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FOOD

Spilling The Matcha Tea

By: Czarina Glindro

  

Over the past decade, matcha has become popular in the West. The Japanese tea was treasured by 12th-century Buddhist monks and samurais. Now it’s loved by college students. 

 

Matcha, first harvested in China during the 8th century of the Tang Dynasty, is a type of green tea. The leaves are finely ground to make a vibrant green, earthy and sweet beverage. Its rise to cultural significance started when Japanese cultivated and modified the tea. 

 

In 1191, after gaining religious insight into Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Monk Myoan Eisai brought green tea seeds back to Japan. Through his spiritual studies in China, Eisai learned that green tea helped achieve concentration and peace during meditation. After that, green tea was first planted in the Kozanji temple near Kyoto, Japan, eventually growing in popularity within Japanese high society through tea ceremonies.

 

Samurai also drank the tea before going to war. However, for the upper-class society, especially during the Sengoku era, in the 15th century, the idea of tea ceremonies was seen as a sign of sophistication and status by showing off their fine tea tools and equipment. 

 

Zen and tea master Sen No Rikyu wanted to make tea ceremonies a more humbling practice. Utilizing the Japanese Buddhist philosophy of “Wabi-Sabi,” the idea of finding beauty in the simple and imperfect things of life, Rikyu developed the tea ceremony style, “Wabi-cha.” This new ceremonial style was meant for all guests and aimed at valuing the simple things in nature with a clean heart. 

 

In addition, Rikyu introduced four important principles to the Japanese “Way of Tea,” harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei) and tranquility (jaku). These principles are still practiced and valued at Japanese tea ceremonies. 

 

As matcha progressed within Japanese culture, so did its flavor and nutrients. Japanese farmers found that providing ample shade to the young tea leaves, followed by grinding them into a fine powder enhanced the matcha color and sweetness, creating a high-quality matcha known as “ceremonial matcha.” 

 

Despite global industrialization and Starbucks Coffee introducing matcha into the U.S. around 2005, it wasn’t until the rise of social media in the 2010s that matcha finally gained Western attention. 

 

With the unique drink’s vibrant green color, people began posting about the drink. As word got around, so did matcha’s great benefits, enhancing the tea’s popularity even further. 

 

Matcha can reduce anxiety and stress and it carries a phenomenal rich, earthy, semi-sweet taste, making it a healthier alternative to coffee. Matcha is also very versatile. It can be used in baked goods and savory foods, as well as in drinks.

 

Matcha’s popularity continues to grow beyond Eastern borders. In the past 25 years, matcha sales in the United States have exceeded $10 billion. In 2022, the matcha market was estimated to have had a value of approximately $4.10 billion, with an expected increase to $7.49 billion by 2030.

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