Matcha is a green tea that is produced from tencha, tea leaves that are grown under shade. The highest quality leaves are harvested and briefly steamed and dried before being ground into a super fine powder.
The shading of the tea allows for different flavours to develop within the leaves. When tea grows exposed to sunlight it it turns the L-thiamine present in the leaves into catechin. L-theamine is an amino acid that creates an umami flavour in the tea. Catechin creates a bitter taste. The shading process allows the resulting tea that is produced to be less bitter with more umami flavour.
The origin of matcha tea goes back to China and the Tang Dynasty and it was brought to Japan by the a Zen Buddhist Priest, also known as the father of tea, Eisai in 1191.
Eisai brought green tea seeds to Japan from China where he had been studying Zen Buddhism. He planted these seeds at a temple in Kyoto. The tea that was produced was seen to be the best in all Japan and soon the monks developed a new method for cultivating the tea plant.
The tea preparation that Eisai learned in China was developed and changed over the years. In the 1500’s a monk named Murata Junko started to develop of tea ritual as a part of spiritual practice but the Chado, tea ceremony, as we know it today is mostly attributed to master Sen no Rikyū.