The ritual of tea drinking was a significant part of Japanese culture beginning in the Kamakura period by Zen monks. These monks consumed the tea to stay awake during extended sessions of meditation. It later became a time-honored custom and a way to encourage order and welcome guests. Of the countless variations of teas, perhaps none are so interwoven into the Japanese culture as green teas, like matcha and sencha, which come from the same plant species, the camellia sinensis. Consuming these exotic, ancient teas today is a way to substantiate the customs set forth by those who came before and embrace the Zen they promoted. Now, let’s look more closely at what makes these teas so remarkable.
What is Matcha Tea?
Matcha is a type of green tea and is a vibrant green powder that is stone ground. It is considered a condensed and intense form of green tea that comes from green tea plants, which are grown in the shade and are covered before harvest. This is done to promote chlorophyll levels within the leaves, enhancing its vibrant color. In fact, the most high-end match is grown in nearly complete darkness. Matcha is harder to grow when compared with sencha and often is grown only in specific regions of Japan. The ceremonial grade of this tea is used only on special occasions and is of the purest quality. Matcha tea is harvested at the very tip of the shoot, the youngest part of the plant. You consume the entire leaf when drinking matcha tea, which yields greater health benefits compared to other teas that are steeped. It has an earthy yet sweet flavor that is best served in a large ceramic cup after being whisked via a bamboo whisk - or 'chasen' in Japanese. Aim for a bubbly lather of foam for the perfect offering of matcha tea.
What is Sencha Tea?
Sencha is a loose-leaf green tea that is steamed then rolled. When harvested, the stem, shoot and two or three of the unopened plant leaves are used. This is then steamed, pressed and then dried. Sencha tea is grown in direct sunlight. While sencha is not as beneficial as matcha healthwise, since the leaves are stepped and not completely consumed, it is still a green tea, rich in antioxidants and is one of the healthiest beverages in the world to consume. In contrast to matcha’s almost neon green color, sencha is less vibrant and is almost muted. It also has a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The following are some of our applicable tea selections and include both sencha and matcha tea varieties. We also offer tea accessories best used for preparing green tea like these ancient Japanese offerings:
- Matcha Lovers Tea Box: The amazing taste of matcha tea is available in this lovely Matcha Lover’s Box, which comes complete with everything you need to make drinking Japan’s original tea a regular occurrence.
- Matcha: This sweet matcha tea delivers a decadent taste that brings the cultural expression of ancient Japan into modern day tea consumption.
- Ceremonial Matcha: As mentioned above, ceremonial tea is derived from only the highest quality and richest matcha plants, this one from the ancient tea fields of Aichi Prefecture, Japan.
- Illuminated Mind: This matcha-covered sencha blend combines the best of both teas, bringing the ancient world of Japan into your home.
Matcha or Sencha, You Can’t go Wrong
Choosing either type of green tea, sencha or matcha is a great way to harken back to the ancient meditative traditions enjoyed by the Japanese Buddhist monks. The health benefits derived from green tea consumption include the aforementioned antioxidants, such as L-theanine, EGCG and catechins, which are believed to reduce the risk of cancer and improve brain function and promote weight loss. Suffice it to say that the green teas matcha and sencha are a welcome addition to any serious tea connoisseur’s collection, especially those who appreciate the origins of such customs.