Matcha Tea 101: Country, Quality and Questions Explained
Matcha green tea has been a popular food item for years in Asian countries such as Japan and China– but it has started to pick up in popularity in the West. Matcha differs from traditional green tea in that it consists of the actual green tea leaves pulverized into a powder.
According to a CBS news report, sales of matcha have increased by over five times in the U.S. over the past 25 years, which amounts to an enormous $10 billion in sales. Coffee is still more popular than any kind of tea..but you need to kick that habit and find out what matcha green tea is and why it’s associated health benefits are taking the world by storm.
Here is what you need to know…Matcha 101!
Differences Between Japanese and Chinese Varieties
The Japanese contend that real, authentic, and highest quality matcha comes from Japan as they are the keepers of quality, and hold the longstanding tradition of producing it and using it for ceremonial purposes. The vast majority tea historians, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs alike, agree with them.
Chinese and Japanese matcha green tea often not only taste drastically different, but look very different from one another. While Japanese matcha is bright green, Chinese matcha tea is more yellow in hue. Chinese matcha also has a more sandy texture. There are many reasons for the differing consistencies, ranging from differing growing and processing methods to differing climates.
How to Judge Quality of Matcha
As mentioned above, the first way to judge the quality of matcha tea is to take a look at the country of origin. Stick with Japan. Matcha produced elsewhere is generally not up to the same standards.
Like all luxury items, more expensive matcha is generally a good indicator of quality. A 30 gram container of ceremonial-grade ranges between $26 and $32. You can certainly get away with cheaper but the quality really starts to decline when you hit that $15 dollar range. But, fear not, here are some awesome online matcha sellers that give you the good stuff without breaking the bank.
As also touched upon, some matcha is more yellow than green. Go for the green, as it was grown in better conditions. Green is good. Yellow is likely not shaded or are older leaves. Also, the greener it is, the more chlorophyll was produced.
Good matcha tea has a sweet smell to it and a smooth taste; meanwhile, lower quality matcha has a much more bitter flavor.
Lastly, high-quality matcha has a silky and fine feel to it, like baby powder. A low-quality matcha powder will be coarse and thick.
Need more details – take a look at My 6 Tips when buying Matcha!
So if Matcha is Powdered Tea…Are All Powdered Teas Matcha?
Nope. Don’t be fooled Padwan.
Matcha is the product of patience, detail, persistence, and exactness. The Japanese would have it no other way.
Matcha is grown under very specific conditions and as mentioned above, shade is important to matcha. The only other cultivating method that is comparable (but by no means the same) is Gyokuro. For insight on Gyokuro and the difference between that and matcha, click here.
It’s also important to bare in mind that the leaf processing techniques used in matcha cultivation are special and unique to matcha production. Japanese matcha producers use specialized equipment for matcha only.
Japan does produce powdered green teas that are not matcha and use different (and less stringent and specific) processing methods. Japanese powdered green tea are sold as exactly that, powdered green tea and NOT matcha. Read labels carefully and you should be ok.
One final thing to note is that green tea companies that specialize in matcha do have control over quality grades, styles, and tastes profiles so flavors, hues, and colors could vary from company to company.
Now Bring on the Benefits…
More Potent Caffeine with Fewer Side Effects
Because matcha consists of actual green tea leaves, it is considerably more potent that regular green tea. It is estimated that a cup of matcha has about three times as much caffeine as a comparable cup of brewed green tea, or just about an equivalent amount as a cup of coffee.
More importantly, the caffeine in matcha green tea doesn’t make one as jittery as typical caffeinated beverages. Matcha contains a chemical called “l-theanine,” which promotes relaxation without sleepiness. The effect that matcha produces is often described to be an “alert calm.”
Matcha green tea not only contains a significant amount of a number of minerals and nutrients– including Potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Protein, Iron, and Calcium– but it is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer, reduce blood pressure levels, regulate blood sugar, and reverse aging.
One specific polyphenol, EGCG, is known to additionally boost metabolism. One study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking four cups of green tea a day helped its subjects lose over six pounds in eight weeks.
Another study by researchers at the University of Colorado Springs, published in the Journal of Chromatography, found that matcha green tea in specific, has 137 times the EGCG of Tazo Brand’s China Tips green tea and more than three times the amount of EGCG of any previously studied variety of green tea.
Matcha has traditionally been associated with spiritual practices, in particular the practice of Zen meditation. Meditation has become more prevalent in Western society over the past few years, and mindfulness on its own, has been shown to better both mental and physical health.
Meditation, for example, has been linked with lower cortisol and stress levels, weight loss, lower inflammation, lower blood pressure levels, and less impulsive eating habits. It also has been shown to increase self-esteem, compassion, and positive thinking. Matcha green tea and meditation can augment and complement one another.
Hopefully I was able to arm you like a samurai with some great matcha information.
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