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Matcha – a magic powder from the land of the rising sun

The fine powder glows a bright green. Matcha, Japanese for "powdered tea” and a central part of the Japanese tea ceremony, is very popular in Germany. Many know it as "Green Chai", "Matcha latte" or even as a non-alcoholic long drink.

Matcha has become much more than a fashionable beverage. It can now be found in hip ice cream flavours, in biscuits, and is also stirred into yoghurt with muesli. The bright powder can be processed in many different ways, and far more health-promoting effects are attributed to it than to other green teas. Thanks to its high antioxidant and vitamin content, it is thought to protect against cancer and diabetes.

Another ingredient is thought to have particularly positive effects: Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short. American researchers at the University of Colorado have found a very high content of this substance in Matcha. The secondary plant substance is reputed to have an anti-inflammatory effect and to strengthen the immune system. EGCG also seems to inhibit tumour growth and could help in the early treatment of Alzheimer's. Whether EGCG is responsible alone or in interaction with other Matcha ingredients for the health-promoting effects will have to be clarified in further studies.

Buddhist monks are convinced that Matcha is a health remedy. Although Matcha has become part of Japanese high traditional culture, its history begins in China. Around 200 years before Christ, tea in China was taxed as a medical remedy. Buddhist monks used ground tea as a medicine and as a means to focus more intensely in their meditations. The highly sophisticated Tencha tea seeds, from which Matcha is brewed, only first made its way to Japan in the 9th century, carried there by Buddhist monks. There the tea was developed initially by the Japanese elite who reserved it for traditional tea ceremonies.

Tencha belongs among the shade-grown teas. Approximately four weeks before picking, the tea plants are covered over with straw or plastic mats. The sudden shading prompts the leaves to build up large amounts of chlorophyll, the substance that gives the leaf its green colour. Extra amino acids and fewer tannins and other bitter substances leave the Matcha with a subtle sweetness and fresh taste. The harvest is labour intensive and done entirely by hand. Each year the youngest leaves are harvested just once, in spring – the so-called ‘first flush’. The leaves are then steamed and dried, and, before being ground, have their veins and stems stripped away. Only their most valuable parts are preserved for Matcha. Production is limited and few tea gardens have mastered the fine art of making Matcha.