Matcha tea is traditionally prepared with hot water as a beverage in the Japanese tea ceremony. Now, it is consumed worldwide as a tea beverage prepared with hot water and as an ingredient in food and beverages. ISO/TR 21380:2022—Matcha Tea – Definition And Characteristics specifies the plant source of matcha tea; the requirements for cultivation, processing (drying), and grinding; and the physical and chemical characteristics which, if met, identify that the tea has followed good manufacturing practice.
Matcha Tea Vs Green and Black Teas
Matcha tea is a specific type of green tea prepared with plant cultivation using shading, leaf steaming, and leaf grinding processes. It is 100% green tea leaves that have been ground into a finely powdered concentrate, making it richer in flavor and more buttery than green tea. Matcha is made from Camellia sinensis, the same plant as white, green, black, and oolong teas.
ISO/TR 21380:2022 specifies that an investigation of the levels of L-theanine, chlorophyll, and catechins—including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC)—in matcha tea indicates that the levels can vary to those in green and black teas and shows they support the discrimination between matcha, green, and black teas. It is possible that the differentiation between matcha, green, and black teas need the use of ratios of the various chemical components, among others.
What Is ISO/TR 21380?
ISO/TR 21380:2022 contains information regarding the tea cultivation, manufacture (including processing and grinding), and sensory analysis of the tea referred to as “matcha tea” in international trade. The technical report provides an internationally agreed definition of matcha tea based on the plant source, cultivation, and production methods used. These are important for the physical, chemical, and sensory characteristics of matcha tea.
This technical report does not apply to flavored matcha tea, blended matcha tea, or decaffeinated or soluble extracts of matcha tea.
Origins of Matcha Tea
The Tang Dynasty (reigned from the 7th to 10th centuries) in China steamed leaves into bricks, making their tea harvest easier to transport and trade. They prepared these tea bricks by roasting and pulverizing the leaves and then mixing the resulting powder with water and salt. The ensuing Song Dynasty (reigned from the 10th to 13th century) is largely credited with making this form of tea preparation popular. Myoan Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist Monk spent most of his life studying Buddhism in China. He realized that drinking matcha improved his Zen meditation sessions by producing a state of calm alertness (today we know this is due to the interaction of matcha’s caffeine and L-theanine).
In 1191, Eisai returned to Japan, bringing the tea seeds with him. These seeds were considered to create the highest quality tea leaves in all of Japan and hence matcha was regarded as a luxurious status symbol. Eisai planted these seeds on the temple grounds in Kyoto—the home of Kamakura Shogun (the feudal military government of Japan). Soon after Eisai’s return to Japan, Zen Buddhists created a new method for cultivating the green tea plant, Tencha. This method consisted of growing the green tea plant under a shaded condition, which increases the leaf area and produces thinner leaves that are deeper green in color compared with the plants cultivated without shading. ISO/TR 21380:2022 also specifies that growing the leaves under shade increases the chlorophyll and L-theanine content and lowers the levels of catechins.
Matcha Tea Ceremony
It was not until the 1500s that a Zen student named Murata Juko brought together fragmented pillars of the tea ceremony, called “Chado” or “Sado” into a formalized ritual that included the cultivation, consumption, and ceremony. He attained enlightenment when he realized that the eternal law of the Buddha is revealed by a mere gesture of filling the bowl with hot water. Zen Master Murata Juko formed the four basic principles of this ceremony—harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility—that express the spirit of the tea. The beauty of the tea ceremony comes from harmony that arises between the minds of the host and their guests.
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
Here is a list of some health benefits of consuming matcha:
- Antioxidants (which remove bad molecules from the body and decrease oxidative stress): Matcha, and green teas in general, are high in substances that act as antioxidants, including catechins. Tea also contains flavonoids, compounds reported to have antioxidant properties, that reduce inflammation, have antimicrobial effects, and prevent tooth decay.
- Cardiovascular health: Micronutrients are abundant in matcha, especially one known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a plant compound that can have positive health effects. Research gathered on EGCG and its impact on cardiovascular and metabolic health shows it can exhibit a wide range of therapeutic properties including anti-atherosclerosis, anti-cardiac hypertrophy, anti-myocardial infarction, anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
- Clean energy: Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, which is a rare amino acid that promotes a state of relaxation (around 6-8 hours) and well-being without feeling sedated, and with matcha caffeine there is no crash in energy level nor caffeine jitters.
- Promotes happiness: Another positive side-effect of the L-Theanine in matcha is the production of dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals are known to enhance mood, improve memory, and promote better concentration.
- Healthy Skin: Green tea constituents may be useful topically for promoting skin regeneration, wound healing, or treatment of certain epithelial conditions such as aphthous ulcers, psoriasis, rosacea, and actinic keratosis.
ISO/TR 21380:2022—Matcha Tea – Definition And Characteristics is available on the ANSI Webstore.