Japanese green tea powder originated first in China in the 1st millennium of the common era.
Chinese tea makers began steaming and storing tea leaves into tightly packed bricks that were more easily stored and shipped for trade.
When the time came to drink the tea, portions of these bricks were pulverized into a fine powder that was then added to hot water.
Different preparations existed for the different grades of tea and different peoples’ preferences.
When the powdered green tea preparation made its way via trade and religious pilgrims to Japan, a new take on powdered green tea developed.
The methods of preparing the powdered green tea were refined, and the tea ceremony arose around Zen monasteries where monks drank green tea as an aid for meditation.
[easyazon-image-link asin="B001EQ5KRM" alt="Rishi Tea Matcha Japanese Green Tea Powder, 10 packets (Pack of 2)" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41QfVCPl8IL._SL160_.jpg" align="center" width="125" height="160"]
Matcha is its Name
The official name for the highest and most famous grade of Japanese green tea is Matcha.
Matcha is powdered green tea that has been harvested only from the highest quality, youngest and most supple tea leaves.
Matcha is entirely made from ground Tencha leaves.
Tencha is considered to be the highest grade of green tea.
[easyazon-image-link asin="B0007A0PWG" alt="Maeda-En - Shiki Matcha (green tea powder) 1.0 Oz." src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/416XP433CNL._SL160_.jpg" align="center" width="109" height="160"]
It is, of course, possible to grind other types of green tea into powder, but these preparations would not receive the name “Matcha.”
Matcha is generally very aromatic, a bright green color and reasonably pricey.
If you’ve encountered green tea powder that doesn’t have those characteristics, chances are the tea isn’t official Matcha.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony
The most famous method of Matcha consumption is the Japanese green tea ceremony.
This ceremony originated out of the Zen philosophy, which values presence, attention to detail and stillness (among other things).
The simple beauty of the tea ceremony has captivated generations of people inside Japan, and since World War Two, the tea ceremony has been carried all over the world.
Among the principles emphasized by the traditional tea ceremony is etiquette–both host and guest have specific roles that they are able to inhabit, and the tea ceremony’s structure allows for both host and guest to consider each other deeply and with respect.
When the host prepares and serves the tea, all of his actions take the guest into account, and the tea ceremonial utensils and vessels are displayed and served accordingly.
Behind the tea ceremony is the perspective of total awakening which lies at the heart of Zen practice.
The tea ceremony strives to embody fully enlightened awareness and provide another method in which to bring a much-needed meditative awareness into the world.
[easyazon-image-link asin="B0014CJAHW" alt="Black Antique Coin Cast Iron Tetsubin Tea Pot Kettle Set (w/ Trivet)" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41vxLGm2aoL.jpg" align="center" width="400" height="300"]