Yup, those samurai. The samurai were cultured, fearsome warriors who ranked highly in ancient Japanese caste society. Their identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing the principles of discipline, ritual, and purification. The tea ceremony developed into an art form and cultural tradition as the samurai added hundreds of detailed steps in the practice. Specific instructions for how to sit and how to prepare Matcha green tea, the proper hand movements and even the proper design for a tea room were recorded in detail.
The preparation of matcha is the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies, and it has long been associated with Zen. This is likely one reason it’s becoming so popular, as meditation is becoming more and more mainstream. Because I’m blown away by the research on the health and weight loss benefits of mindfulness meditation, I included an entire chapter about this practice in my new book Slim Down Now, and recorded a five-minute guided meditation video on my website (click on the word mindful, top right to view).
The important thing to note here is that what we refer to as red tea in our shop and what is called red tea in China would be referred to as black tea in most other countries. The distinction in color depends on whether you are talking about the color of the leaves or the color of the brew. The color of the brew is typically a beautiful amber, red color thus leading to the name “red tea”. The color of the leaves though are typically dark black, thus leading to the name “black tea”. Thus the terms can be used interchangeably. Red tea is oxidized/fermented for about 6-10 hours until the leaves turn an amber/black color and then they are dried to stop the oxidation process.
It’s become such a fashionable beverage that, last summer, the New York Post ran a story about how Victoria’s Secret models were flocking to Cha Cha Matcha, a hipster spot fluent in the preparation of various matcha-based miracle potions. A search for where to get “matcha” in New York, New York on Yelp yielded some 1400 plus results. Even mass market coffee purveyors like Starbucks have made matcha their mantra, with a vast range of offerings to cash in on the craze.