Matcha is a seriously big deal these days in the tea world. Matcha is finely ground powdered green tea with super-antioxidant properties. If you read some of the literature online, you'd think matcha's goodness is analogous to the second coming of Christ. Traditionally, it is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. You pour hot water into the green powder and whisk it with a bamboo whisk called a “chasen” to make a frothy, slightly bitter mixture. Now, we're seeing it used to flavor and color ice cream, smoothies, cookies, lattes, and noodles. Some companies sell the matcha pre-cut with confectioner's sugar.
I somehow managed to miss the “How Matcha is Made: The Magic of Matcha” workshop, but reading the World Tea Expo's daily newsletter, am told that “a more vivid color means a higher grade, stronger leaves contain an aroma similar to seaweed, and that purchasers can test the compare piles of powders by pushing some of the powder into a line.” (Pushing the powder into a line? We all know what other expensive, feel-good powder is “evaluated” in that fashion.)
Matcha comes in two types: “koicha” (or thick). And “usucha” (or thin). The former comes from the leaves of tea plants that are less than 30 years old, while the latter comes from plants that are more than 30 years old.
Matcha is made by removing the stems and veins from the leaf and grinding the leaves in between granite grinding wheels turned counterclockwise. Eight hundred years ago, this was done by hand. Today, the wheels are electric powered. A ridiculously tiny amount of matcha is made in one hour–only 40 grams (about a third cup).