Matcha originally emerged during the Song Dynasty in China. Matcha is made from a shade grown green tea, known as Gyokuro, which is carefully steamed and meticulously dried. After the steaming process, the leaves are separated from the stems.
The leaves alone, called tencha, are ground into a powder called matcha. The art of producing, preparing and consuming this powdered tea became a ritual performed by Zen Buddhists in China. In 1191, a Zen monk by the name of Eisai traveled to Japan and introduced matcha. As the popularity of matcha lessened in China during the Ming Dynasty, it was conversely embraced by the Japanese culture.
Matcha eventually became an important part of rituals in Zen monasteries in Japan and was elevated to level of high culture and skill in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, which is still the case today.