Matcha, powdered green tea, only came to Japan via China in 1191 by a monk named Eisai. Zen Buddhism arrived at the same time as matcha and was used in the Zen tea ceremony. Over the centuries, Mataha became an essential part of Zen buddhism.
The tea plant:
All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. These teas depending upon how they are processed are: green tea (unfermented), oolong tea (partially fermented) and black tea (fully fermented).
At the beginning of April, when the new leaf buds appear, the bushes are completely covered to keep the sun from reaching these leaves. This reduces the rate of photosynthesis, resulting in high levels of theanine (we will discuss later), increased levels of chlorophyll and a darker shade of green leaf. This procedure can take 20 days at which time these top most leaf buds are hand picked.
As soon as the leaves are picked, they are steamed. This prevents the leaves from being oxidized producing a natural green color, fragrance and retaining the nutritional value.
At this point, the leaves are gently blown dry in a special air machine. To complete the drying they are then spread on a flat surface. Once dry, they pass through a drum-like machine where the veins and stems are separated from the main part of the leaf. In Japanese, what remains is called tencha, the raw material of matcha powder.
The final step is grinding the tencha into a fine powder. A stone mill is used just as it has for about 800 years.