A Guide to Ceremonial Grade Matcha

27 مايو 2024
Finding good matcha at a store might be a challenge: There is no universally accepted price for "ceremonial grade," and prices may range widely. Lucky for us, we can utilize the age-old principles of "chado," or "the way of tea," to determine great matcha.
So, first things first:

The tea ceremony.

You need to know the tradition's ins and outs to know what belongs in the ritual. Zen Buddhist principles and the Japanese aesthetic of "wabi-sabi" form the basis of the tea ceremony. It includes many other fields and forms of art, such as tea making, hospitality, gardening, architecture, calligraphy, and many more.

Guests are not yet welcomed into the teahouse although the ceremony has already begun. Parts of the ritual that must be followed include the garden's hushed route, the modest approach to the teahouse, and the arrangement of the tatami floor mats. Aside from a few seasonal touches, a delicate flower arrangement, a scroll of calligraphy or artwork hung from the ceiling, and perhaps some handcrafted sweets to go with the tea—the space is empty and serene.

Next, following a predetermined sequence of motions and positions, the host makes the tea. A complete lunch, desserts, "koicha" (a shared bowl of very thick matcha), and "usucha" (individual bowls of tea) are all part of a "cha-ji," which translates to "long ceremonial gatherings." There is purpose and practice in every step. Everything from the predetermined sequence of events to the host's attire is the result of years of careful training and deliberate planning.

Careful selection of tea complements the lone scroll, elegant floral arrangement, and matched sweets. Guests are provided only the highest grade tea. To ensure the matcha is as fresh as possible, it is ground right before the ceremony. Although some have started utilizing pre-ground powder in their ceremonies in recent years, the traditional method of using freshly-ground matcha is the most authentic way to accomplish it. Japanese tea ceremonies use matcha, also known as ground tencha, although various varieties of tea are offered in ceremonies in China, Korea, and Vietnam. Matcha is the best tasting, most authentic, and most delicate tea on the market.

Buddhist monk Eisai was the first to bring tea seeds and the specific way of blending powdered tea with hot water after studying in a Chinese monastery. For extended periods of meditation, other monks in the temple would take this tea mixture since it kept them alert. The merchant and warrior classes became interested as word of this variety and cooking procedure spread. The affluent started using matcha at their ostentatious tea tasting events to show off their pricey teaware and artwork. Sen no Rikyu sought to purge the tea ceremony of its past flamboyant manifestations in the 16th century, when he regained and formalized it. As time went on, the ceremony evolved in accordance with wabi-sabi and "Wa Kei Sei Jaku," which translates to "the four general principles that now govern the ritual: harmony, respect, tranquility and purity." The renovated teahouse features spare furnishings, an emphasis on natural, imperfect beauty, and a focus on the tea-drinking experience. The teahouse was spotless and exactly the right size. For the sake of symbolism, the doorway was created so narrow that all guests had to stoop down and crawl through it.

Similar to monks, samurai also had a great deal of respect for the tea ceremony since it played to their disciplined and orderly nature. As a means of cultivating harmony in their surroundings, they immersed themselves in the practices of tea ceremony, gardening, religious texts, calligraphy, and floral arrangement. They were able to relax mentally throughout the tea ritual. It was a routine that gave them time to think about the emotionally taxing aspects of their jobs. Their pre-battle ritual often included a bowl of matcha. In addition to giving them energy to last through war, a pre-battle ritual allowed them to intentionally spend time with loved ones, even if they knew it may be their last.

The ritual affirms the cultural ideals of the Teaist community, including regard for nature and order, hospitality, simplicity, beauty, and harmony. It is also observed by samurai and monks.

  1. Ceremonial grade standards

We also prefer to think of ceremonial grade matcha as being the finest, purest, most desired qualities—in keeping with the principles reflected in the tea ritual. Is there any matcha that is considered ceremonial grade? The lack of industry-wide standards and measurements makes it impossible to trust labeling. Keep an eye out for smart packaging and marketing jargon. A company can charge more for what they call "ceremonial grade" matcha if they want to. The matcha used in baking and cooking is of inferior quality and is referred to as culinary grade.

Because high-quality ingredients are the foundation of delicious cuisine, we at Cuzen recommend utilizing only the finest matcha in all of your culinary creations. Hence, instead of relying on industry standards, let us seek guidance from the tea ceremony masters on how to select matcha fit for the occasion. We can determine the finest matcha for a ceremony by looking at its production, processing, and preservation methods. Harmony, innocence, and the beauty of nature are ideas that should guide our actions.

"Oiemoto-Okonomi," meaning "the grand tea master's favorite," refers to the highest quality matcha that has historically been served during formal events. It is common practice to select the oiemoto-okonomi from a small farm in the interest of maintaining an emphasis on simplicity, naturalness, and aesthetics. As opposed to matcha that is blended with teas from other areas, single origin matcha comes straight from a single place. Teas from a single provenance are ideal for the hearty koicha served at the start of the ritual because their characteristics remain unchanged. A single origin tea is produced in a specific area, usually by well-respected tea plantations that have been around for a long time and follow traditional methods. Uji, Kyoto, and Kagoshima are three of the most well-known areas in Japan for matcha, and more especially for matcha with a single origin. The Okumidori people of Kagoshima prefecture hail from the Kirishima region, which is our sole ancestral homeland. If you want the healthiest, tastiest, brightest, and most fragrant matcha, like our Okumidori, choose one from the first harvest. If the tea is grown on an organic farm, where the farmer and the plants and the environment and all the little critters live in harmony, that's even better.

This is particularly the case if the ceremony's timing is extremely near to when the leaves are ground. Here, serving matcha that has just been ground is a nod to tradition. It shows hospitality while preserving the tea's greatest properties and therapeutic effects. By preventing oxidation, the flavor, scent, and color will be more apparent and pleasant, which promotes harmony.

Also Read: Compared to coffee, is Japanese Matcha Healthier?

  1. Making our everyday practices conform to ceremonial norms

The tea ceremony teaches us a lot more than simply how to make good tea. It can also guide our regular practices. Establishing order, prioritizing simplicity, and highlighting natural beauty can help us achieve harmony with nature, our bodies, and our brains. This will allow us to carve out a lovely and tranquil area from which to start our day. Like the samurai who paused to consider the bigger picture and the meaning of everyday life and shared experiences with those they cared about, this can be a wonderful chance to do the same. And just like monks who drink tea to calmly revitalize themselves, we can start our day off well with a steaming bowl of matcha. By utilizing both modern and traditional methods that are reminiscent of the ancient ritual, we can provide ourselves and our guests with the finest hospitality possible.

Even though ceremonial  grade matcha isn't defined and there isn't a manual for creating new daily rituals out of matcha, we may still learn from the traditions and customs of the tea masters.

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