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Processing of Matcha



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Tencha
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Matcha

Matcha is the powder which is milled from processed green tea leaves known as Tencha. Tencha is processed at the farm after harvesting by the farmer while Matcha is milled by the tea wholesaler.

Tencha processing involves 1) steaming, 2) cooling, 3) drying, 4) cutting and sorting and 5) milling.


1) STEAMING                     

4_1Fresh tea leaves are steamed within 24 hours after harvest to halt oxidation. Steaming determines the final quality of the tea, hence the experience and expertise of the farmer is called for in determining the right steaming temperature and duration based on the condition of the fresh tea leaves.



2) COOLING                       

DSC00017Steamed tea leaves lose their color and flavor if not cooled immediately. After steaming, the tea leaves are delivered to a special cooling equipment, known as 'Andon' in Japanese, which is about 5 to 7 meters high and is surrounded by a net. It comprises of four compartments, all similar in shape and size, with the same function. Every compartment has a blower situated at the bottom which releases a gust of strong wind, blowing the leaves high up into the space within the compartment.



DSC00016The leaves are first introduced into the first compartment where they are blown upwards by the blower. They then fall into the second compartment where they are blown upwards again by the second blower in the second compartment. This process is repeated in the third and fourth compartments. The whole process brings down the temperature of the leaves and separate those leaves that are clumped together by moisture produced during the steaming process. It is of vital importance to separate all the leaves at this stage to ensure that all the leaves will be dried evenly during the drying process.



3) DRYING                          

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Tencha- Ro
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Inside the Tencha-Ro

After the cooling process, the tea leaves are dried in a special furnace called 'Tencha-Ro'. It is about 10 meters long. The lower part is made of bricks where the burners are located. Inside the furnace, there are three to five levels where a conveyor belt runs through, bringing along with it the tea leaves. Each level uses a different temperature to dry the leaves. The temperature ranges from between 90 to 180 degrees Celsius. It takes an approximate twenty to thirty minutes for the whole drying process. The drying process determines the the aroma and flavor of the tea leaves, hence it highly requires the expertise of the farmer.




4) CUTTING / SORTING     

DSC00022After leaving the furnace, the stems are cut and veins are separated from the blades of the tea leaves by a machine called 'Toh-Mi', which uses wind to separate the lighter blades from the heavier stems and veins. This sorting process is repeated a few times until only the soft blades are left with even the finest veins removed. The blades are used for milling into Matcha and is known as Tencha, or processed tea leaves for Matcha, while the stems are used for making into high grade Kukicha and Houjicha.





5) MILLING                          

写真3~石臼設備The final process is the milling process. Tencha is milled by stone mills into fine powder Matcha.



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