Over the past decade or so, matcha has shifted from a novel trend to a mainstay on every cafe and teahouse menu in the West. But in Asia, matcha has been a staple and formative element in the history of tea dating all the way back to China’s Tang Dynasty in 618 CE. In fact, powdered tea was the most common fashion in which people were consuming the beverage during these ancient times.
While our modern definition suggests a particular posh, vibrantly green tea, the term matcha translates quite simply to “powdered tea.”
Back then the tea leaves were steamed and formed into bricks, which made them easy to transport and store. When it was time to enjoy, the leaves were broken off from the brick, ground into a powder and whisked with hot water. Yes, even the fancy whisk and bowl, or chawan, have deep roots in Chinese tea culture. While the Tang Dynasty is credited with the innovative brick format of tea, the following Song Dynasty (907 CE -1279) is regarded for adding the nuance of the whisking method and the cultural phenomena that bubbled from the entertaining aesthetic it created. Simply put, the Song Dynasty made matcha cool. Teahouses began to sell teas for competitive prices alongside alcohol and competitions ensued, placing value on tea quality and presentation of the frothiest bowls of matcha.
It was also during this time period (Song Dynasty, 12th century) that a linkage with Zen Buddhism (Japan's branch of Chinese "Chan" Buddhism) was made through a monk known as Eisai, whose enthusiasm upon finding matcha would lead to the deep connection with Japan that is recognized today. The monk’s passion for the plant inspired him to write a book, Kissa Yojoki (How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea), and bring it's seeds back to Japan where matcha’s cultivation would be further developed and perfected. After centuries of refining the process, matcha has come to be distinguished as a powdered form of tencha green tea which undergoes three to four weeks of intentional shading just before being harvested. This shading technique gives matcha its signature hue - a reflection of boosted levels of a green compound known as chlorophyll, along with some other impressive health benefits (stay tuned for our next article of this series).
While traditional matcha grown in Japan deserves all of the love and appreciation it has received, SILK & JADE is excited to offer a distinctly fresh take on the tea. What defines our verdant powder from the rest? Here's a quick breakdown:
- SILK & JADE's Formosa Matcha is grown and harvested in Taiwan.
- Unlike most of the matcha being consumed in the world, our green tea powder is sourced from our favorite little subtropical island. We were inspired to share this unique gem upon discovering its unmatched quality, as it aligned perfectly with our passion to provide the community with all of Taiwan’s tea glory.
- Did you know that Taiwan has formal ties with Japan? The island was briefly independent under the name "Republic of Formosa" ('formosa' being a word previously used by Portuguese explorers to describe the island, meaning "beautiful" in their language) for less than six months between the cessation from Qing dynasty of China to the Empire of Japan. Starting in October of 1895, the island was under Japanese rule for 50 years but tea was still exported under the Formosa name.
- This intersection of culture and technology is deeply rooted in methods that have been mastered over a series of three generations to offer a quality that even Japan can’t resist!
- There is no shading in SILK & JADE's Formosa Matcha process – maximizing the antioxidant content.
- While many qualities of matcha are enhanced due to the shading process, studies show that some of the polyphenolic contents can be limited by its deprivation from the sun. Our Formosa Matcha finds a sweet balance to amplify antioxidant qualities and still keep a fresh, grassy flavor profile and color.
- The foggy mountaintops of Taiwan’s prized tea farms provide temperate microclimates, finding a moderate middle ground without interfering with nature. Rather than the pronounced sweet, umami notes of classic matcha, our Formosa Matcha presents a lighter, slightly vegetal tone to the palate.
- SILK & JADE's Formosa Matcha is truly fresh and easy to prepare.
- Our Formosa Matcha tea leaves undergo “zero oxidation.” This means that once the leaves are harvested (usually in the early mornings at the beginning of the spring and fall seasons) they are not exposed to any further heat or sunshine like black or many oolong teas. Next, they are sent to be steamed and ground. With such minimal manipulation, the powder is so fresh that it must be stored in the fridge to preserve its subtle flavor and color.
- Once you’ve secured your pack of our Formosa Matcha, there is no boiling liquid or whisking necessary in order to find a full texture and taste (although you may optionally do so). In fact, to better experience the uncompromised quality, we suggest pairing it with your favorite cold juice or even water and simply shaking a spoonful of the powder in before you enjoy.
Taste the difference and try our refreshing Formosa Matcha.
Article written by Mariah Monet J.