Matcha is powdered green tea, which is used for tea ceremony, and as an ingredient for sweets, and cooking. The definition of matcha is dried green tea leaves which are not crumpled, ground into fine powder. Matcha used be ground with tea grinding mortar, but nowadays it is usually ground with machine. Up until Edo period (1603-1868), people drank fresh matcha right after grinding. Nowadays, matcha comes in sealed plastic package or metallic tubelike container.
For tea ceremonies, dark green matcha called koicha, which is full flavored tea, is commonly used. Usually, three scoops of chashaku, which is a special teaspoon, is added in a cup, and small quantity of hot water will be poured. The hot water and matcha will be mixed with small mixer called chasen, just to make thin potage.
It is told that the origin of matcha goes back to the 10th century China. There are literatures featuring how to mix and drink matcha. Using high quality green tea ground into powder is also mentioned. It is believed that the way of drinking matcha was introduced to Japan in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Eisai, who is the founder of Rinzai school of Buddhism, brought back matcha and tea manner from China in 1191, and spread across Japan.
Matcha is now used for many different sweets. Matccha ice cream is the most well known type of matccha sweets in Japan. The Japan Ice Cream Association did a survey from 1999 up until 2009, and matccha ice cream ranked in 3rd after vanilla and chocolate as people’s favorite ice cream flavor. The pleasant bitterness and the sweetness are the characteristic of matccha sweets, and matccha parfait, and matccha cake are also popular.