Japanese Matcha tea is made from green tea leaves being powdered. Matcha, like all teas, is cultivated from the tea shrub, Camellia sinensis and are shade-grown over a period of three weeks. Matcha is primarily grown in two regions within Japan; Uji which is situated on the South-East border of Kyoto, and Nishio, located in the prefecture, Aichi. Many of Japan’s most distinguished and expensive Matcha originates from Uji and Nishio, with the terrain being perfect for Matcha. Such terrain would include mild climates, remoteness of location, soil fertility levels being high and elevation levels (some terrains in Nishio are roughly 600 metres elevated). These factors contribute to the quality of Matcha produced – bright green in colour, abundance of umami and high levels of nutrients.
Camellia sinensis, however, does have differing varieties, with some being of a higher grade than others. The top grades of Matcha are called samidori, okumidori and yabukita in Japanese. These three variances of the tea shrub have been examined, selected and grown in Japan for more than 900 years, reiterating to the rich history of Matcha. It is a case of high enthusiasm for many Japanese farmers and in many occurrences, have been grown by family linages for many hundreds of years. It is without doubt that such families have much knowledge in cultivating these three varietals to ultimately have a superior grade Matcha.
The reason towards Matcha being shade-grown is that direct sunlight would hinder production of chlorophyll, a cyanobacteria that contributes to Matcha’s distinct green colour. Moreover, the shading of plants also allows an increase in amino acid theanine, which is said to give Matcha a deep umami flavour. Although Matcha is derived from green tea leaves, its growth style, harvest and production methods significantly differ from those of green tea.