Matcha, Green Tea From Japan

After traveling to a green tea plantation and seeing how ‘matcha’, powdered green tea was grown and processed, I was inspired to write haiku! Perhaps it was from the fresh smell of tea in the air and also the sense of lift and well-being after enjoying a nice hot cup of matcha. I found the matcha helped overcome jet lag and travel fatigue. That’s why I’m an advocate for matcha green tea. It helps restore energy when traveling, provides mental clarity and a natural lift with the right combination of l-theanine and light caffeine. The powdered whole leaf matcha has ten times the antioxidants and catechins, known for building health and preventing diseases, than just a regular cup of infused tea from a tea bag. Although all green tea is good, matcha is the super food version of a cup of tea. And when traveling it keeps your immune system strong to ward off colds and flu.

It all began in Japan when Monks brought back tea seeds from China in the 9th century. But it was Eisai, a Japanese monk who is credited with the beginning of the tea tradition in Japan who wrote a book in 1214 called, “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea.” The monks would press the tea into cakes and take it with them wherever they would go, often stopping on the side of the road to boil water and break off a piece of the cake to make tea. The Japanese have incorporated green matcha in their foods as well and have reaped the amazing health benefits of this smooth, delicious tea.

Matcha comes in a variety of grades such as bulk, culinary and higher grade ceremonial matcha. I prefer to drink organic ceremonial, the first flush of tea harvested every May in Japan. It tastes slightly vegetal, is very smooth and has a light sweetness. Because matcha production in Japan is highly supervised and follows strict HAACEP regulations for growing and processing, you can be assured you are receiving a clean, safe, high quality product. Tea leaves are lightly steamed, dried and kept in cold storage. When it’s time to process, the tea is fed through a funnel into a granite stone grinder. Although now electronically driven, the stone grinders move slowly taking over an hour to grind one ounce of finely powdered matcha. This is the same as the hand grinding of the stones used during the last 800 years of tea tradition in Japan. The matcha powder is captured in a shiny clean stainless steel bin, then moved directly to packaging in a sanitary environment and shipped upon order. Other countries may not have strict regulations in place and some capture their matcha in a cardboard box. One can only shudder to think about the low standard of the processing, so sticking with the best insures delivery of a high quality product. Once you’ve had this high quality standard, it’s hard to drink or settle for anything less.

Cricket under straw

Sunlight green leaves shimmer bright

Smooth tea in my throat

haiku-Katherine Bowers

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

Tea is a very integral part of Chinese culture and the ceremony surrounding its preparation and serving is an interesting event to witness. The wedding Tea Ceremony is the most auspicious tea ceremony of all as no Chinese wedding can be complete without it. This ceremony serves as an introduction of the bride to the groom’s family and is an intricate ritual filled with symbolism.

Preparation of the tea

There are many tea varieties in China. Usually the tea is prepared with red tea and infused with lotus tea and red dates placed directly in the tea pot. These additions are symbolic of fertility and the sweetness of the blushing bride and are believed to promote happiness between the two.

The arrangement

A small table is set up with the tea service including the tray with a tea pot and two tea cups. Sometimes a lotus flower and two cowrie shells are also placed on the table dignifying unity and prosperity for the couple.

The tea service

The ceremony usually takes place early in the morning as traditionally, the bride is received in her groom’s home before dawn. Women and men sit to the left and right respectively and the bride and groom kneel in front of them. With the assistance of the maid of honor, the couple serve tea in a delicate ceremony to the groom’s family. The order of service is parents, grandparents, great uncles and aunts, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and finally married cousins. The bride and groom take their tea last, served by younger siblings or any unmarried cousins.

The relatives when served tea present gift tokens on a platter in the form of red envelopes or jewellery. A token is also given to the best maid for her assistance. The tea set also forms part of the couple’s wedding gifts. Modern variations include a second tea ceremony held for the bride’s family when they visit their in-laws home or at the bride’s home. Also, for hygiene purposes, the tea cups may be rinsed after serving each guest.

This elaborate ceremony is an ancient tradition passed down through generations and is a good way of preserving culture in a rapidly evolving society. It helps reinforce family values and the hierarchy and role of each member of the family. It also serves as a good forum to welcome a new bride into the family, the elders’ blessings and approval a good foundation for the marriage.