The young tea leaves are picked in early May and lightly steamed to prevent any fermentation. This allows the tea to retain its beautiful green color. Then the tea leaves are dried. Traditionally, at this point, the leaves would be stored in chatsubo/tea jars and allowed to season until November, at which time they can be stone-ground as needed. For consistency, the leaves from various varieties of tea plants are blended to produce the best flavor, color, and aroma. Before being stone-ground, the leaves are processed to obtain only the meat part of the leaf. The stems and veins are removed so that the tea will be very fine when ground. It takes one hour to grind somewhat less than 40g of matcha and in the end the final product is about 1/10th of the original harvest. Although clippers can be used to harvest the tea leaves, the leaves for koicha/thick tea are still picked by hand, one by one.
Matcha is the vibrant green powdered tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It is made from the leaves of shade grown tea trees. When the leaves are harvested they are steamed, dried and then further processed to remove the veins, stems and impurities. Only about 10% of the original harvest remains, and this is called the "tencha". The tencha is then ground to a fine powder often in a stone mill. It takes about one hour to produce an ounce of matcha, because grinding any faster would result in a burnt tasting tea. Today the highest grades of matcha usually remain in Japan for use in their tea ceremonies and the price can be as high as $100 an ounce. The majority of matcha available in the general market today is now ground by sophisticated machines, which make it affordable to the average tea drinker. Regardless of the grinding technique used, the production of matcha requires a great deal of hand labour, skill and time.
Matcha is becoming increasingly popular in the Japanese and international beverage and food market because of its versatility and health benefits. Matcha's flavour blends well in dairy-based recipes and its powder form makes it easy to work with. Matcha is being used in ice cream, cheese cakes, cream cheese spreads, white chocolate, latte beverages, hot chocolate etc. There is no limit to the recipes that matcha can be added to.