Updated: Apr 8, 2020
What is matcha?
To put it simply matcha is a type of japanese green tea. Matcha is a special type of powdered green tea. All green tea comes from the same plant, and differs from its farming process, harvesting process, drying, roasting and if matcha, milling process.
Part of Japanese culture for centuries, traditionally matcha was presented in a tea ceremony by the lady of the house to welcome her guests. Even today it is still an art, appreciated by our culture. Today, its more popular globally for lattes, cakes, icecreams and off course as a superfood for all of its health benefits.
What's the difference between matcha and green tea? You can also get normal plain green tea powder which appears like matcha as it is also a green powder, however tastes completely different. Plain green tea powder is slightly more acidic with a strong bitter aftertaste whereas matcha is much more smooth, aromatic with a sweet flavour and vibrant green colour. Unfortunately both in Australia and the global market, many distributors (in fact over 90%) and sellers are selling plain green tea powder as matcha. This is false advertising and the consumer pays high prices for what is not true matcha.
How to tell the difference????
In order to understand and see the difference its best to do tastings, look at the colour and fineness of the powder. Although both green, plain green tea powder tends to have a slight yellow tinge to its green in comparison to matcha. Matcha also oxidises much more quickly than plain green tea powder so colour change is evident once opened. Also see if the seller knows much about matcha itself. Matcha also is much more rich in antioxidant properties, nutrients and caffeine with a lot of health benefits.
Whats the difference in growing matcha and green tea?
As with all green teas, matcha is harvested from spring to autumn while in winter the soil is left to rest. The first season harvest in spring produces the best leaves of the year where the leaves appear more green and soft to touch. Traditionally, for producing matcha, we place dark sheets over our plantations several weeks before harvest. By doing this, all the chlorophyll, nutrients of the tea goes to the tips of the leaves as the plant tries to search for sunlight for photosynthesis. This then gives the matcha tea leaves a much more vibrant green colour and full of all the nutrients. However, by doing this process it also makes matcha more delicate and sensitive to light and heat. Once harvested, our leaves are then steamed and left to dry forming the raw material of matcha which we call "tencha". This tencha is then further processed by heat, roasting and then milled into powder form known as matcha. Tradionally stone milled matcha is a slow process but produces the finest matcha powder. It only produces 30g per hour! Off course today there is various methods of milling matcha in our manufacturing base. Also with matcha, you are essentially drinking the whole leaf with its nutrients as the tencha is milled into powder form whereas with green tea, you are drinking some nutritional elements that have dissolved from the leaves while brewing. What's the deal with people saying ceremonial matcha?
Only the first harvest crop of the year which is traditionally stone milled can be called "ceremonial matcha". It should be a vibrant green colour, not bitter, but have rich smooth, umami and subtle sweetness of the matcha.
If it's not ceremonial matcha, is it still any good? As with all green teas, matcha can be harvested through spring to autumn. The first harvest in spring will give you the best crop of the year but also most expensive. However the other season's matcha is perfectly good to use and but has less nutritional properties. If you wanted to make traditional matcha in a tea ceremony, ideally the ceremonial matcha should be used to appreciate the taste, aroma, and ceremony itself. If you are planning to use matcha in baking or daily drinking at home, there is no need to use the highest quality and most expensive matcha. In fact its a waste! If you use it in baking, you are destroying the goodness of the ceremonial matcha so the other season's harvest should suffice. What does all the grades of matcha mean?
In Japan we don't grade our matcha like our global clients. We don't grade is as A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 or cooking grade. We separate our so called "grades" of matcha according to season, region and blend. For example Shizuoka, 2nd and 3rd harvest blend. Off course traditionally stone milled ceremonial matcha is the best of all matcha and most expensive because of the best components of antioxidants and minerals.
How do I store matcha?
Due to the farming and harvesting process of matcha, it is very sensitive to heat and light. Similar to coffee it will oxidise quickly once opened. All of our matcha tins and packaging are infused with nitrogen upon filling which means unless opened quality, flavour and colour will keep for at least one year. Once opened, seal air tight either in original container or in a cool dark dry place. Some people put it in the refrigerator to keep it longer however, similar to coffee beans the matcha will start to absorb smells in the fridge so its not recommended
Matcha contains a lot of theanine, the flavor component
Matcha is grown, harvested and processed completely different to ordinary green tea
Generally, with more techniques and process involved with making matcha, it is more expensive
Matcha you are essentially drinking the whole leaf where as green tea is just the brewed components
The nutritional properties are completely different, matcha being more healthy, full of antioxidants and nutrients
Matcha is more sensitive to heat and light, it oxidises quickly
Matcha is a part of Japanese art and culture