Matcha is a specially-grown stone-ground pure powdered green tea from our farm to your cup. Let’s talk about the phrase “farm to cup”! We’re sure you’ve heard it hundreds of times, but what does it really mean… and why does it even matter?
Simply put, we work directly with our farm in Japan to assure quality, build close relationships with the farmers with no middle (wo)man, ensure fair wages for the farmers’ community, and make premium matcha available to the masses! We could talk about this all day - but rather than telling you about it, let’s take you on the tea leaf’s journey from a small bud on our farm into matcha powder and into your cup.
STEP 1: SHADE & TEA — the good kind!
Junbi matcha starts out as the camellia sinensis plant grown at our 100+ year old farm in Uji, Japan. Anywhere from 2-8 weeks before harvest, the leaves are covered with black mesh netting to keep out direct sunlight.
Shade-growing improves overall taste & aroma by increasing production of chlorophyll and amino acids (specifically L-Theanine), which lends to our matcha’s beautiful emerald green color and delicate umami flavor profile.
STEP 2: HAND-SELECTED
When it’s time for harvest, each leaf is individually inspected and hand-picked to truly ensure quality. We use the youngest, most tender leaves since they have a more intense sweetness and deeper flavor.
STEP 3: LET’S GET STEAMY!
Once the best leaves are selected, they’re briefly steamed to stop oxidation, which preserves the color, aroma, and nutrients.
Though this process is only 30-60 seconds, it’s said that steaming the leaves requires the most expertise because farmers need to consider the varying thickness of each leaf while finding the perfect balance.
If tea leaves are steamed too heavily, the aroma can be destroyed.. but if tea leaves are not steamed enough, the matcha won’t taste the same. In addition, whole tea leaves must be evenly steamed even though they contain both soft baby sprouts and large sprouts.
STEP 4: DRIED, DE-STEMMED, & DE-VEINED
After being separated, the leaves are dried and the laborious task of destemming and deveining begins! Removing the stems and veins essentially eliminates all bitterness, resulting in a naturally sweet, subtle, smooth, and earthy matcha with a textured, well-balanced, lingering finish.
This step is often skipped by other companies due to how time-consuming it can be. However, these low-quality matcha powders are usually mixed with sugar or other sweeteners to mask the bitterness.
STEP 5: GRADING
The leaves that make it through to this step are called tencha! Tencha has a delicate, elegant flavor and can definitely be enjoyed as a brewed tea.
At this stage, tea experts test the leaves’ aroma and taste to determine their grade, with the youngest, most tender leaves earning the highest marks.
STEP 6: IT’S GRIND TIME.
After being graded, the tencha is slowly and gently stone-ground into the very fine powder known as matcha (抹 茶 - literally meaning “ground tea”). It takes about an hour (and a whole lot of love!) to grind 30 grams for just one tin of matcha.
STEP 7: ON THE WAY!
Once the matcha is finally packed into our Junbi tins, it’s refrigerated at low temperatures until the tins make their way from Japan all the way to the US to be used in our stores or shipped to your door!
Thank you so matcha for tuning into our blog! We hope you enjoyed learning about our farm-to-cup process!