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Japanese Tea Harvest

Photographer: Everett Kennedy Brown

 

In recent years the green tea powder has also become popular as a flavor, color and nutrient additive in sweets, drinks and health products. Part of the recent international popularity of maccha is because it is a powerful antioxidant. According to medical reports it has dozens of times more antioxidants than blueberries, wolfberries or dark chocolate. The health benefits of maccha tea has been known in Asia since the early 12th century, where it was originally drunk by Zen Buddhist priests in China and Japan for its health and mental stimulant benefits. The tea arrived in Japan in the late 12th century and was prized by Japanese aristocrats, who developed the cult of tea ceremony using the specially processed tea. Traditionally the tea was said to be valued gram to gram the same as gold, due to the time consuming process of selecting only the best tea leaves for processing by using time consuming techniques.

 

Kyoto is renowned for making the finest maccha teas in the world. The Ohta family, who own the Magouemon tea farm outside the city of Kyoto, has been making some of the finest organic maccha teas since the year 1801. May is the harvest season for the young tea leaves used in making maccha. The tea bushes are covered in dark mesh to prevent direct sunlight, in order to slow down growth, and increase levels of chlorophyll and amino acids, which make for a more flavorful tea. Only the finest young tea buds are picked. The young leaves are then picked, de-veined , de-stemmed and then stone-ground to create the fine, bright green powder named, maccha, or matcha.