Anybody else feeling a little bit…what’s the word…lighter today?
It’s not just you. After spending all month sipping our featured ingredient for January, we’ve been noticing some very positive effects.
- Our brains are somehow staying bright, even during the post-holiday slump.
- Instead of stressing out about the lack of snow to play in, we’re leaning into the mellow side of this moody winter weather.
- A keen focus and sustained energy is motivating us to tackle housekeeping projects and creative endeavors.
- Best of all, the crazy news cycle isn’t sending us over the edge like it used to. (And that’s really saying something.)
All thanks to the magic of matcha!
While espresso will always be our first love, matcha has definitely earned a top spot in our routine. We wanted to explore this exceptional ingredient a bit deeper. And what better way than to talk with the people who supply the matcha for our Calumet roasterie?
We’ve chosen to partner with two outstanding companies on all the matcha tea offered in our bar drinks and our retail Marketplace. The Tea Spot, based in Boulder, CO, was founded by a cancer survivor to spread the amazing healing powers of this wonder drink. Rishi Tea and Botanicals, based in Milwaukee, specializes in sourcing and blending teas inspired by ancient artisanal practices and modern culinary innovation.
We got a chance to dialogue with both these brands for a closer look at the history and health benefits of this incredible drink.
Let’s start at the beginning—how is matcha different from just green tea?
Maria Uspenski, Founder and CEO of The Tea Spot: Matcha is just straight stone-ground tea leaves. So when you're consuming matcha, you're consuming the entire leaf, instead of just water-soluble molecules. It's essentially a green tea army on steroids!
Along with its generous dose of caffeine, it includes a ton of noted health benefits including EGCG antioxidants, L-theanine which produces a calming effect and counter-balances the caffeine, and vitamins that your body relies on like Vitamin C, Iron, and Calcium.
How is matcha grown?
Marino Baca, Regional Manager at Rishi Tea and Botanicals: Matcha is produced by stone-milling a shade-grown green tea called tencha into a fine powder. Tencha is harvested just one time each year, between May and June, and is grown exclusively to make matcha. To make tencha, the tea plants are shaded for 3 to 5 weeks prior to harvest. Shading tea plant elevates chlorophyll content and enhances L-Theanine and other stimulating amino acids, all of which contributes to matcha’s vivid green color, lush umami sweetness and incomparable, enlivening energy.
Tell us a bit of what you know about the history of matcha.
Maria Uspenski: Although these days, we have crowned Japan as the land of Matcha, the Chinese were actually the first the try and pulverize their tea leaves into a powder, and they called it “Tea Mud.” Super appetizing right? This is right about the time Zen Monks were traveling from Japan through China and picked up on this method of grinding their leaves. Now powdered green Matcha tea has been a part of their culture since the 13th century.
Is there just one type of matcha, or are there different varieties?
Marino Baca: Just like all other specialty teas, coffees or wines, matcha has different cultivars, which in turn have different tastes based on where they are grown and even when they are harvested. For example, the sought-after “first flush” is the earliest growth of the year after a dormant winter. This type of matcha is higher in chlorophyll, amino acids and L-Theanine, which make it naturally sweeter and is more expensive. Typically you would drink this matcha on its own. “Second flush” is the second growth of the year or later in that harvest—this type is perfect for making matcha lattes and mixed drinks. There are also many more rare and unique varieties that highlight specific single cultivars and other cultivar blends.
Seeing as The Tea Spot has such a strong emphasis on health, share with us about matcha’s unique health benefits.
Maria Uspenski: Gram for gram, matcha has about twice the total EGCg content of whole leaf green tea. What's an EGCg, you ask? EGCg is a type of potent, powerhouse antioxidant. This compound alone is thought to reduce inflammation, and prevent certain other chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.
Matcha also contains about 30x the amount of Vitamin C, 200x more Calcium and Protein, and 50x the Iron content of a regular cup of infused green tea. Feeling like skipping your veggies today? Matcha has you covered!
I hear a lot of testimonies from our customers on the effects of matcha and how they've used it as a tool to improve their diets and day to day lives. It's so powerful in improving your overall health, fast-tracking your daily polyphenols, and helping to drop harmful habits like energy drinks and soda.
Walk us through a traditional matcha preparation.
Maria Uspenski: Matcha preparation is much like a ceremony, and the care you put into it will determine how your matcha turns out in the end.
You start by gathering your three matcha essentials: a bamboo whisk, a matcha bowl, and of course, your preferred matcha. Measure your matcha, put that off into your bowl, and add your water.
Here at The Tea Spot, we always say matcha is all about the froth! The secret to getting a good matcha froth is short, quick motions, and to make sure your whisk isn't touching the bottom of your matcha bowl. Once your froth starts to form and you see those beautiful bubbles, you're ready to ship it straight from the bowl!
As you can see, the matcha process is quite a bit more detailed than steeping loose-leaf, but the end product is worth it!
Click for a video demo of traditional matcha preparation.
Outside of the traditional preparation, what are some of your favorite ways to enjoy matcha?
Marino Baca: Besides drinking it straight, like an espresso shot or traditionally. I like iced and hot matcha lattes, matcha lemonades, matcha cookies, and some other specialty matcha drinks that we have made.