“White matcha” products have recently appeared on the market, some coming from Kenya, others from China. They are the ground, dried leaves of white tea, a minimally processed type made from unopened buds and immature leaves. Silvery hairs on the unopened buds account for its name, although when steeped in hot water, the color of the liquid is light yellow. These products have nothing to do with genuine matcha green tea made in Japan by a centuries-old traditional method.
The Japanese word matcha means “powder tea.” Any dried tea leaves can be ground into powder and called matcha, but the real thing is prepared from high-quality tea plants, heavily shaded in the weeks leading up to harvest. The leaves are meticulously cleaned, trimmed, steamed, dried, and ground between grooved granite stones to produce the vibrant green, richly flavored powder that is true matcha.
The marketing hype around “white matcha” emphasizes its higher content of polyphenols, compounds in tea with known health benefits. It is true that white tea, because it is less oxidized than green tea, has high levels of polyphenols, but green tea has plenty more, and its association with good health has a solid evidence base. Real matcha green tea is much more than polyphenols. It is esteemed for color, aroma, flavor, and tradition, as well as for the feeling of relaxed alertness it provides.
In addition to “white matcha,” you will see “black matcha,” “oolong matcha,” “pu-erh matcha,” and other such products for sale. All are pale imitations.
Bottom line: No other powdered tea is comparable to real matcha green tea.