What Is Matcha? Here is a Guide to the Ever More Popular Matcha Green Tea and it’s Benefits
Doesn’t it seem like ages ago that the worlds culture, so naive and under-caffeinated, was swept away in a mad affair with espresso? In a matter of months, we went from spooning Folgers powder into our souvenir mugs or sipping day-old sludge from Styrofoam cups, to requesting “long shots” in our cortado and freaking out if our cappuccino had the wrong ratio of milk to foam.
Over the past couple of years, a similar revolution has been taking place with matcha, that pulverised tea with brilliant green colour and vague reputation as a superfood. Once a novelty product that maybe only a few health nuts and Japanese ex-pats would recognise, matcha tea can now be found in Starbucks, smoothie shops, and grocery stores. Your girlfriend or sister is either a compete convert from coffee to matcha, or knows someone who is. Your mom orders it at the coffee shop when she’s feeling adventurous.
In many ways, the worlds move to matcha has a lot of advantages over the previous caffeinated revolution. While espresso gave us coffee house culture (and we thank it), matcha has a world of physical and mental health benefits that the coffee bean just can’t touch.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we put together a brief look at some matcha facts:
- First things first: An 8-ounce cup of matcha actually contains more caffeine (70 mg) than a drink with a shot of espresso (64 mg). How do you like them apples, espresso?
- Matcha serves up this extra caffeine with a side order of L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and calm. (It’s said that Zen monks used to drink matcha before marathon meditation sessions.) As a result, you get an energy boost without the jitters … or the crash when the caffeine wears off.
- Because matcha is made from the whole tea leaf (more on that below), it contains a lot of chlorophyll, which helps cleanse your blood and digestive tract. Side benefit: It neutralizes bad breath (left behind by, say, too much coffee)?
- We hear a lot about weight-loss teas, but matcha might actually be one. Studies have shown that regular matcha drinkers have 35-40% higher metabolic rates than non-matcha drinkers.
- The dietary fiber found in matcha can help prevent insulin spikes, slow down the development of type 1 diabetes and regulate glucose levels.
- Matcha is abundant with antioxidants that lower blood pressure, improve skin quality, and fight cardiovascular diseases and possibly even cancers.
What Is Matcha?
So much for the health benefits of matcha. What about the taste? It has a creamy, grassy taste that is faintly sweet and bitter in equal proportion. If you’re a food nerd, you’ll recognise this taste as the coveted “umami,” the rare fifth taste that comes from an ideal balance of the other taste sensations.
Matcha is also a great alternative to coffee in that it takes a lot less time to prepare. And we mean a lot less. Strangely, matcha preparation is often the biggest objection for both coffee and tea drinkers. Powdered tea, in and of itself, is a mental hurdle. Then there’s the exotic accoutrements you often see paired with matcha — the little bamboo whisk, the frother, the special handle-less cups, the extra-long napkin (or is it a towel?), etc. What is all of that for, and is all of that essential to enjoying matcha?
We like to think of matcha as the Champagne of green tea. Akin to how Champagne is treated in France, matcha can only be truly considered “matcha” as opposed to “powdered green tea” if it comes from Japan. There are two reasons for this, looking at the historical journey of matcha and its terroir. Matcha is the only tea to be used in Japan’s iconic cha-no-yu (tea ceremony), so there is a long tradition of reverence around the tea. In turn, matcha is a highly specialized type of tea to grow. One can only taste the true character and revered flavor of matcha if it was grown in Japan — variables like the ideal climate for growing matcha, highly nutritious volcanic soil, and certain cultivars of the tea plant all play a part in matcha’s special, umami taste.
Matcha is one of the only teas that is powdered. Differing from regular green tea leaves, which are intended to be steeped, the leaves for matcha are shade-grown (which increases the nutrition content in the leaves) and subsequently stone-milled if it’s high quality. Quality mills will grind matcha to 1 micron. Therefore, instead of steeping leaves and throwing them away, when one drinks matcha, they drink 100% ground tea leaves!
Because matcha is a powdered green tea, the goal is to aerate the powder into a beautiful creamy froth either using a traditional whisk or shaking the powder.
Walk through the steps to prepare a perfect cup of matcha. What should people be looking for, in terms of taste, appearance, texture, etc..
Matecha Green Tea’s perfect cup of matcha: A traditional preparation of matcha will involve two steps: koicha + usucha (thick tea, thin tea).
- Warm a chawan (tea bowl) with hot water. Discard water.
- Place 2.5 grams of Matcha in your chawan (tea bowl) using your chashaku (tea scoop)
- Pour 1 ounce of 160 degrees Fahrenheit – 175 degrees F fresh water over your matcha tea. Using too-hot water will make your tea bitter. Do not use boiling water.
- Using your chasen (tea whisk) gently “knead” the tea in a circular motion so no clumps remain and a nice even paste forms. There should be a beautiful aroma. This is your koicha! In a traditional tea ceremony, you would sip this concentrated, intense tea followed by enjoying a wagashi (sweet treat).
- To enjoy the rest of your tea, make usucha. Pour 3-4 more ounces of warm water over your koicha tea. Use your chasen, make the characteristic “m” or zig-zag motion with the whisk by rapidly & lightly moving back and forth across the entire bowl until an even, creamy froth forms. Itadakimasu! Enjoy!
If you’re just getting acquainted with matcha, Matecha’s Green Tea Matcha is where you should start. Light and aromatic (pay attention and you’ll smell something like vanilla) with a luscious creamy mouthfeel, this matcha is shade-grown and stone-milled to order at their 100-year old family matcha manufactory in Japan. If you fall in love with it (and you will), you can pop over back to our site and order more because we will always be here to support your healthy and active lifestyle.