What is Matcha?

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Have questions about matcha? I’ve got answers! Learn what matcha is, where to buy it, and get tasty matcha recipes.

Matcha green tea photo

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a Japanese green tea that has been finely ground into a powder. In Japanese, “matsu” means rubbed and “cha” means tea so the translation is rubbed, or ground tea.

The green tea that is made into matcha is grown in the shade, limiting sunlight, for about 20 days before harvest.

Tea farmers will build structures to lay out sunlight filtering screens to shade the tea leaves so that it has to work harder to reach sunlight. This shading results in nutrient-heavy and vibrant green colored tea leaves.

After the tea leaves have been picked, they are steamed, dried, then pass through a special machine that removes all the stems and veins. The remaining leaf is then ground into a very fine powder.

Why is Matcha So Expensive?

Ever wonder why matcha is so much more expensive than other teas out there?

It’s all the extra work (de-stemming, de-veining, shading the plant, and grinding the leaves) that’s needed to create the final product. There are a lot more steps to producing matcha than any other type of tea.

Where is Matcha Grown?

Real matcha is grown and comes out of Japan — they are THE source and it’s reflected in the price. If you see really cheap matcha, it’s probably coming out of China where the same painstaking tea-making process is definitely not followed.

The lower priced Chinese “matcha” green tea powder is a very poor version of the Japanese real one and  lacks the subtle refined taste and the vibrant green color. It’ll be a very dull green and the taste will also be very underwhelming.

Does Matcha Have Caffeine?

Yes! It has about half the caffeine that’s in coffee.

Caffeine from coffee can cause jitteriness since it’s quickly absorbed into the body. Matcha, on the other hand, has theanine aside from caffeine, which gives your body a sense of calm.

How Can I Tell if the Matcha is Good Quality?

Look at the color. The more vibrant green the matcha is, the better the quality.

Do the matcha smear test to check the matcha quality. Get a white piece of paper and take a little bit of matcha and smear it with your finger across the paper. 

You’re looking at the color and the matcha texture.

Low quality matcha has a brownish color and it’s a very dull, muddy green. It’ll feel like chalk as you do the smear test since the matcha is not as finely grounded.

High quality matcha will be a very bright, almost neon green. The smear test will be very different since the higher quality matcha will have been stone-grounded to a much finer powder. It’ll feel incredibly smooth, like cray-pas if you’ve ever used them in art class.

Price is also an indicator how good the matcha is. The more expensive, the better the quality, usually. I would first look for the color and if that’s not possible, look at the price.

Difference Between Culinary or Cooking Grade and Ceremonial Grade Matcha

In the US, Ceremonial and cooking grade matcha are labeled for marketing purposes only. Japan doesn’t have those names for their matcha grades. I go by color (if possible to see in person) and by price point when choosing which matcha to get.

For recipes or matcha lattes, get a lower quality ceremonial grade or culinary/cooking grade which should be around $15-$25.

To drink matcha prepared with only hot water, get the ceremonial grade which should cost $40-$65.

Go for the real stuff. Get the real Japanese matcha, not the fake, poor quality Chinese versions.

Where Can I Buy the Best Matcha?

My favorite places to buy the best matcha.

  • Harney & Sons
    I get their mid-grade matcha for lattes and recipes. It’s a nice bright green and the best part is, Harney’s offers free shipping without a minimum.
  • Encha Matcha
    If you’re looking for good quality matcha on Amazon, Encha Matcha is it!
  • Ippodo Tea Co.
    My go-to for all green teas, especially matcha. I also love their matcha utensils. I’ve never bought anything online, just in-store in NYC.
  • In Pursuit of Tea
    I trust all the tea that In Pursuit of Tea carries since they’re all high quality. Get their Wako Thin Tea Grade Matcha which I like to use for matcha drinks.

Matcha photo

How Do You Pronounce Matcha?

Matcha is pronounced MAht-cha or MA-cha.

Does Matcha Have Any Health Benefits?

Remember how I mentioned matcha tea leaves goes through a shading process before they are picked? That shading makes matcha high in antioxidants which may protect and prevent the body from damage by lowering health risks.

Matcha is rich in amino acids like Theanine which makes you calm yet alert at the same time. That’s why it’s a great alternative for coffee.

Unlike tea where you would steep in water then remove the tea leaves, with matcha you’re drinking the actual leaves so it’s a lot more potent in terms of caffeine and nutrients.

As for weight loss, helping to fight cancer, or lowering heart disease, I’m super skeptical of this so I wouldn’t recommend matcha as something that can aid in any of those.

Sure, it has antioxidants, but so does blueberries and I wouldn’t say that blueberries are a magical cure-all.

What is matcha photo

What Does Matcha Taste Like?

I would describe the taste of matcha as vegetal, slightly bitter, and full-bodied. It’s complex and some even have a somewhat sweet finish. 

Each grade of matcha will taste slightly different, even if you’re tasting two ceremonial grades. One may taste more sweet while another more astringent even if they’re similar in price.

What Do You Eat with Matcha?

Matcha has a vegetal and slightly bitter taste so it’s usually served with a sugary bite-sized sweets like wagashi (traditional Japanese confections).

How Long Will Matcha Last?

It is recommended that after you open the package, matcha should be consumed within 6 months. Ideally, you want to drink it within 2 weeks of opening since that’s when you’ll get the maximum freshness.

How Should I Store Matcha?

You can store matcha at room temperature or in the refrigerator. (Bring the matcha to room temperature before using.)

Either way, make sure it is kept in an opaque, airtight container away from moisture, heat, and light. This will retain the color and quality as long as possible.

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How Do I Make Matcha?

Want to learn how to make traditional matcha at home? I’ve created a step-by-step guide which, with practice, should result in a very nice bowl of matcha.

Why Does Matcha I Make at Home Taste Different Than the One at Starbuck’s?

One word. Sugar.

Starbuck’s matcha is made with a ton of added sugar which is why it tastes more like a dessert.

Matcha Latte Recipe

How Do I Make a Matcha Latte?

Looking to make a matcha latte? My recipe and tips on how to make the best matcha latte you’ve ever had.

Matcha Recipes

Now that you know what matcha exactly is, here are many, many ways to add it into recipes!

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