A good way to determine the quality of a new teahouse or natural café in your neighborhood is by how the owners list their tea beverages on the menu or daily special drinks board. Do they simply offer green tea, or do they list matcha along with an explanation of its type (ceremonial or culinary), revealing its true quality? Whereas it was still considered acceptable a few years ago to offer basic green tea or culinary green tea matcha, today’s savvy consumers expect only the best—top-tier matcha of ceremonial grade. I truly think every tea and coffee house or eatery that serves a green tea beverage owes its patrons the option of the very best—pure, ceremonial matcha— premium green tea leaves finely ground into a smooth, rich powder to be brewed and served hot and flavorful for sipping and savoring.
Primary Differences Between Basic Green Tea and Matcha
First, it is important to understand the major differences between green tea and matcha. To differentiate, green tea is basically Sencha, a very popular tea in Japan and a leading item in Japan’s export trade. As green teas, Sencha and matcha are quite different, offering different nutritional value and even grown and processed differently.
When comparing matcha with brewed green tea, matcha definitely wins out, providing substantially greater healthy properties and benefits to drinkers. Brewing tea produces a pleasing hot cup of delicately flavored beverage with some health-promoting attributes. However, it is important to remember that multiple valuable nutrients are left behind in the steeped leaf and discarded. In fact, any non-water-solvent vitamins like Vitamin C are wasted. Since matcha is ground leaves of green tea, the entire nutritional contents of the tea leaves are included in your delicious cup of matcha.
Matcha is usually grown in shaded or protected areas, away from direct sunlight. This results in higher contents of chlorophyll and healthy caffeine than lower grade green tea offers. Matcha also contains more health-promoting agents than green tea, such as polyphenols, antioxidants and amino acids like L-Theanine, which make it a more effective body cleansing and detox agent. It offers stronger protection against illness and provides greater energy and stamina for users while it burns excess body fat.
Why Some Buyers Choose Green Tea Over Matcha
Some people buy green tea rather than matcha because of the difference in price. Ceremonial grade matcha usually sells for from $24 to $30 per 30 grams, while the same amount of lower quality culinary green tea can be bought for as little as $9 to $15. Of course, this lower grade green tea is much less flavorful and can be slightly bitter in taste. Normally brown in color rather than bright green like matcha, this culinary grade tea is also usually coarser in texture. Tea drinkers who always mix green tea with other beverages may not be as concerned with enjoying the full-bodied, rich texture and flavor that ceremonial matcha offers. Also, for those who buy green tea mainly for cooking, including it in their favorite recipes, fine flavor, texture and healthy properties of tea may not be a major concern. In any case, there is plenty of variety in types and qualities of green tea or matcha readily available on the natural products consumer market today.
Reasons for the Popular Matcha Movement Today
Use of matcha as a delicious, health-enhancing beverage and in food preparation has become prominent as a habit of the natural green lifestyle movement today. As a beverage, it can be enjoyed fully by simply whisking matcha as a fine-ground powder in a cup of hot filtered water. It is a subtly flavorful complement to both spicy dishes and sweets, and is well-loved as a frequently requested addition to lattes, soy and fruit drinks and smoothies. Chefs and restaurateurs are constantly trying new menus to include matcha in food preparation ranging from pasta entrées to soups, fresh fruit salads, cookies, condiments and omelettes. This excellent grade organic or natural product, once used primarily in Japanese traditional high tea ceremonies, is now the darling of the modern fine cuisine scene and chic-foodie cafe trend.
Becoming a Matcha and Green Tea Expert
As a newcomer to the popular and exotic matcha/green tea movement, it took me a while to be able to distinguish between the excellent flavor and texture of ceremonial and culinary matcha and between culinary matcha and lower grades of green tea. It was easy to appreciate the simple purity and enriching taste or fine grade matcha when consumed by itself, whisked in a cup of hot filtered water. However, when this smooth, rich powder of finely ground green tea leaves was combined with other beverages, it became more difficult to detect its special flavor and qualities.
However, after becoming a constant matcha user and advocate, I began to detect and appreciate the differences in matcha and lower quality green teas more frequently and easily. Even in cooked or baked foods, the subtle differences in flavor become more apparent with time and experience. Of course, the attractive, bright spring green color shines through in many sauces, soups, condiments, cookies and other desserts. Matcha’s excellent qualities lend delicate flavor and blend well in food preparation of all types while offering all samplers and regular users a variety of valuable health benefits.
Best Ways to Become a Matcha Connoisseur
If you are new to the matcha green tea movement today, you should try the whole range of products available to consumers, from ceremonial matcha to lower-end culinary green tea. By doing so, you will soon learn to distinguish even the subtle differences in quality and taste. Experiment on your own, both at home and when enjoying a meal or healthy drink in your choice of restaurants, teahouses, Starbucks or neighborhood corner cafés. Try an assortment of varied grades and varieties of matcha and green tea, both by themselves and in combination with other beverages. Enjoy different matcha shot recipes and green tea drinks. Then sample a wide selection of foods, both spicy and sweet, that include matcha and varied green teas as ingredients. At some point, you will naturally decide your own preferences among the many types and grades of matcha and green tea obtainable for your healthy use and enjoyment today. Whether you are a student, a young working adult, an executive, an entrepreneur or a home-based mom, you can easily purchase your choice of green tea or matcha online or in your favorite stores and boutiques. Whatever your preferred selection, you can buy and enjoy it, now that you fully understand the simple, important differences between green tea and matcha.
Are you a matcha newbie or an expert? Drop us a line in the comment section below!