Most of the finest matcha in the world, comes from Japan. There are approximately three seasons for harvesting matcha tea leaves, May, August and sometimes in November depending on weather and growing patterns. The spring season during May is often considered the best season for picking tea.
Photo: Rocket news, shading the tea leaves
The highest quality Ceremonial matchas are shaded for 3-4 weeks and then hand picked. Only the outermost top leaves are picked containing the highest levels of anti-oxidants, catechins, chlorophyll, and l-theanine. Shading the tea plants not only forces the chlorophyll to reach up through the leaves to the sun, but also limits the bitterness of tea that grows a long time in the sun, in this way, the shaded hand-picked tea leaves remain sweet with a delicious gentle ‘unami’ flavor.
Fresh hand-picked tea leaves shaded before picking. They contain the highest levels of chlorophyll, anti-oxidants and nutrients to make ceremonial matchas. Tencha are leaves that are de-stemmed and de-veined, lightly steamed and dried. It’s when the tencha leaves are stone-ground into a very fine powder, that the tea becomes ‘matcha,’ literally meaning ground tea.
An old tea field still beautiful and yielding tea leaves, has an exquisite bamboo forest behind it. You will often find tea fields surrounded by exotic stands of forests in Japan, it’s a beautiful environment.
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Photos copyright: A Taste for Tea 2015