Green tea is processed using either artisanal or modern methods. Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing are common artisanal methods. Oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming are common modern methods. Processed green teas, known as aracha, are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30- or 60-kg paper bags at 0–5 °C (32–41 °F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection and packaging take place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf-life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blending order by the tasters and packed for sale.
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.
The first green tea seeds and bushes were brought to Japan in the year 1191 A.D. by a Japanese Buddhist monk named Myoan Eisai when he returned from travels in China. The young priest used his experience growing and drinking green tea to popularize what he called “the way of tea” as a meditative ritual within his community of Japanese Buddhist monks. The custom of drinking Matcha tea quickly spread throughout Japan and rose in popularity after being accepted into the daily practice of the samurai.
One thing to watch out for in detox teas, though, is a common ingredient—and herbal laxative—senna. “One part of detoxing is the cleansing of the intestines, and senna aids this process,” he explains. While it can be helpful as a night-time drink short-term, taking senna for too long can cause vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. If you feel stopped up, incorporate a senna tea for a few nights (Villacorta recommends Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move). But stick to senna-free varieties for your habitual cup.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.