber grinder like ours will provide a smoother texture and thus a more palatable experience.
Shake in the aromatic leaves, press a button, listen to the hum. In the time it takes to retrieve milk and a sweetener, you have freshly ground matcha, full of antioxidants and flavor, ready for sipping.
Everything you need to get started is in our Matcha Maker Starter Kit. We even offer a subscription that will keep you stocked with fresh leaves without tedious re-ordering. (You also save 15% with a subscription.) Click here and in a couple of weeks, you will be making your own perfect matcha powder in your own home.