Interview with Yoko Yakushiji - General Director of The Matcha House

"The collaboration between The Matcha House and Organic Africa Chocolate came together in a very natural and organic way, driven by a joint passion to deliver high quality products that not only delight consumers´ palates, but also enhance the health and wellbeing of those who enjoy them."
"By combining the exceptional organic matcha tea with Organic Africa's exquisite chocolate, we have created a unique and a very special product that raises a smile on both, chocolate and matcha lovers."

1 . What inspired you to produce organic matcha tea in Japan?

It was precisely 20 years ago that inspiration suddenly hit me when I arrived to Spain. Although this country is recognized for its excellent gastronomy, green tea is not part of the deveryday culture of Spaniards.

My Japanese roots made me wonder about quality green tea, since in our tradition we drink tea several times a day, and the one that was marketed here, in Spain, at that time, simply did not meet my expectations. This lack of quality led me to import premium green tea to Europe.

I started contacting prestigious chefs such as Carme Ruscalleda, Carlos Mampel or Sergi Vela, hoping that the fusion between Japan and Spain could be of interest to them, and indeed it was. Many of them incorporated this ingredient in their culinary creations.

Matcha tea is originally a Japanese product, and specifically The Matcha House is the exclusive supplier of the finest quality matcha tea in the country. This tea can be organic or conventional . Although the demand for organic tea in Japan remains limited, at the European level, quality standards and strict regulations dictate that tea must be 100% organic.

2 . What is the cultivation and production process behind organic matcha tea?

Matcha tea is cultivated in a special way, unlike other teas. Its leaves are exposed to the sun but during the last three weeks of growth, before harvesting, the tea plants are covered with a black net called “Yoshizu”, to protect them from direct sunlight. This netting prevents the umami in the leaves (L-theanine) from becoming astringent (catechin) through photosynthesis.

This process produces higher quality leaves, rich in sweetness, intensity and flavor. Therefore, the less sun exposure, the greater the sweetness. After harvesting, matcha leaves are processed into flat tea leaves, called “Tencha”. The “Tencha” is then ground into a fine powder for consumption, neing the fineness of the grind an indicator of quality and sweetness.

The first harvest is carried out in May and it is one of the highest quality, since the first leaves, which are at the top of the tree, are collected by hand. These ceremonial (premium) matcha tea leaves are ground in a traditional mill, a slow process that results in tiny particles of approximately 10 microns. This is the tea used for the traditional Japanese rituals.

On the contrary, the August harvest is picked with scissors and is mainly used for culinary tea, meaning that it is used for mixing it with other aliments, and being of lower quality and bitterer than the ceremonial one. Its grinding process is faster, as the particles are 15-20 microns.

The age of the tree is also crucial in determining the quality of the tea. The tree will not produce a crop for the first 7 years, but its quality improves over time, reaching its maximum quality at the age of 20 years. 

On the plantations where The Matcha House is based, organic matcha tea is grown and produced with attention to each detail, from the selection of the leaves to the milling procedure. We strive to maintain the upmost standards of quality and sustainability, avoiding chemicals and pesticides at any stage of the process.

3 . What are the main health benefits associated with matcha tea on a nutritional level?

Matcha tea is known for being rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals . Its remarkable properties range from boosting energy to improving concentration and attention, as well as strengthening cardiovascular health, among other perks. 

Additionally, matcha tea contains L-theanine, a natural amino acid present in tea leaves, especially green tea. This amino acid has the power to reduce stress and anxiety by increasing the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain. It also elevates mood, promotes mental clarity, and enhances cognitive performance. Furthermore, it also promotes better quality sleep.

4. What measures are taken at The Matcha House to ensure product quality and purity?

Our factory, one of the largest in Japan, is dedicated to taking care of both our raw materials and the rigorous quality standards that we implement at all stages of production. Thus, we strive to ensure that the final product is pure and of the highest quality.

However, the challenge often arises in the storage and transportation of tea, as the quality of the product can deteriorate significantly when exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees, especially when crossing the equator.

Thus, although maritime transport is much cheaper, at The Matcha House we are aware of the qualitative deterioration that this means of transport can cause, and therefore, we have found the solution in importing the product very frequently, every 15 days, by aerial. All our products are freshly packaged, in smaller aluminum jars, in order to preserve the freshness of the tea in a more effective and lasting way.

5. What is your vision for the future of organic matcha tea in the food industry?

I envision a promising future for the cultivation of organic matcha tea in Japan , as it is at an important stage of maturity. The demand for matcha tea in my country, Japan, is immeasurable and its popularity in Europe is also experiencing sustained growth over time, specifically for the last 15 years.

More and more Western chefs are incorporating this healthy ingredient into their culinary creations, which positively contributes to expanding their knowledge and promoting its consumption in society.

6. How did the collaboration between The Matcha House and Organic Africa Chocolate come about?

The collaboration was born out of our mutual admiration for top-quality products and our shared desire to create a unique superfood . On the one hand, we sought to combine the exceptional flavor of matcha tea from The Matcha House with the delicious chocolate from OAC. On the other hand, we had in mind to create a product with high nutritional values . Together, we aspire to offer a special, healthy culinary experience committed to social and environmental well-being.

Very grateful to Yoko, for sharing her wisdom in this interview!

For more information about matcha tea and its properties, contact The Matcha House Europe :

Website: The Matcha House Europe
Contact telephone number for tea ceremonies: +34 932 80 85 50
The Matcha House offices: Pau Alsina 84, 08024, Barcelona

We invite you to explore tea ceremonies and enjoy a unique experience that includes a two-hour initiation, the tea ritual and delicious Japanese sweets.

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