Posted on

Matcha: A history in the making

Matcha tea is something that is cropping up more and more in Western society, whether it’s replacing coffee or flavouring your ice cream, this fine green powder is more popular now than ever. Dating back thousands of years to a time when dynasties ruled China and Shogun clans ruled Japan, taking a trip back to where it all started lets us see how far the mighty matcha has come.

The origins

The origins of matcha can be traced all the way back to the Tang Dynasty in China which spanned the 5th-10th century. During this time, the Tang Dynasty used to steam tea leaves to form into bricks to make their tea harvests easier to transport and trade. These ‘tea bricks’ were individually prepared by roasting and pulverising the leaves before mixing the resulting tea powder with water and salt.
As time progressed and China shifted into the Song Dynasty from the 10th-13th century, it was largely credited for making this form of matcha tea preparation popular. A Japanese Buddhist Monk, who spent most of his life studying Buddhism in China, moved to Japan in 1191, bringing with him the matcha tea seeds as well as the Zen Buddhist methods of preparing traditional powdered green tea. These tea seeds that had been brought back from China were largely considered to create the highest quality tea leaves in the whole of Japan.
These matcha seeds were then planted on the temple grounds in Kyoto, the home of the Kamakura Shogun. During the period of the Kamakura Shogun, matcha was only produced in extremely limited quantities, giving it its auspicious and luxury status. Soon after the Japanese Monk’s return to Japan, Zen Buddhists developed new methods for cultivating the green tea plant. Tencha was developed by growing the green tea plant under shaded conditions, a process largely credited for maximising its health benefits.

The production

The production of matcha is quite a delicate and gentle process. It is made from shade-grown tea leaves that are used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest, where the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down the growth until it is time to hand-pick only the finest tea buds. After harvesting, the leaves are rolled up before drying for the production sencha. However, lying the leaves out flat will allow them to somewhat crumble, known as tencha, which is de-vined, de-stemmed and stone-ground to produce a fine, bright green powder known as matcha. The grinding of the leaves is a slow process as the mills must not become warm and release the aroma of the leaves. The flavours of this tea is dominated by the amino acids, with the highest grades of matcha having more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year. 

The rituals

Matcha is now highly associated with traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, but it was not until the 1500s that a Zen student brought together aspects of the tea ceremony into a more formalized ritual that included the cultivation, consumption and ceremony of matcha. Today, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony centres on the preparation, serving and drinking of matcha as a hot drink, embodying a meditative spiritual style.
Blends of matcha are often given poetic names known as chamei either by the producing plantation, shop or creator of the blend or by the grandmaster of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grandmaster of a tea ceremony, the tea becomes known as the master’s konomi. There are 3 main categories that this tea can be classified within. Ceremonial grade, the highest quality used mainly in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples, Premium grade, high-quality matcha green tea that contains the full nutritional content, and Culinary grade, which is suitable mainly for cooking purposes due to its bitter taste.
At Atelier Japan, our collection features traditional matcha and Japanese tea from Marukyu-Koyamaen, expert makers that have been cultivating and manufacturing tea in the village of Uji and Ogura in Kyoto since the late 1600s. Over the last 400 years, Koyamaen have devoted themselves to producing the highest quality tea generation after generation. Browse Atelier Japan to discover their award-winning range of matcha and tea.
           Selected Matcha Green Tea by The Ura Senke SHOKANOMUKASHI          

Posted on

Marukyu Koyamaen Matcha: Award-winning matcha

Over the last few years, matcha has recently become a highly established ingredient in the modern Western culinary and beverage world and is now well known globally due to its powerful health benefits. However, this unique blend dates back nearly a thousand years to a time when dynasties ruled China and Shogun clans ruled Japan. Let’s take a look at the beautiful history of matcha and how Atelier Japan’s own Marukyu Koyamaen made its mark in the Japanese tea trade.

Varieties of Tea

When it comes to tea, there are three main categories. Completely oxidized and fermented teas such as black teas, half-oxidized teas known as oolong teas and, most commonly, non-oxidized teas that are green, such as matcha. Most Japanese teas are of the green variety and a lot of effort goes into maintaining the beautiful green colour of the fresh leaf together with all of its health-preserving properties.
In Japan, there are two different methods of tea cultivation, both of which give contrasting results. One method is to let the tea bushes grow and bud without any shade from the sun. This method was originally introduced from China for the growing of leaf tea and is used to produce the most common tea in Japan known as Sencha. The other method of cultivation is to shade the tea bushes completely. This method was originally developed in Japan for the production of finely powdered tea, such as matcha, but later extended to the production of the high-quality Japanese leaf tea known as Gyokuro.

History of Marukyu Koyamaen

In the Genroku period (1688-1704), a man by the name of Kyujiro Koyama began to cultivate and manufacture matcha and tea in the village of Uji and Ogura in Kyoto. His work was the beginning of what was to become the renowned Marukyu Koyamaen. Over the last 400 years, Koyamaen have devoted themselves to producing the highest quality tea generation after generation.
During the following generations, the quality of tea was raised through improvements in all aspects of the cultivation, treatment and production, thus establishing the tradition of Ujicha. The fourth generation of Koyamaen began marketing the matcha and tea, and by the eighth generation, Motojiro, the market had been extended to the whole country. A standard of high quality, consistent from cultivation to the final product, was achieved, and the tea was highly esteemed. It is well known that Marukyu Koyamaen stands for the highest quality standard of tea as well as being one of the oldest established tea manufacturers in Uji; today, they supply their high-quality tea to many prestigious temples, shrines, and tea ceremony houses.

Authentic Flavour and Appraisal

For generations, Marukyu Koyamaen matcha and teas have been carefully inspected and produced by succeeding directors. Through repeated training, honing of skills and techniques, their knowledge of how to produce the finest teas and maintain their quality has been constantly improving. Whilst preserving tradition, Koyamaen promote technologically innovative production techniques. In recent years, Koyamaen have been focusing on developing new products such as their patented Mizutate Ousu in which matcha tea can be made with cold water. Marukyu Koyamaen now ranks among the foremost producers of fine teas in Japan.
Every year, as part of their efforts to improve the quality and consistency of their teas from the growing stage to the final processing, Marukyu Koyamaen submit their tea and matcha for appraisal in competitions. So far, Marukyu Koyamaen has come first in Japan’s National Tea competition twenty one times, first in Kansai’s Regional Tea Competition nine times and first in Japan’s National Tea Tasting Competition twice.
Want to experience the inspiring flavour award-winning, authentic matcha? Marukuyu Koyamaen’s matcha is one of the finest blends that the world had to offer. With its smooth taste and natural flavour, their matcha blend is truly one of a kind. Visit their full collection to discover more award-winning Japanese matcha for a transportive experience like no other.

Want to learn more?

Read all about the health benefits here:

Fancy getting more inspiration?

Discover how matcha can be your perfect summer drink here:
Selected Matcha Green Tea by The Ura Senke SHOKANOMUKASHI                   

Posted on Leave a comment

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea is an integral part of Japanese society, thus making the tea ceremony so important. Served in a gesture of hospitality to guests and friends, the art of pouring and making tea is highly appreciated in Japanese culture. There are many different varieties, most notable of which are matcha, genmaicha, hojicha and general Japanese green tea, all available from Atelier Japan.  There are different kinds of tea ceremony that vary in length and importance. As Japan is a very honorific society, the tea ceremony is carried out delicately and with particular care to detail, as well as in a hierarchical system that is common of all interactions in Japan.

History of the Tea Ceremony

As is the same for many other countries around the globe, tea was first introduced to Japan by China around the eighth century and was originally consumed for medicinal reasons by the higher classes and priests. However, by the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), tea was popularly used by all people, and soon tea parties came into fashion as a way for richer members of society to show their knowledge of the drink and to present their beautifully crafted and designed bowls. Tea parties then transitioned into a spiritual and refined forum. Widely accepted to be the father of the modern tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) is the inspiration for the three main schools of tea ceremony in Japan today, making the process simple and rural. Suransenke is the generic name for these schools, which are Urasenke, the largest school, Omotesenke, the second biggest, and Mushakojisenke. This might be the smallest of the schools, but it is run by actual descendants of Sen no Rikyu himself.

The Procedure

A full formal tea ceremony is a rarer occurrence in modern day Japan, but they do still take place. These ceremonies start with a kaiseki meal, followed by a bowl of thick tea and finish with thin tea. In general, tea ceremonies are much shorter and often just consist of the thin green tea. If you ever visit a temple in Japan, you may experience one of these casual ceremonies, where people are allowed to come and go as they please in an open setting.
In terms of how the ceremony is carried out in movement, the different schools of tea have different procedures. However, what is universally accepted is how one attending these ceremonies should act. If you are a foreigner or tourist, you will not be expected to know every detail or act perfectly, but there are some simple rules that you can follow which will convey respect and understanding to your host. This will also probably cause pleasant surprise that you have taken the time to learn about their culture. Although there often is no strict dress code for guests, it is expected that one should dress modestly and simply, with no jewellery that could damage the equipment and no strong perfume that will overpower the fragrances of the tea and incense.

How it is Laid Out

A traditional tea ceremony venue will be surrounded by a simple yet stunningly presented garden, with stones of varying sizes leading up to the entrance where guests will then wash their hands in a stone basin next to a stone lantern before entering the tatami room where the ceremony will take place. Humility and honour are crucial concepts in Japan, and the entrance to the tatami room will sometimes be low so that the guest has to stoop to enter, showing these two traits. When inside the room, you will notice an alcove, tokonoma, where a scroll or seasonal flowers will be placed, creating an aesthetic for the room. After bowing, the head guest will then proceed to sit nearest to the alcove, with the other guests following to take their places behind them respectively. Once in position, you would bow and carefully take in the meticulously chosen decorations.

Preparation of Tea

The traditional equipment for making the tea consists of a chasen (bamboo whisk), natsume (tea container), chashaku (bamboo scoop for the tea), a sweets container for wagashi (sweets) and a kettle and brazier. There is a precise placement for all of the equipment which has been specifically chosen for each ceremony, this will all be prepared in front of you by the host (teishu, meaning house master), who in proper ceremonies would wear a traditional kimono (called hohmongi).

How to Enjoy

Upon sitting down, you will be given a wagashi (sweet) which should be eaten before drinking the tea to balance out the slightly bitter taste of the green tea. You should then pick up the tea bowl with your right hand, place it on your left palm and then turn it 90 degrees clockwise with your right hand, take three sips and place it back on the tatami mat in front of you. Then, bow and show gratitude. Near to the end of the tea ceremony, you will be given time to look at and admire the tea bowl so carefully chosen by the host and, when you are finished, you should turn the bowl so that it faces the host. These details are very precise, so don’t worry if you don’t remember them all; as long as you act in a polite and respectful manner, your host will be pleased and happy that as a visitor to Japan you have taken time to learn anything at all.

Exquisite Traditional Tea on Atelier Japan

Atelier Japan features stunning authentic teas to purchase, as well as beautifully hand-crafted matcha bowls, made by the ancient firing technique of Raku. Each collection is entirely unique and created from the unceasing hard work of our makers, Marukyu Koyamaen and Rokubeygama. To learn more about how to make the perfect matcha tea, view our latest video guide on the Atelier Japan Facebook page.

Posted on Leave a comment

Matcha Green Tea – The Perfect Summer Drink

It might not feel like it just yet, but summer is fast approaching. Although Iced Matcha Green Tea might be the obvious choice for the warmer part of the year, even hot drinks can tell your body that it’s time to cool down. You might be surprised that there’s more than one way to enjoy the authentic flavour of Matcha in the summer months. From tasty Matcha Lattes to creamy Matcha Smoothies, there are plenty of ways to make the most of Matcha’s health benefits and unique taste.

Iced Matcha Green Tea

Matcha green tea latteTaking a less traditional approach, a newly popular way to enjoy Matcha is over ice. By adding flavours such as mint and lemon, it’s easy to enhance the distinctive taste of Matcha within this drink and make it all the more refreshing. Whilst an Iced Matcha is a wonderful drink to kick back with, many people choose to drink their Iced Matcha whilst on the go and take it with them whilst out and about. Taking an Iced Matcha to go isn’t just handy for helping out your schedule, it’s also a convenient way to take advantage of the nutritious benefits of Matcha. Amongst other powerful health positives, Matcha is known to help to speed up the metabolism, digesting food much faster than the normal rate.

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Matcha green tea latteThe distinctive taste of Matcha is one that people are often reluctant to try only to be pleasantly surprised when taking their first sip of this traditional Japanese beverage. Matcha’s bright and vibrant colour often leads people to assume that it has a bitter taste but it’s rich and creamy flavour quickly converts those that try it and proves that appearances aren’t everything. With cafes today serving perfectly poured and photogenic cups of Matcha Latte, you would presume that it is difficult to make this aesthetically pleasing drink in your own home, however, it couldn’t be easier.  After slowly spooning the lime green Matcha powder and sugar into a mug, carefully mix together with warm milk to eventually present the perfect blend of Matcha Latte. It’s even possible to make dairy free Matcha Lattes simply by using alternatives such as oat milk that create a similar texture and taste. As for keeping your Matcha Green Tea Latte vegan, most Matcha powers do not contain ingredients that would be unsuitable, but it can be a good idea to check.

Matcha Green Tea Smoothies

As a diverse ingredient, it’s not just citrus flavours that marry perfectly with the creamy taste of the Matcha, fruits such as strawberries and bananas also compliment its rich flavour. Creating a Matcha smoothie brings out some of the best parts of Matcha’s authentic taste whilst helping to make reach your five a day more achievable. Packing more fruit into a diet isn’t the only upside to having a Matcha Smoothie, this superfood helps to strengthen up an immune system thanks to its abundance of antioxidants and is even handy for using as part of a detox diet.

Matcha Mojito

From cosmopolitans to daiquiris, there are a handful of familiar faces on any cocktail menu. Taking a twist on a traditional favourite, the Matcha mojito is set to become a summer staple. The ingredients that go together to create a refreshing Matcha mojito don’t stray too far from the more well-known, original recipe. Alongside the usual partners of sugar and water, the syrup for a Matcha mojito adds just one teaspoon of Matcha powder to really enhance its flavour. Once mixed with tonic water, the Matcha mojito is ready to serve.

Eating Matcha

Matcha green tea latteMatcha can be enjoyed in more ways than one; its authentic flavour works equally as well for a delicious bite to eat as it does when creating refreshing drinks. During the summer months, a scoop of Matcha ice cream will provide the ultimate cooling comfort. Matcha powder can also be used when cooking as a healthier alternative to seasonings to create new and different flavours.

Create the perfect Matcha drink with authentic blends from Atelier Japan

All of the Matcha products that feature on the Atelier Japan website have been expertly blended to ensure that only the most authentic and delicious flavours come through when preparing one of the many ways to enjoy Matcha. Matcha isn’t the only traditional blend that is available to sample, either. From Brown Rice Tea to Hoji Cha, there is a whole range of beautifully flavoured, traditional Japanese blends to choose from.  
hoji cha japanese tea
Japanese tea

Posted on Leave a comment

The Health Benefits of Matcha

Matcha is one of the most talked about health trends to be introduced in western societies in recent years. Japanese people have been drinking it for over a millennia and claim that it has an array of health benefits. Today we know why. There are many health benefits to Matcha and this article is going to highlight some of them and the reasons why. It’s important for us to look at a bit of the science behind why Matcha has so many health benefits and why so many people throughout history have waxed lyrical about its health benefits to both mind and body.


The first reason is that Matcha is the king of antioxidants, more than any other ‘superfood’. There’s no other food that even comes close in its high levels of antioxidants.  Matcha tea also contains an uncommon group of antioxidants known as catechins. These cannot be found in other foods making it truly specialised unmatched. Matcha also contains catechin EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) which provides potent cancer-fighting properties. Antioxidants are also widely known to prevent ageing, cellular damage, and some chronic diseases.


Matcha contains the wonder amino acid L-Theanine which has been shown to produce alpha waves in the brain which induces a state of relaxation and without drowsiness. You wouldn’t want that as part of their daily routine! Japanese Zen Buddhist monks used Matcha Green Tea whilst meditating to reach what they regarded as a higher state of consciousness, something we can now somewhat explain through its chemical composition. L-Theanine also has other benefits and promotes the production of other useful chemicals including serotonin and dopamine which have both been proven to improve memory and concentration. Possibly the perfect combination for anyone studying for exams or needing extra focus at work.


Drinking Matcha Green Tea as part of a healthy regular diet has also shown to increase the body’s natural metabolism. We all know that as we get older our bodies natural metabolism tends to slow down, especially as some people become less physically active in older age. Some studies have shown that the effects of this increased metabolism can be up to four times faster at burning fat than the average. Great for us wanting to start the new on a health regime with specific goals.


The leaves used to make Green Tea Matcha are grown in such a way so that they dramatically increase their chlorophyll production in the last few weeks before they’re harvested. This gives the tea its vibrant green colour and the chlorophyll acts as an incredible detoxifier in the human body, capable of removing both heavy metals and toxins. This is possibly a bonus benefit for those of us that enjoy a drink or two at the weekend.

Immune System Support

We all now that to support a healthy immune system we need to top up on all of our vitamins and minerals. Matcha Green Tea also contains Potassium, Iron, Protein, Calcium and Vitamins A & C not to mention the catechins that are also known to have antibiotic properties.
If you’d like to try our award-winning Organic Green Tea Matcha, made in Kyoto by our Matcha maker Koyamaen, go to the online store here and tell us about your experiences drinking Matcha.