This month we follow our nutritionist Dalila Roglieri in matsue, capital of shimane prefecture close between two lakes and with from one of the most important castles in the whole of Japan. The ideal scenario for discovering a new piece of Japanese culture: Matcha Tea.
I was told that here in matsue the sunset on the lake is something not to be missed. I therefore decide to wait for him sitting at a small banquet on the street, where they serve what for the Japanese represents something similar to a "Long Life Elixir": Matcha Tea.
It is a green tea powder, for centuries spread in the east: it comes from leaves of camellia sinensis worked so as to avoid oxidation of substances that determine the sensory characteristics such as perfume and taste. This process allows greater maintenance of antioxidant properties, with the idea of possible intervention in normal cellular ageing processes.
But not all green tea powder is Matcha Tea: there are in fact different types of green tea that differ between them for conditions and place of growth of the original plant, or for collection and processing of leaves. The most popular varieties are sencha and Matcha: only the latter, the most precious, is used during sado, the traditional tea ceremony.
Over the years, the awareness of Matcha tea has grown globally, so that it is also used as an ingredient in cookies, cakes and chocolate snacks of large brands. Despite this, Japanese culture still consumes it in respect of traditional worship, thus recognising its value and history. In everyday life you will be sipping in the afternoon - accompanied by treats to rice - or at the end of the meal.
Matcha tea has superior sensory properties compared to other varieties of green tea, and this also depends on how the leaves from which it comes are grown. It may result from leaves of the variety, which are typically raised in shadow. A few weeks before the harvest, the plantations are covered by towels that protect them from sunlight: this practice pushes the plant to produce more chlorophyll, giving the leaves their intense green and a sweeter taste. After Collection, strictly by hand, leaves are minced gently in stone mills. It results in an end-to-end dust from bright color and intense taste.
Unlike what I expected, Matcha Tea is not prepared for infusion: it is not a tea exactly as we mean it, but a suspension of dust of leaves in hot water. The resulting drink is known for its antioxidants, in particular those of the family of "catechins". these substances have been studied for their ability to counter certain mechanisms - of oxidation precisely - which are the basis of the ageing of cells: A topic of great charm and interest, although the path to be able to assess a final effect of taking catechins on our body is still long.
Other substances contained in Matcha Tea are important micronutrients, polyphenols and chlorophyll. However, there are some compounds with stimulating effect - albeit in limited quantities - which suggest that we pay attention to excessive consumption.
While, in front of the sunset on the lake, I savor a "Street" Version of the drink, I plan to find in town some traditional tea house, with its relaxed and slow times, where enjoy the original Matcha Tea Ceremony.
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