Matcha is a unique style of tea: traditionally, this neon green powder is stone-ground from a high-grade Japanese green tea called tencha. These tender leaves are partially shaded for three weeks before harvest, which causes sweet and umami compounds to develop. After hand-picking, the leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation, dried, then deveined; a long, slow milling between granite wheels is the final step.
The preparation is also distinctive: a specially designed bamboo whisk is used to froth the powder together with a small amount of hot water, which suspends the fine particles and yields a rich, thick drink. Many now seek matcha for its purported health benefits—which are said to be greater than other teas since the leaf is consumed, rather than an infusion of the leaf—but the vibrant, creamy taste of true matcha is its own reward.