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The most common questions asked about matcha by beginners
What is Matcha?
Matcha is basically green tea in the form of very fine powder with particle size typically less than 20 microns in size. Matcha tea plants are grown in shade, at least for the last 20-30 days before harvesting. This increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves and they become rich and dense in color and nutrients. The leaves are then plucked, immediately steamed and dried. This prevents the leaves from getting oxidized, losing taste and nutrients. The leaves in this state are known as ‘Tencha‘. Tencha is then ground into a very fine powder, which is known as Matcha. Note that there is a specific method from plantation to harvesting to manufacturing for produce matcha, which is different than just general powdered form of green tea.
What does Matcha taste like?
The taste of matcha is generally described as subtle and smooth earthy and grassy, with a hint of bitterness. The gentle earthy taste of matcha is also called umami flavor and intensity of bitterness varies between different grades and cultivars of matcha. Organic Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea has a subtle flavor and almost no bitterness because it is made from young and supple leaves of usually the first harvest of the year and contains no veins and stems. Ceremonial Matcha is perfect as green tea or matcha latte. Organic Culinary Matcha Powder has a bit more bitterness suitable for smoothies, shakes, desserts, cakes, etc.
Does Matcha have caffeine?
Yes, Matcha has caffeine. In fact, caffeine in matcha is about twice the amount in standard green tea and even more than coffee per gram. However, matcha is typically consumed in less quantity than coffee. A standard 240 ml (1 cup) of matcha tea uses 2g of good quality matcha powder, while a standard espresso single shot can have 7-9g of coffee. This makes the total amount of caffeine consumed from coffee to be more than matcha in a single serving. It must be noted that caffeine in matcha is not known to produce jitters compared caffeine in coffee. This is because Matcha has a compound called L-theanine, which prevents sudden increase of cortisol levels, hence reducing the feeling of anxiety or tension. Due to the combination of L-theanine and caffeine, drinking matcha gives a feeling of calmness and alertness at the same time, which is a unique combination .
[Source: National Centre of Biotechnology Information Research Paper, Jan 2021: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7796401/]
What are the various types of Matcha?
Matcha tea comes in a variety of grades. While the general method of growing and harvesting of various grades of Matcha is the same, the difference is manly in taste and intended use.
Ceremonial Matcha is the best grade of Matcha in which the young, supple leaves are harvested and veins and stems are meticulously removed before grinding into the fine powder. Hence Ceremonial Matcha has a subtle earthy flavor intended to be consumed as hot tea or latte. Ceremonial Matcha can be organic or Premium Ceremonial but non-organic.
Culinary Matcha is lower grade of matcha but not necessarily “poor” grade or quality. In Culinary Matcha, stems and veins of leaves are not removed and hence the resulting powder has a more prominent earthy and bitter flavor. The leaves chosen to make culinary matcha may also be not the first harvest, young and supple leaves, but more mature ones. Culinary Matcha is more suitable for use as ingredient in various recipes such as shakes, cakes, desserts, smoothies, etc. where it is mixed with other condiments and used in larger quantities. That is not say the culinary matcha cannot be consumed as hot tea as well with a sweetener of choice.
What makes some Matcha products better quality and more expensive than others?
There are several factors that determine the quality of Matcha and hence its price. Some of these are listed below:
- Number of days the trees are kept in shade, which is what gives matcha it’s bright color and density of nutrients.
- Organic or normal i.e. use of natural fertilizers versus chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers typically make the plant grow quicker for harvesting than natural growth process. Organic Matcha is more expensive.
- Use of pesticides – This is important because matcha powder is made from ground leaves and consumed as a whole. Hence it is important that there is little to no use of pesticides. Pesticide free and matcha tested for hazardous substances (HACCP certified) is more expensive.
- Manufacturing process – At various stages, the use of machinery and artificial processes versus handcrafted and manual processes, make the difference in price as well. E.g., Artificially drying steamed leaves versus air drying, manual harvesting versus machine harvesting, stone ground versus heavy machine ground, etc.
- Pure Matcha powder versus blends – Many matcha products come mixed with many other ingredients (especially sugar) to either enhance flavor or create blended products. 100% pure matcha is obviously more expensive.
- Country of origin – Typically, Japanese Matcha is most expensive, followed by Korean Matcha and then Chinese Matcha. Japan has high standards governed by JAS (Japan Agricultural Society) and other government regulations. While matcha is originally from China, Japan was the first country to develop, identify and certify a specific matcha cultivar (Yabukita) as well as standardize on the ceremonial matcha production and consumption process.
- Other factors like prefectures and cultivars of matcha also influence quality and costs.
How to make Matcha Latte?
You can make cafe’ style matcha latte at home and enjoy a calming and yet activating caffeine hit in the morning. Matcha used in latte is typically ceremonial grade organic matcha green tea powder, which will give a luxurious and satisfying flavour and feeling. Check out our perfect Matcha Latte recipe at home.
How to make Matcha Green Tea?
You can make matcha part of your daily routine and experience noticeable mental and physical health benefits:
- Ceremonial Matcha, combined with honey (or sweetener of choice) and lemon to make a soothing and refreshing Matcha green tea. Check out our ‘Matcha, Honey, Lemon‘ recipe. This is the best and most potent drink which may prevent or reduce chronic health issues like cholesterol, heart issues, diabetes, mental degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, inflammation and even cancer. Also, good for healthy skin care, acne and hair.
Does Matcha have side effects?
Everything in moderation is generally good rule of thumb and that applies to Matcha as well. Matcha is consumed in full and hence is more potent than green tea. Matcha also has more caffeine than green tea and coffee per gram. It can cause anxiety and jittery feeling if consumed in larger quantities. Hence, pure matcha should be consumed in very small quantity (generally 2g or ½ teaspoon) once or twice a day.
Polyphenols and catechins in green tea are known to bind with iron and prevent its absorption, hence causing anemia caused by iron deficiency. This is the case when consumed in large quantities like 6-8 cups a day. For this reason, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume matcha and green tea in limited quantities. Generally, 1-2 cups a day is considered safe, but consult a medical practitioner when starting on any new substance or diet. Refer to our blog on potential Side Effects of Matcha.