What is Matcha? Everything You Need to Know About Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea is an incredibly popular type of tea that has been around for centuries. It has recently seen a resurgence in popularity, especially in the west, due to its many health benefits and unique flavor.
Chances are, you've at least heard of it lately, seen it written on the hung menu of coffee shops, and wondered what it is.
We're here to satisfy your curiosity and answer all the questions you have about matcha tea, from what is matcha and its origins to the many health benefits it can provide, and how you can grow it in your own garden.
What is Matcha Green Tea?
It is a finely ground powder made from specially grown green tea leaves. Unlike other types of tea, it has a frothy texture.
Matcha green tea is made from the highest quality green tea leaves, grown in the shade, and handpicked in Japan. This special process gives the tea a unique flavor, aroma, and bright green color.
Unlike traditional green tea, matcha tea powder is made by grinding the entire leaf into a fine powder. This allows the drinker to ingest the entire leaf, not just the brewed liquid.
Origins of Matcha Green Tea
Matcha is a type of green tea that's grown in Japan. It comes from the high-quality leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
It has been consumed for centuries as part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and is an integral part of Japanese culture. But has also been grown and consumed in the rest of East Asia.
Matcha can be enjoyed as a hot cup of tea, or as a latte, hot or iced. It contains more caffeine than traditional green tea but still less than coffee.
It has a bright green color and a smooth, slightly sweet taste. For centuries, matcha has been a central point of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, but its popularity only started increasing in the US and European countries in recent years.
How is matcha made?
It begins with growing green tea leaves and harvesting them during the peak of their season. After the leaves have been harvested, they are steamed, dried, and then ground into powdered tea.
This powder is known as matcha powder and is used for many things in Japan, not just for drinking green tea. The powder is also used in baking and general food recipes.
The process of making matcha tea is precise and takes work.
After the leaves have been harvested, they must be steamed immediately to preserve the freshness and vivid green color of the leaves that characterizes matcha tea. But once that's done quickly, they are steamed and dried. The ground tea is then it's packaged in its powdered form.
Health Benefits of Matcha
In its own right, the peculiar and sweet taste of the powder makes drinking matcha irresistible. But one of the big reasons for its increasing popularity has to do with the many benefits that the tea plant has for health.
Rich in Antioxidants
The tea leaves of matcha, which are actually fully ground into matcha powder, unlike regular tea, are full to the brim with antioxidants.
Antioxidants are essential in protecting your cells and lowering the risk of chronological diseases. They also support immune system function, protect against free radical damage, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation
Good for the Brain
As matcha tea has more caffeine than brewed green tea, it increases attention and activity.
But also, matcha tea has been shown to have a longer-term good effect on brain functions.
And has another component, L-theanine, that helps in altering the aftermath of caffeine, like energy crashes, and helps with stress and anxiety management. Which is indirectly good for better brain functions.
Good for the Heart
This one benefit is also shared with regular brewed green tea.
As they both originate from the same plant, they both have a common quality that reduces levels of cholesterol, which can harm the heart when exceeding normal levels.
Can Help in Healthy Weight Loss Processes
Green tea leaves have been a regular part of most people's diets for a long time now. It's been shown to increase metabolism—especially a green tea extract.
And since in powdered form, matcha tea is even more concentrated than green tea, it should have even better effects on weight loss than drinking green tea.
Studies have shown that drinking matcha may boost metabolism while providing essential vitamins and minerals.
Other health benefits include promoting healthy skin, fighting off viruses, and helping with digestion!
To consume matcha only for its delicious taste would be good enough! But it becomes even better with all those health benefits. But if you're not particularly that much into the frothy and creamy taste, you can simply add the powdered green tea to boiling water or brew a cup of matcha like regular green tea.
How to Consume Matcha?
Unlike traditional green tea and general tea bags, when you make matcha, you whisk the powder into hot water or milk to create a frothy drink. This process allows you to consume the entire tea leaf, unlocking all of its potential health benefits.
When it comes to purchasing matcha powder, there are three different matcha grades you should know about.
Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder
It's the highest grade matcha of all types, and the one typically used for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
It's the first harvest of the tea plant and has a bright, vivid green color, this matcha shine color we came to associate with all matcha, a smooth texture, and a delicate flavor.
Unlike green tea, it's very potent in texture and taste with the full, best tea leaves ground into fine powder.
Culinary-grade Matcha Powder
Culinary grade is of the second harvest and is reserved for recipes, baking, and lattes.
It has a darker shade than ceremonial grade but is still brightly green, and a generally more bitter taste more suitable for cooking.
It's cheaper but also lower quality matcha that is good for cooking and baking, but not as good as high-quality matcha for drinking.
Ingredient Grade Matcha Powder
This is usually the last picked by tea producers and is used as an ingredient in food processing and production, as well as supplements.
It's made of the remaining leaf material of the first harvests and is therefore the cheapest of all grades, with the darkest color and a much more bitter taste than high-quality matcha.
All types of matcha taste different depending on what the intended use of the green tea powder is.
Preparing matcha tea at home is fairly easy, you just need some basic equipment for it, hot water, and your green tea powder, and you'll be good to go!
A Chasen (bamboo whisk), a Chawan (tea bowl), and a bamboo spoon are important tools for making matcha. You'll also need a small strainer or sifter to make sure your matcha powder is free of lumps.
Start by adding 1 teaspoon or a half teaspoon of matcha powder into the chawan. Depending on how strong you want it.
Then add 2 ounces of hot water, not boiling water! Just hot water. And use the bamboo spoon to mix the powder and water until you get a smooth paste.
Once you have a paste, add the rest of the hot water into the bowl and whisk with the tea whisk until you get the desired consistency.
After preparing matcha, you can sift it to remove any lumps if there are any. Then you have a great mug of tea to drink.
There are plenty of creative ways to enjoy this powdered green tea. From traditional hot tea to creative matcha lattes and everything in between, there are many delicious matcha green tea recipes to explore.
You can add milk or any milk alternative like oat milk, almond milk, or coconut milk to get a great matcha latte. Or you can have it in the classical Japanese tea ceremony with just the hot water.
You can control the consistency of the matcha lattes with your bamboo whisk and can either have them iced or hot!
How to Plant Matcha Leaves in Your Garden?
To get the best out of this ground tea, you can plant it in your garden and prepare it yourself to get the highest quality matcha.
If you have a knack for gardening and love matcha, then there's no reason why you can't do it!
You first need to know the needs of the tea bush and if you can meet them!
Matcha is grown in shade away from direct sunlight (but still nearby enough!) and requires soil that's rich in nutrients and well drained.
The ideal temperature range for growing matcha is between 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) during the day and 40 degrees F (-4 C) at night. This allows the leaves to stay green while still allowing enough time for photosynthesis.
The first step in planting matcha leaves is to purchase some seeds or plants from your local garden center or online. You can find both seeds and plants online at places like Amazon or Etsy if you don’t have any stores nearby where you live.
Opt for disease-resistant types!
The leaves are grown in the shade for about 20 days and should be harvested when it reaches full maturity; this means their leaves are fully grown, but before they begin turning yellow or red.
Matcha has long been used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, but it has also become increasingly popular in a variety of food and beverage recipes. Whether you’re making a matcha latte or baking a matcha cake, using matcha powder is the perfect way to add an antioxidant boost to any meal.
With everything we showed you, you're ready to make your first ceremonial matcha or even grow your own matcha tea leaves!