Though it's gained popularity in recent years, you may still be wondering, "what exactly is matcha?" We’ve got you covered.
Matcha is a high-quality green tea that is finely grounded in powdered form. When prepared, matcha powder is whisked with hot water (instead of steeped in boiling water) to form a frothy, vibrant green tea packed with unique health benefits.
What does matcha do?
Matcha is one of the most potent natural sources of antioxidants, which results in numerous health benefits when you drink it regularly. When you consume matcha, it may help alleviate anxiety, lower heart disease risk, while also stimulating healthy weight loss, relaxation, and alertness.
Matcha nutritional facts | A half teaspoon (2 grams) of matcha contains:
- Calories: 5 calories
- Protein: 3 grams.
- Fat: 0 grams.
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams.
- Fiber: 2 grams.
- Sugar: 0 grams.
Wondering about matcha's nutritional health benefits? One serving of matcha or one cup of matcha green tea (½ tsp or 2 grams) contains around 612mg of protein, 544mg total amino acids, and 100mg of lipids, amongst other nutrients. 1/2 Teaspoon is often around 1.5-2 grams of matcha - which is also equivalent to two chashaku scoops.
Additive matcha powders like the one used at Starbucks have a much higher caloric count.
What does matcha taste like?
The pleasant savory taste of matcha is referred to umami, which is what makes drinking matcha so enjoyable. Umami is a Japanese term used to describe the 5th flavor to follow sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
People also often describe matcha tasting sweet and with an earthy nuttiness to it along with mellow vegetal grassy notes, as well as a touch of sharp acidity.
If you have tasted matcha and it's tasted bitter, it's likely the matcha powder has been prepared with boiled water (which ruins the taste and burns the fine green tea powder), is of poor quality, or is old and has oxidized.
Where does matcha come from?
Like all teas, Matcha is cultivated from the tea plant known as Camellia sinensis. Tea that's cultivated specifically to be made into Matcha powder is primarily grown in regions of Japan: Uji in Kyoto and Nishio in the Aichi prefecture.
Tea leaves grown for Matcha are specially shade-grown for several weeks.
How is matcha made?
Matcha is a variety of green tea made by harvesting young green tea leaves and milling them into a superfine, vibrant green powder.
There are several ways matcha green tea is cultivated and processed differently than any other tea giving it its unique coloring, flavor, and concentration of health benefits.
Matcha is shade-grown:
All matcha is ground into powder form from shade-ground tea leaves. Shade growing green tea leaves to produce matcha is a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sunlight. And by controlling sub exposure to the tea leaves, tea producers can significantly alter and improve the flavor and compounds found in their matcha teas. The shading heightens the green tea’s chlorophyll production, giving matcha its brighter, green coloring and altering the naturally occurring levels of antioxidants, l-theanine, caffeine, flavanols, and sugars. (1)
Matcha has the shortest season of growth and production of any tea:
Only the best and brightest of young shade-grown green tea leaves are hand-picked and plucked into matcha tea production. So when you compare matcha with other green tea varieties and other teas in general, there is a much shorter window in the season where matcha can be grown and harvested. (1)
Matcha is steamed, giving it a sweeter taste:
Once the young green tea leaves are picked, the leaves are given a steaming treatment within hours of being plucked. This is done to halt the oxidation process and bring out more of the vibrant, emerald green coloring of the shade-grown tea leaves. The steaming process is also known to give matcha its unique flavor profile, often described as sweet and grassy flavor as well as an umami aftertaste. (1)
Matcha is dried, de-stemmed, and stone-ground into powder:
Once steamed, matcha tea leaves are laid flat to dry until they become what is considered ‘tencha’ leaves, i.e., the leaves from which matcha tea is made. After drying, the leaves are de-stemmed and deveined, with the remaining leaf material then stone-ground in traditional Japanese slow-turning stone mills, producing a velveting and superfine matcha powder. (1)
When preparing matcha, you combine the powder in hot water (you do not steep it):
Unlike traditional green tea, which is often bagged and steeped in hot water to extract the flavor and nutritional properties, matcha powder is directly combined whisked in with hot water. With matcha, the whole tea leaf material (minus the stems and veins, of course) is savored with every sip.
How to prepare matcha tea in 9 steps
There are multiple ways to prepare your matcha green tea, and fortunately for all of us, they’re all simple to do. We will say this though, making matcha tea the traditional way is definitely the most meditative way to do. The process requires you to be mindful and attached to what you are doing with your matcha and the matcha tools you are using.
It all might seem intimidating at first, but once you understand the process and try it out for yourself, you find out that this is a healthful and enjoyable activity to add to your daily ritual!
1) We’d first like to note, that if you’re opening a new tin of our matcha.com matcha powder, always make sure to carefully cut the foil, and slowly pour the fresh vibrant green matcha powder into the tin.
Do not open the foil like a bag of chips! This method may result in matcha powder going everywhere, and we wouldn’t want to waste any of it!
2) Secondly, if it is new, soak your matcha whisk (chasen) in hot water to soften the bamboo bristles. This will help to properly mix the matcha and hot water later on.
3) In your matcha bowl (chawan), sift in 1-2 bamboo scoops (chashaku) (~1-2 teaspoons) of your Japanese ceremonial grade matcha powder.
4) Slowly pour in hot (but not boiling) water into the matcha bowl.
It’s important to use simmered water (170-173 ℉), instead of boiling water. The latter may burn your matcha, extracting the healthy compounds and caffeine, and leaving you with a more bitter taste.
For usucha (thin tea), add about 70ml of hot water.
For koicha (thick tea), add about 50ml of hot water.
5) Once your matcha and water have been added to the chawan, grab your matcha whisk (chasen) off its stand, and slowly run the utensil across the bottom of your bowl.
6) Begin to whisk quick strokes in an ‘M’ or ‘W’ shape, where each stroke is slightly raised off from the bottom of the matcha bowl. The froth will begin to develop when you continuously bring the whisk closer and closer out of the tea. In this way, you will create a uniform froth, without any of the larger bubbles having formed.
8) After whisking your matcha, it is best to consume it within 3-5 minutes of preparation so that the froth does not dissipate, and that the tea is not left exposed for too long either. Doing so also allows for better absorption of the strong antioxidants so that the health benefits of matcha can be fully taken in.
9) To store your opened matcha tin, we highly recommend placing it in the freezer so that the matcha may stay fresh and vibrant.
It’s really as simple as that!
Preparing matcha the traditional way also gives a sense of mindfulness in creating an everyday routine at the beginning of each day.
What does matcha look like?
High-quality matcha should visually be bright green and silky smooth to the touch. A more average to lower quality matcha will appear more yellow in coloring and maybe grainer to the touch – as older, more rigid leaves were likely used from the tea bush to make the tea. (1)
What does matcha taste like?
The quality and age of the green tea leaves used to make matcha and the actual production process and then preparation of making a cup of matcha has a considerable impact on its taste. Good, high-quality matcha has no bitter taste but a slightly sweet and vegetal flavor. Keep in mind that if you combine your matcha powder with too hot water (i.e., boiling), it can burn your matcha and create a bitter, less inviting taste. (1)
There are many elements that impact the quality of matcha you may be drinking. At Matcha.com, we categorize our matcha based on color, aroma, and taste.
Where should I buy matcha?
We carry a wide range of matcha powders, from the highest-quality culinary grade matcha to ceremonial grade matcha. Not sure which matcha powder is suitable for you?
If you're interested in preparing matcha at home, we also have all the essential accessories you need to whisk up a traditional Japanese-style bowl of matcha.
The bottom line - matcha is undoubtedly a powerful type of green tea.
So what is matcha? Matcha is a super-fine powder ground from uniquely grown and processed green tea leaves that have been consumed and enjoyed for centuries in Japan and other parts of East Asia. Preparing matcha tea is very meditative, with its roots coming from being used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
Still, it is always worth comparing the specific differences – and knowing it doesn’t have to be a choice between one or the other.
For example, some pregnant women prefer to drink bagged green tea instead of matcha due to its lower caffeine content.
You can check out our article on matcha vs. green tea, where we break down exactly how matcha is different from traditional green tea.
- See more of our Matcha informational blogs
Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes
1) Kochman, J., Jakubczyk, K., Antoniewicz, J., Mruk, H., & Janda, K. (2020). Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(1), 85. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26010085