Around mid April after the tea trees awake from hibernation from the cold winter season, reed screens are rolled out on the wooden structure above the tea bushes. This initially limits the sunlight reaching the plants somewhere between 60 and 75%. Recent research has discovered that it is through photosynthesis that amino acids such as theanine, which are responsible for a sweet flavor, transform into antioxidants such as catechins, components that are responsible for bitterness. For delicious matcha, it is beneficiary to limit the amount of sunlight reaching the leaf, reducing photosynthesis to allow for a sweeter, less bitter end result.
About 10 days after having put the screens in place, layers of straw is spread out on top. This limits the amount of sunlight reaching inside further to over 90%, essentially leaving the plants completely in the dark. The absence of sunlight, forces the leaf to reach out further in order to catch the natural light needed for their growth. This effort makes them grow wider, but also thinner, and makes them softer and more vibrant green in appearance.
After being harvested, the leaves are almost immediately steamed to deactivate the oxidation process and then dried. Once the leaves are completely dried, the leaves are then ground into a fine powder using a stone mill. The production of matcha is a laborious effort to ensure the quality is up to standard, but it is definitely worth it and hope you have a further appreciation for this tea!