The most common questions asked about matcha green tea.
What is matcha powder?
Matcha is basically green tea in the form of very fine powder with particle size typically less than 20 microns. However, matcha is not just any green tea ground into a fine powder. Matcha tea plants are grown in shade, at least for the last 20 days before harvesting. This increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves and they become rich and dense in color. The leave also naturally increases in nutrients, particularly l-theaine, which is a type of amino acid. 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 any 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, depending on the cultivar and prefecture of matcha. The gentle and earthy taste of matcha is also called umami flavor, which is a term coined in 1900s, to describe a unique fifth taste (the four common tastes are – sweet, salty, sour, bitter) of natural food. The umami taste comes from higher concentration of amino acid compound called l-theanine in 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 may have slight bitterness because it is usually made from second or later harvest of tea plantation with more mature leaves, and stems and veins may not be removed. Hence it is more suitable to used as a condiment in cooking, baking, desserts and more commonly in smoothies, shakes, 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. Studies have shown that l-theanine relaxes the mind without causing drowsiness. This balances the affect of caffeine when consuming matcha. 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. This is why matcha may be a better alternative to caffeine.
[Sources: 1. National Centre of Biotechnology Information Research Paper, Jan 2021: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7796401/; 2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/]
What are the various types of matcha powders?
Matcha tea comes in a variety of grades. While the general method of growing and manufacturing of various grades of Matcha is the same, the difference mainly comes natural climatic conditions, variety of tea plantation (known as cultivar), the type of leaves used to produce matcha i.e. young leaves versus mature leaves, first harvest leaves or subsequent harvest leaves.
Ceremonial Matcha is the best grade of Matcha in which the young, supple leaves are used, from the first harvest of the year, and veins and stems are meticulously removed before grinding into the fine powder. Hence Ceremonial Matcha has a subtle earthy flavor, with almost no bitterness, intended to be consumed as matcha green tea or latte.
Culinary Matcha is usually from later harvests of tea leaves and hence leaves are more mature. In Culinary Matcha, stems and veins of leaves may not be removed and hence the resulting powder has a more prominent earthy, grassy and may be slightly bitter flavor. Culinary Matcha is more suitable for use as ingredient in various cooking and baking recipes such as shakes, cakes, desserts, cookies, pancakes, 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.
In between ceremonial and culinary matcha, manufacturers have created several grades of daily matcha, by combining these powders in various ratios from the first and subsequent harvest of tea leaves.
Where does matcha come from?
The three top countries producing matcha are Japan, China and South Korea. While matcha originated from China during the 8th century, it was elevated to cultural significance and became part of high society tea ceremonies in Japan. Matcha is now one of the most common teas consumed in Japan, and is often considered the secret to Japanese healthy and long life. South Korea is a recent entrant to matcha production and export, starting commercial sized plantations in the 1970s. Japan is generally regarded as the country producing premium quality matcha with strict governance on quality, method of production and testing. Tea plantations in Japan, China and South Korea often carry JAS, USDA and/or EU organic certifications and ensure FSSC2200 or ISO22000 standard compliance in production facilities to sell matcha worldwide.
What makes some matcha powders 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 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 matcha 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.
Is it ok to have matcha everyday?
The short answer is ‘Yes’. Having matcha everyday may provide health benefits from antioxidants (EGCG) and amino acids (L-theanine) that matcha has in high concentration. However, there are certain things to keep in mind. Matcha contains caffeine and hence when you are having matcha you are also consuming caffeine, possibly more than green tea and may be even coffee (depending on quantity of serving). Hence the serving size of matcha should be small, generally half teaspoon (2.5g). A couple of cups of matcha green tea a day will not have any unwanted side effects, however, very high doses may cause liver toxicity due to high concentration of minerals in matcha. Enjoy a cup or two of matcha each day and reap the immense health benefits without the risk of any adverse effects.
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 may cause anxiety and jittery feeling to some if consumed in larger quantities, although the presence of l-theanine in matcha balances the effect of caffeine. 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 could be 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.
Is matcha better for health than coffee?
Both matcha and coffee contain caffeine, which has been shown in numerous studies to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and help with mental degenerative diseases, when consumed in moderate quantities. However, matcha contains other nutritional ingredients, and hence matcha and coffee offer different health benefits, and determining which one is better for health depends on individual preferences and existing health conditions.
- Caffeine: Both matcha and coffee contain caffeine, but because matcha is consumed in smaller quantities, the caffeine intake is effectively lower . This can be beneficial for those who are more sensitive to caffeine or prefer a milder stimulant effect.
- Antioxidants: Matcha is rich in antioxidants, particularly catechins such as EGCG, which are beneficial for reducing cellular damage and combating inflammation. Antioxidants can help with several chronic and degenerative diseases, both physical and mental. Coffee also contains antioxidants, but matcha has much higher concentration.
- L-Theanine: Matcha contains the amino acid L-theanine, which promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. It can also help balance the jittery effects of caffeine, providing a calm alertness. Coffee does not contain L-theanine.
- Energy and alertness: Coffee is often favored for its awakening effects due to higher caffeine content. It provides a quicker energy boost and can enhance mental alertness. Matcha offers a more sustained and balanced energy boost due to the combination of caffeine and L-theanine.
- Nutritional profile: Matcha is a powdered green tea, and when consumed as a whole leaf, it provides higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber compared to brewed coffee. Matcha also contains chlorophyll, which gives it its vibrant green color.
Ultimately, the choice between matcha and coffee depends on personal preference, caffeine sensitivity, and health goals. It’s worth noting that excessive consumption of either can have negative effects, so moderation is always the key.
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. Making matcha at home is much better alternative to buying matcha latte from a cafe. Most matcha powders in cafes are made up of very small quantity of matcha green tea and combined with sugar, milk solids and other ingredients. This defeats the purpose of drinking matcha for health benefits or taste and has no authenticity. Even matcha sold in Starbucks is known to have large quantity of sugar, although matcha itself is from Japan. Check out our recipe to make a simple cup of matcha latte at home and enjoy without any guilt.
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.
If you are new to matcha green tea, read further on how to buy matcha like an expert. We explain some key factors that you should consider when buying a particular product or brand of matcha.