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The finest matcha comes from the Uji area. This region has perfect conditions for producing matcha- misty climate, sloping hills, rich soil and a wide range of temperature between day and night.
When you drink matcha you consume the leaves. Matcha
contains more health benefits by volume than brewed teas.
To prepare quality matcha you will need 2 items- a matcha bowl and a bamboo whisk. The chashaku (bamboo spoon) is not necessary. Some customers, however, enjoy using it as it adds to the ritual effect of preparing the tea.
There are 2 types of gourmet matcha teas- koicha and usucha. These are Japanese Tea Ceremony terms and literally translate as "thick" and "thin" tea. Usucha comes from the leaves of tea plants that are less than 25 years old. Koicha comes from the first harvest of plants that are a minimum of 25 years old.
In Tea Ceremony koicha is brewed with less water. This delicious and invigorating tea has a naturally mellower and sweeter taste and is made thicker for that reason.
Matcha preparation is personal, and there are no rules outside of Tea Ceremony. If you are new to matcha it may take you 2 or 3 attempts to find the concentration that is right for you. Koicha when prepared in tea ceremony is very thick, like syrup. If you whisk thin tea this way it might be somewhat bitter.
While there is a qualitative difference (thick matcha is composed of the highest quality leaves) there is also a significant difference in cost.
This wonderful tea comes from tencha- gyokuro leaves that have been steamed and dried. All stems and veins are removed.
The pure dried leaves are then stone-ground into a superfine powder. Matcha is uniquely Japanese.
Matcha is rapidly becoming popular outside of Japan because it tastes great and has myriad health benefits.