With all this talk about matcha, not enough attention is being paid to the matcha plant or the plant used to make matcha.
In this article, we are going to explain what plant matcha comes from, what the matcha plant is and how it is grown.
Let’s get growing 🌱
What is the matcha plant?
Because matcha is a type of green tea, it comes from the tea plant, camelia sinensis. All true teas have to come from this plant. If an infusion comes from another plant, it cannot technically be considered a tea.
How does the matcha plant grow
The matcha plant or camelia sinensis plant is an evergreen flowering shrub native to Southeast Asia. The native growing region of the matcha plant is in what is now Northern Myanmar and China’s Southern Yunnan province.
The matcha plant has since been transplanted all around the globe, but in general it prefers the climate of its birthplace, with mountainous topography, mild subtropical climates and seasonal rainfall.
Even though the matcha plant doesn’t grow natively in Japan, it was brought over almost 900 years ago, and has since thrived in Southern and Central Japan. Now, all the best matcha in the world comes from Japan.
Cultivating the matcha plant
What makes the matcha plant special compared to other types of tea plants is that the plants used to make matcha need to be shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest.
This actually alters the chemical composition of the leaves, giving them a smoother and sweeter taste with less bitterness.
When the matcha plant is exposed to sunlight, it begins to convert the amino acid theanine into catechins, as a protection against the UV light.
These catechins produce a bitter flavor in the tea, so if a farmer wants to maintain a sweet flavor profile, he will shade the tea plant prior to the harvest.
This allows the matcha plant to produce less catechins and maximize its content of sweet and savory theanine.
And if you never tried matcha and are curious to know how it taste like, we strongly advice you to read our article 👉 What does matcha taste like? Taste Chart with Video
How the matcha plant is harvested
After the 3 weeks are up, it’s time to harvest the matcha plant. It’s very important to select the right leaves for matcha, as different leaves produce different flavors.
The youngest leaves of the matcha plant have the highest nutrient content and the smoothest and sweetest flavor, so these are reserved for premium teas like matcha and gyokuro.
How long does it take to grow a matcha plant?
It takes about 4 years for a matcha plant to reach maturity, meaning in 4 years it is mature enough to be harvested. It will take another few years of harvesting before the matcha plant begins to take on the characteristic rows that Japanese green tea fields are famous for.
People often ask how they can grow their own matcha plant at home, but to be completely honest it’s not worth the investment. It can take years to grow the plant to the point where you can start harvesting leaves and even then the yield isn’t very high. Also, you will need to take matcha through the long, labor intensive production process, otherwise it will be extremely bitter.
It’s best to leave the growing of the matcha plant to the professionals, the Japanese tea farmers. If you want to try some of the matcha tea for yourself, you can go to our matcha collection and search for what you want. After traveling around Japan for the past few years, we have met with dozens of different farmers and sampled hundreds of different matcha teas. We’ve ultimately decided on a small handful of our favorites, and we’re proud to share them with all of you.