Originating in China, Matcha tea has been the beverage of choice for both the Chinese and Japanese cultures for thousands of years and has quickly become a drink of choice around the globe.
Thanks to its incredibly rich flavors and a wide variety of tastes, matcha tea has won over the hearts of many casual tea drinkers and tea enthusiasts alike. Matcha tea is also believed to provide a whole host of health benefits when consumed on a regular basis thanks to the unique way in which it is processed.
Despite being one of the most enjoyed beverages in the world, matcha tea remains a mystery for many. In this brief guide, we’ll explore what exactly matcha tea is, the difference between matcha and green tea, and how to find the best matcha tea to enjoy.
What Is Matcha Tea?
So what exactly is matcha tea? Matcha tea is a high-quality green tea that is created through a specialized process. The two most significant differences in how matcha is made compared to other teas are that the tea leaves are shade grown and both the veins and stems of the green tea being processed.
Matcha tea is generally considered to be a premium tea and as it often uses the finest quality green tea available. As such, in many cultures, matcha is a popular beverage consumed during special occasions.
The Difference Between Matcha Tea and Green Tea
While technically matcha is a type of green tea, there are a few critical differences between matcha and your average green tea blend. Let’s take a look.
Because of the unique process in which it is produced, unlike regular green teas, matcha is generally only harvested once a year in select areas of Japan during May. Because of the limited amount of time in which matcha can be collected, only small amounts of matcha are produced.
As there is very little room for error during the once a year matcha harvest, producers of matcha have worked to perfect the process to ensure no mistakes are made.
Shade Grown Leaves
A labor and time intensive process, the leaves used to create matcha are shade grown which means that they are only exposed to sunlight during specific times. The process is known to give the leaves a vibrant green color that makes it stand out from traditionally processed tea.
Because the leaves are shade grown, workers monitor and watch the leaves around the clock to making sure the leaves are exposed to the optimal amount of light.
The leaves used to create matcha are steamed beforehand, which works to enhance the shade grown process even further. Traditionally, matcha leaves are steamed within just minutes or hours of being picked as that is known to provide the best quality tea. Steaming leaves during production is an extra step to ensure the flavor is rich and unforgettable.
The Stems And Veins Are Removed
During the matcha tea process, the stems and veins of the leaves are removed, creating what is known as tencha. The tencha leaves are then ground into an extremely fine matcha powder using a stone mill.
Designed To Be Fully Consumed
Unlike traditional tea where you steep the tea in hot water, matcha powder is designed to fully dissolve in the water, so you consume entire leaves. It is believed that one of the reasons matcha provides so many health benefits is because you are consuming all of the nutrients of the leaves rather than just parts as with traditional tea.
Because you are consuming entire leaves, matcha tea can have a stronger flavor than regular tea, but it can be adjusted to your liking by adding a small amount of sugar, milk, or honey.
What makes the Best Matcha Tea?
Now that we’ve covered how matcha is different than other teas on the market, you may be wondering how to find the best matcha tea. When it comes to purchasing matcha, it’s crucial that you are familiar with the three types of matcha tea.
The cheapest quality of matcha, this tier is usually reserved for being used in a variety of delicious recipes in dishes all over the world. Whether you’re looking to add matcha to your muffins, or want to give the delicious matcha pizza a try, culinary grade matcha is more than sufficient for most things made in the kitchen.
As a versatile ingredient that offers a ton of flavor, be sure to experiment to find your favorite matcha dish.
The next grade of matcha is a step up from culinary grade and is the most common option for consuming a delicious cup of matcha tea. Again, because all matcha is generally sourced from high-quality ingredients, premium grade matcha will be a little more of an investment than your standard tea.
That said, for those who consume tea on a regular basis, the difference in quality and taste is quite apparent. There are also a ton of fantastic premium grade teas in a wide variety of flavors.
The highest quality of matcha is known as what is called ceremonial grade. When it comes to matcha tea, this is truly the best of the best. It is typically reserved for tea ceremonies in Buddhist temples. Although ceremonial grade is the best quality matcha tea available, for most tea drinkers, premium grade is more than enough to enjoy the best matcha tea has to offer.