It Can Only Be Tencha - Why Shade-Growing is Essential to Matcha

September 26, 2017

Matcha is to Japan as champagne is to France. Anything outside of Japan simply must be called, "powdered green tea." The purity of umami is exceptionally difficult to emulate and capture outside of the country. A large part of this truth is due to terrior and cultivation! In this brief blog, we'll focus on cultivation.

The tradition of growing matcha is a noble art. There are many factors deciding the quality of the end result of a masterpiece matcha, but a major element is the cultivation of Tencha [碾茶]

Mizuba Tencha tea leaves from Uji, Japan

Tencha is what the tea leaves are called before becoming matcha. All tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, so plants designated to become matcha are referred to having tencha tea leaves. When the spring season arrives, (around mid-April, or about 40 days prior to harvest), screens or tana tarps are rolled out over the tea plants. The purpose of the tana tarps is to limit the sunlight that reaches the plants about 60-75%.  There are two reasons for limiting sunlight: 1) the super anti-oxidant catechins concentrate when the tea is grown in the sun. Catechins have a bitter flavor.  2) So to balance matcha and achieve umami, limiting photosynthesis increases the amino acid L-theanine, which is sweet! Shade-growing tea allows for the plant to concentrate its many nutrients in the leaf, while also achieving a lovely and balanced flavor profile. 

About 10 days after the tana tarp is spread, some farmers choose to limit the sun even further, to about 90%. The plants strain for sunlight, thereby stretching and growing wider and thinner, and as a result, more tender and palatable.  

Matcha is the final state of Tencha, which has been processed, steamed, dried, and stone-ground in order to become the powdered tea we all love. 

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News

The History of Matcha in Japan
The History of Matcha in Japan

February 22, 2018

Ever wonder where matcha came from? We follow its origins to your cup today.
The Ishi Usu - what using a stone matcha mill is all about!
The Ishi Usu - what using a stone matcha mill is all about!

January 18, 2018

Want to learn all about how matcha is traditionally milled? You'll have to meet Mizuba's ishi usu!!
Welcome, Yorokobi!! Mizuba's New Single-Estate, Organic Matcha Green Tea!
Welcome, Yorokobi!! Mizuba's New Single-Estate, Organic Matcha Green Tea!

November 02, 2017

Welcome Mizuba's newest matcha! Meet our single-estate organic ceremonial green tea, and learn about why it brings us so much joy!