We visited nearly every tea-field in Japan before beginning our long relationship with our tea-farm. More than a decade ago, we finished that search for the best quality matcha, and one of the most important indicators for that was color. But why? What makes color so important to the quality and health benefits of matcha?
The reality is that matcha is one of the world’s most specialized agricultural products. It is produced in limited supply each year in Japan. And in even rarer quantities of the authentic, traditional premium cultivation. With the sophisticated knowledge and skill set to produce this fine tea, the largest effort may make only the most incremental difference of taste and color.
Each hue of deeper, more vibrant emerald green is evidence of that much more love and dedication in producing it. An homage to its original place in Matcha Tea Ceremony
COLOR TO TELL IF YOUR MATCHA IS GOOD
If you’re new to the matcha scene, chances are you’ve noticed many brands, many different names, and even more price points. It’s tough to know where to start, since much of this range of quality and price is because of real differences.
Some brands market their quality in a shady way, but more often the range of quality is exactly that, a range. Japan has been growing matcha for nearly a millennia, and in that time a specialized set of growing conditions has been developed. The slightest variations in harvest, amount of shading and light, or choice of fertilizer can have significant impacts on quality.
Also, there is more demand than ever internationally for matcha. This means many tea-farms are producing a wider range of matcha to participate in the global market. One tea-farm that may have once produced only the absolute highest quality, may now use 20% of their farm for that quality.
And that exquisite, green-color is becoming harder to find. You’re probably wondering how you know if you’ve seen it.
Competitor’s Premium Matcha vs. our Ceremonial Grade
DIFFERENT GRADES OF MATCHA
Tea-masters study their entire life for the job of producing the best quality matcha. But it only takes a couple key details to tell what the quality of your matcha is. The first detail is chlorophyll.
Left to natural conditions, the tea-plant grows wildly different than the careful and tedious cultivation for matcha. Without controlling the soil fertility and lighting conditions, the average tea-leaf is much yellower, even browner in color. This is how the leaves grow to protect themselves from harsh sunlight, and you wouldn’t want to drink matcha made from those types of leaves. So we rely on color as the easiest way to tell them apart.
But what more does it tell us?
The rich green color of matcha comes from the chlorophyll. Every plant uses chlorophyll to create energy from sunlight, but traditional matcha cultivation maximizes this process. Pre-harvest shading and other careful controls encourage the tea-plant to produce more chlorophyll.
The result? An other-wordly, jade color. The product of a change of pace that tells the plant to focus less on those yellow colors and bitter flavors. Best yet, the increased production of chlorophyll also signals other important chemical changes.
WHAT COLOR SHOULD MATCHA BE?
When you shop matcha, and you find a very green color, that means the leaves were grown very well. And the concentration of chlorophyll tells us a lot about the other healthy compounds inside the tea.
Rest-assured, that the greener your matcha, the higher the content of antioxidants and special amino-acids (like L-theanine). The connection between the green color and the health benefits (and flavor) is thus a very clear one. We know that more chlorophyll shows that each leaf got the message to switch gears to create more of the good stuff. Producing less tannins and bitter flavors, and more of those great benefits we’re looking for.
IS CHLOROPHYLL GOOD FOR YOU?
It might sound counterintuitive, but that green color isn’t one of the driving health benefits behind vegetables or matcha green tea. It is true that chlorophyll can be dense in nutritional value and trace minerals, but it’s more often a good visual indicator for other nutritional benefits.
It tells us that the tea leaves were grown very healthy and rich with nutrition. And that the concentration of antioxidants and brain-boosting compounds are very high. This isn’t a terrible misconception, since it encourages people to look for the greenest color available; and it feels good to know that it actually means something.
COLOR FOR FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION
It’s widely believed that seeing green can give us positive emotions and help us focus. Matcha green tea has a beautiful emerald color that’s not only great to look at, but that color also explains benefits inside the brain.
The deeper green color your matcha, the larger dose of nootropic amino-acids that you’re drinking. It’s reported that L-theanine, a unique compound in matcha green tea, actually is able to cross the blood-brain-barrier and bring benefits to our brain. Part of a group of brain-fueling compounds in matcha, it’s believed to help regulate our neuro-chemistry and balance excessive activity levels.
People who drink matcha everyday report better focus, memory, learning, and sense of wellbeing. So, while it may be the chlorophyll you see and trust, it’s those benefits behind the color that we learn to love and feel great from. Good for your eyes, great for the body, amazing for your brain! The subtle kick of caffeine is nice too…
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Check out our other journal articles? Or get help finding your perfect matcha fit!