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A few months before my wife and I were due to visit Japan we decided to go to a Japanese restaurant in London. Back then there weren’t as many places serving Japanese food and so we found what turned out to be a very traditional establishment where the waitresses wore kimonos, and we sat very low at a table in a partitioned area partially surrounded by papers sliding walls. It was here that we first tried Matcha. It was served at the end of the meal as a digestive and palate cleanser. It came in large bowls which we were instructed to rotate 45 degrees before raising them to our lips and drinking in three gulps.

It was quite unlike any tea I’d had, even though I had drunk green tea now and again, but found that after the meal, which in itself introduced me to brand new flavours, completed the experience and left me feeling extremely refreshed.

The history of Matcha stretches far back in time. Green tea originated in China where the leaves were steamed, dried and made into cakes.

Small pieces would be shaved off and ground to a powder for infusing in hot water. The first record of green tea in Japan is from the start of the 9th century when two monks brought seeds from China and planted them in 805AD. It was not until 1191, that a monk named Eisai, a certified practitioner of Zen Buddhism, brought with him from China the seeds and process of making powdered green tea. Seeds were planted in Kyoto and for many years the drink held a significant value as both a religious and prestigious symbol of luxury.

In the 14th and 16th centuries, the Japanese tea ceremony was slowly developed, whereby Matcha became the focal point of the pursuit of simplicity over extravagance. During the ceremony, the positioning of the tea-making equipment, the arrangement of the surroundings, the clothing of the performer, and all the choreographed movements harmoniously combine.


Our Matcha tea is organic grown on a family-run garden in Japan and is the first tea picked in the season known as Ichibancha. The plants are shaded for approximately 25 days prior to harvest. This has the effect of reducing astringency which occurs when the theanine amino acid transforms into catechins. This also accounts for the strong umami flavour in Japanese teas.

By the time I got to try it around 500 years later, Matcha was still a very traditional drink but in the last few years, there have been new ways of consuming it. A teaspoon of Matcha is placed in a bowl with a little hot water added, and gently stirred with a soft whisk to a paste, before adding more hot water at 80 C, and whisking rapidly with zig-zag strokes back and forth across the bowl.

This means you do in fact consume the entire leaf, unlike infused tea leaves which are discarded later. This also increases the number of antioxidants you consume making Matcha one of the healthiest teas in the world. It does contain more caffeine than normal green tea, but as the absorption is gentler than when drinking coffee, it leaves you refreshed rather than edgy.

Now we serve Matcha as a latte in our cafe in Duke Street, and it can also be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of foods such as macaroons, cakes, and ice cream.

If you are going to try the traditional approach, I highly recommend buying a proper wooden whisk. A wooden spatula or small spoon is also useful for transferring the powder from bag to bowl as it tends to stick to metal surfaces. But in whatever form it certainly has a unique flavour.


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