Matcha is a popular ingredient today, used around the world in coffee shops, restaurants, and even at home. You’ve probably heard of it before, and might have even tried a taste. Where did this delectable powder come from, and how did it become so popular?
What is Matcha?
Matcha has traveled a spiritual journey over many years that has roots in both China and Japan. Matcha comes from the ground whole leaves of the traditional green tea that became widely used in the 8th century in China. In Japanese, “cha” means tea, and “ma” means powder, making the literal translation “powdered green tea.” Appreciating the history of matcha could create a whole new tea drinking experience.
In the 12th Century, Zen Master Eisai spend four years deep in spiritual studies in China’s Anhui Province. Eisai wanted to share his knowledge and decided to return home. He brought with him a pouch full of green tea seeds that were native to China’s Huanshan Mountains. He planted the seeds in the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Eisai cultivated the seeds and embraced the connections of their growth with his personal understanding of Buddism. When matured, he created a fine powder out of the dried tea leaves and produced a thick, earthy tea. He embraced the effects and how the matcha complimented a zen experience and intertwined this balance into a tea ritual.
Japanese tea rituals originated with Eisai and flourished in the 14th century in upper class social gatherings. These tea ceremonies celebrated the profound beauty of simple things, the extraordinary of the ordinary, with intentions to bring all participants to the here and now. This embraced the zen experience which includes living moment to moment, while feeling peaceful and realizing a state of enlightenment. Matcha is said to amplify zen because the effects of drinking the tea enhances alertness, increases presence of mind, and enables a placid, meditative state that facilitates the journey to awareness.
Traditional Tea Serving
Serving matcha is an art and spiritual discipline in Japan. The objective of the ceremony is to create a relaxed communication between hosts and the guest. All attention was poured into predefined movements to simulate preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. Tea rooms were simply decorated, and everything was meant to have a deeper meaning, from the art on the walls to the designs on the plates. This was to help facilitate an appreciation of the beauty of things that are simple and natural.
Modern Tea Appreciation
Today tea ceremonies aren’t as common in Japan and matcha is widely consumed in Western civilizations for its vast health benefits. The tea leaves are covered in shade 20-30 days before harvest to boost chlorophyll levels for aesthetics and increase production of the healthy amino acid L-Theanine. The best leaves are picked and laid out to dry, deveined, destemmed, and store ground into fine powder. The form of tea you would traditionally find in cafes is called Koicha, meaning “thick tea.”
Next time you are sitting down to enjoy a cup of matcha, think about its origins. Let your taste buds overflow with the pure, earthy flavor and allow the warmth to embrace your body. Let your mind escape to a feeling of simplicity and allow yourself to embrace that exact moment of your existence. Welcome the rituals and let them influence a zenful moment to inspire the rest of your day.
For more information, or to try a taste of matcha tea or another relaxing beverage, visit Mochas & Javas at any of our San Marcos, TX locations, or at our location in Frisco, TX.