Scallops sometimes eat a type of toxic dinoflagellate (known as the cause of the red tide), accumulate this toxin in their bodies and become poisonous. This toxin is called Saxitoxin and it has a high fatality rate.
Symptoms of poisoning start with numbness in the lips, tongue and side of the face as well as a burning sensation that eventually spreads to the ends of the limbs and causes loss of sensation. When it gets even worse, the victim loses the ability to move their body. Even in end stage, the victim maintains consciousness until breathing ceases and then finally dying from suffocation. There have been a number of cases of death from Saxitoxin on either coast of the North American continent, but there are very few cases of poisoning in Japan.
Among the fish that belong to the Anguilliformes order such as Eel, Conger eel, and Moray eel, some contain toxic components in their blood serum. This type of serotoxin is called Ichthyohemotoxin and indicates lethal and hemolytic actions. However, this is not the official name of the toxin, and the chemical structure is also not clear.
If a human were to drink a large amount of fresh blood from these fish, they would suffer from symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, cyanosis, arrhythmia, paresthesia, paralysis and respiratory distress, and it would then sometimes result in death. If the blood gets in your eyes, it causes an intense burning sensation, swollen eyelids, and a foreign body sensation that last for days. Sufficient caution must be practiced when preparing these fish, but there is no concern for toxicity if it is cooked. Incidentally, in case of Ichthyohemotoxin, found in eel’s blood, the toxicity completely disappears when cooked for 5 minutes at 60℃, so there are no issues with eating eel Kabayakai.
The definition of “Matcha” according to the Japan Tea Central Public Interest Incorporated Association is, “Fine powder made by grinding up Tencha with a handmill made from un-rolled, dried raw leaves that were cultivated under cover and shaded from sunlight.”
To put it simply, Matcha is made by grinding up Tencha with a tea grinding handmill, into fine particles 1 to 20 μm in size. Tencha is grown in mostly the same way as Gyokuro but covered for 5 days longer than Gyokuro. The initial steaming method is also the same as Gyokuro and Sencha, but the difference is that after steaming, it is just dried, without any kneading.
After steaming, a device called a tea leaf spreader is used to spread them over 5 to 6 m in warm air, the moisture from the steaming is removed, and then they are cooled. This process is repeated 4 to 5 times and then it is normally dried in a Tencha oven. The finished Tencha is then left to rest in a cool place until November.
Matcha produced at the beginning of November is ground using a handmill as “newly picked tea,” but since it had been resting, it emits the refreshing scent of new tea, giving it a mellowness. Meanwhile, lately, newly picked tea is ground with a handmill immediately to make Matcha that retains the refreshing scent, creating a flavor that differs from that of the tea ceremony world.
Consuming the actual Matcha leaves allows you to take in all the non-water-soluble components, so it’s gained attention as part of a health boom lately. In order to keep up with that demand, Matcha that strays from the original definition is mass-produced using mills.
Matcha is a drink used at places like tea ceremonies to enjoy with Japanese-style sweets. It goes without saying that this is not to be drunk with Nigiri sushi. When enjoying Nigiri sushi, you will be served Konacha, Mecha or Roasted green tea.