Today “Matcha” is loved throughout the world. It is made of a tea called “Tencha.” How much do you know about “Tencha?” This article guides you through how “Tencha” is manufactured and how it becomes “Matcha.”
Features of Matcha process and Tencha process
“Tencha,” the material of Matcha, is the only tea that skips the kneading process unlike Sencha (steeped green tea). For this reason, its Aracha (crude tea) takes shorter to manufacture than Sencha. However, its whole process takes time and effort as with Sencha, considering its leaves need to be ripened and ground in a mill.
From picking fresh leaves into shipment
The picked fresh leaves are processed into “Tencha” at first. Then it undergoes the finishing process to be shipped as “Matcha” across the country.
Tencha process is broadly divided into two phases of “Aracha” and “finishing.” Let us start from the “Aracha” phase.
Freshly-picked leaves contain oxidative enzymes. The enzymes immediately start fermentation (oxidation). This process is to deactivate their action with the heat of steam. Tencha is steamed shorter than Sencha. As a result, the leaves turn bright yellow-green and gain a distinctive scent called “ooika (covered aroma).” To make a deep-colored Matcha, the leaves should be steamed longer.
The leaves are put in a tea leaf blower. The 5-meter-tall machine repeatedly blows the leaves up and down, and cools them down. It can separate and arrange the cooled leaves in a single layer.
Rough drying (main drying)
Leaves are dried with hot wind of over 150 degrees C through a special drying oven. The layered oven has three conveyor belts. The leaves are dried rapidly on the bottom belt, blown up to the top belt, and dried gradually until they go down to the middle belt.
That’s all for the Aracha process.
The stems of Aracha are not fully dried so they are not good for making Matcha. The finishing process needs to follow. In the case of Tencha, this finishing process is also referred to as “Shitate (tailoring).”
The stem portions are cut off from the leaves using a machine called stem cutter. Furthermore, only the leaf portions of good-quality are sorted out and cut into the regular length, removing hard leaves and remaining stems.
The sorted leaves are blown and slowly dried. The wind can further separate the stem portions that have not been removed.
To make a preferred flavor and color, different types of Tencha are blended. This concludes the Tencha process.
Tencha under thoroughly controlled temperature and humidity is ground in a stone mill just before shipment. Finally the Matcha process is done.
Production areas of Matcha and Tencha
Uji City in Kyoto Prefecture and Nishio City in Aichi Prefecture are well-known as production areas of Matcha. Shizuoka Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, and Fukuoka Prefecture are also producing a lot of Matcha.
The birthplace of Matcha is said to be China, but today their Matcha production is much less.