Matcha: The Comprehensive Guide from a Tea Blogger

December 11, 2017 in Matcha 101: Learn About This Green Tea

When I was introduced to matcha I immediately had a lot of questions about this unique tea. As a regular loose leaf tea drinker, I was hesitant about instant tea powder and thought matcha was just that. When I quickly found out that it wasn’t, I knew I had a lot to learn. The questions I had about matcha were related to its history, preparation methods, storage tips and much more. I created this comprehensive matcha guide that features answers to some frequently asked questions about the green tea powder. I’ll be sure to update this guide periodically so that I can answer any more matcha related questions. Please use the table of contents below to access a certain question easily.

Matcha Guide

– MATCHA GUIDE: What is Matcha? –

What are the differences between green tea and matcha?

Matcha and other green teas are from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis (also known as the tea plant), but the growing and processing methods of the tea leaves is different. Firstly, the tea farmer chooses the strongest green tea plants every year for the purpose of matcha. It is called tencha in Japanese before it gets ground into matcha powder. Tencha green tea leaves are used to make matcha. Before harvesting the tea leaves in the spring, farmers will shade the plants by covering them with bamboo mats or tarps. Shading the tea leaves increase the theanine content which helps mental focus and the chlorophyll level which helps matcha get that vibrant green colour everyone loves. When it is time to pick the tea leaves, they are then steamed to prevent oxidation. Before grinding, the steamed leaves are sorted for different matcha grades and the removal of stems and veins take place. Stems and veins of the tea leaves are removed through a sophisticated process of cutting and separation. Matcha is the only tea variety in which the stems and veins are moved. It is to achieve the soft texture when we drink the whole matcha powder. This is tencha green tea. You can dry these tea leaves and steep them like a normal green tea, but when the next step, grinding, occurs they become matcha.

What makes different types/grades of matcha distinct from one another?

Matcha grades and products do vary distinctly from one another. The main factors are harvest, origin, plant and leaf quality, organic or not, processing technique. All other things equal, first harvest matcha tastes smoother and looks greener than later harvest. Always ask the matcha brand which harvest and month its grade is from. All my recommended top 5 matcha products are from first harvest in Japan.

In general, matcha from Japan has higher quality than matcha from China. Even that matcha originated in China, Chinese farmers stopped the matcha way for a few centuries until a recent comeback in interest.

Organic farming of matcha requires much more effort and hence demands a higher price. All organic matcha tastes grassy. But high-quality organic matcha tastes smoothly and delicately grassy, and is very enjoyable. Non-organic conventional matcha varies much more widely because the plant is typically fed with synthetic chemical fertilizers to influence its taste. I recommend you do a side-by-side comparison of organic and non-organic matcha and see what you prefer!

How many milligrams of caffeine does one teaspoon of matcha have?

Approximately 60mg of caffeine is in one teaspoon of matcha. The amount of caffeine may vary depending on the type of matcha and how it is prepared.

– ABOUT MATCHA STORAGE –

What is the shelf life of matcha?

When matcha has just been ground, it usually is good for about 1-2 years.

How long does matcha keep once it’s been opened?

Whether you opened a tin or a pouch of matcha, store it in the fridge for up to three months for optimum freshness. However, if stored properly, I don’t believe matcha gets bad in the sense that you’ll be sick if you consume it. You can still use your matcha someway, but it may not be as tasteful as before.

Matcha Guide– ABOUT THE MATCHA TEA CEREMONY –

What is the history behind matcha tea ceremonies?

The Japanese Tea Ceremony (also known as the Way of Tea) brings individuals together and teaches more about the Japanese culture through the art of preparing matcha. What some may not know is that the tea ceremony originated in China. During the Song dynasty (960–1279), Zen monks  created a ritual of preparing a bowl of powdered green tea. It is believed that it didn’t make its way to Japan until 1191. It finally arrived when a Zen monk from Japan took green tea seeds from Zhejiang, China to Uji, Japan to cultivate green tea. Here is a great video of a beautiful Japanese Tea Ceremony.

– ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MATCHA –

What are the health benefits of drinking matcha?

Matcha has many health benefits and is widely known as the tea packed with antioxidants. Since you are actually ingesting the full tea leaves when drinking matcha you are then getting all of the nutrients from the leaves. Matcha is rich in vitamins, fiber and chlorophyll. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits from catechins, including EGCG. While I do not drink matcha for the health benefits, I do appreciate that matcha can also enhance your mood and calm your mind. With the unique theanine and caffeine combination in matcha, it provides a calm energy without jitter or crash.

What exactly is L-theanine?

L-theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. It helps induce alpha-frequency brain wave which is a state of wakeful calmness.

Does a higher grade matcha offer more health benefits than a lower grade matcha?

Grades in matcha refer to its colour, aroma and taste. It does not refer to its nutrition content. The best way to compare the content is to make sure matcha products you are interested in have their nutrition content listed. You can then compare the amount of theanine, caffeine, catechins among them. Make sure no fillers like rice or milk solids are added. Authentic matcha should just be 100% tencha green tea powder.

Do health benefits of matcha differ when you drink it hot versus cold?

You are still ingesting the entire tea leaves whether you prepare the matcha hot or cold, therefore, there would not be a difference when it comes to health benefits it offers. However, physiologically people absorb foods and beverages differently.

matcha guide

– GENERAL MATCHA TIPS –

What is the right way to stir matcha?

Traditionally, whisking matcha with a bamboo whisk (also known as a chasen) in a bowl (also known as a chawan) can be the “right” way. However, you can enjoy matcha the way you like it and are comfortable with. If you’re interested in preparing it traditionally, check out my how-to guide with a video to follow.

When making matcha, how much is the right amount to use?

It depends on your own taste preferences, but a common ratio is 2 bamboo scoops (or 1 teaspoon) for 2-3 ounces of water and then add more water to your desired level.

How do you decide on which matcha to buy when shopping online?

Purchasing matcha online opposed to in-store can be a bit trickier. I usually look for at least 6 things when I am searching for matcha online. Here is my blog post that highlights this topic.

Can you heat up matcha?

To make matcha, you should use 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit water. Boiling water will burn the powder and result in a very bitter taste. It is not recommended that you heat your matcha after it is made.

What is the best way to introduce someone to matcha?

The best way is to match matcha to that person’s previous beverage habit. If they are a pure tea or black coffee drinker, introduce matcha in the ceremonial way, whisked in a matcha bowl. If they are a coffee latte drinker, matcha latte is a very easy way for them to enjoy matcha. If they drink herbal tisane or water, use only a small bamboo scoop or ½ tsp of matcha powder to make it very light.

How much matcha in one day is too much matcha?

I think this all depends on the individual and how matcha makes them feel. However, it is said that 1-2 servings of matcha is equivalent to 10-20 cups of regular green tea, so based on 1 gram of matcha per serving, I would try not to exceed 4 or 5 in a day.

– ABOUT MATCHA TRENDS –

Are the younger generations in Japan moving away from ceremonial matcha for more convenient green teas and matcha treats?

To a certain extent, young Japanese are moving away from traditional ways of tea and consume more commercially prepared beverages. I believe this is a global trend. But tea drinking is still a household staple in Japan and many Asian countries.

What is the weirdest use for matcha you have run into?

I don’t think I have personally run into any weird matcha uses (yet) but an Instagram follower informed me of matcha toilet paper!

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Have another matcha related question that wasn’t answered on this matcha guide? Leave it in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to answer it!

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