You may have had green tea before, but you’ve never had matcha. What’s the difference you ask? Well, you’re about to find out!
While you may have only recently discovered matcha, it’s origins date back to China more than a thousand years ago. However, it was only after matcha was brought to Japan by a buddhist monk that it evolved into the form we know today.
This ancient matcha was bitter and had an earthy taste which was tolerated more than it was enjoyed by those who drank it. However, farmers who covered their tea plants in the weeks before harvest began to realize that tea made from these shaded leaves was sweeter and possessed a rich umami taste.
Thus, matcha as we know it was born.
Why is Shading Matcha so Important?
Depriving tea plants of sunlight puts them under a great deal of stress. To make up for the lost light, they overproduce chlorophyll. Seen side by side, shaded tea leaves are darker than the leaves of unshaded plants. This shading then creates the iconic taste which matcha is so well known for.
Can I Replace My Morning Coffee with Matcha?
Many people do! Matcha contains less caffeine than coffee, but many drinkers claim that it gives them a more sustained release of energy than coffee. Matcha also contains L-theanine which some research suggests promotes energy and focus more powerfully than caffeine alone.
Less caffeine, same result!
Ceremonial Grade vs Culinary Grade Matcha
What’s the difference you ask?
Ceremonial grade matcha is harvested earlier in the season and generally tastes better. If you’re drinking matcha on its own, you’re going to want a ceremonial grade. This is the type of matcha used in tea ceremonies.
Culinary grade matcha is more intense and less enjoyable on its own. It is best used in combination with other ingredients which can help temper the not-so-enjoyable taste.
Benefits of Matcha
We’ve already discussed matcha’s effect on alertness and energy, but there are many other ways that matcha may have a positive effect on health and wellness. After all, it isn’t for nothing that matcha was considered medicine for nearly a thousand years!
When it comes to antioxidants, matcha powder is the champ. It’s ORAC score (a method of measuring the strength of antioxidants in foods) is higher than all other antioxidant rich foods including acai berries, dark chocolate, blueberries, and pomegranate.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the side effects of caffeine is appetite suppression. So if you’re feeling the munchies, drink a cup of matcha instead and see if that doesn’t help you cut the snacking!
Oral Health Helper
Matcha can also help with your teeth and gums! One study done on the benefits of green tea on oral health used the GOHAI score (General Oral Health Assessment Index) to measure the oral health of its participants.
The researchers concluded that “green tea consumption was positively associated with the GOHAI score. Therefore, [approximately] 3 cups/day of green tea may reduce the risk of poor [oral health], especially in men.”
How to Make Matcha
Basic matcha is simple to make. It is just tea, after all!
Matcha powder tends to clump together while in the container. This can make it more difficult to dissolve in water. To avoid this, sift the matcha powder through a mesh strainer.
Note: Bigger mesh can produce more matcha faster, but gives a different (more grainy) mouthfeel than matcha that has been sifted through a very tiny mesh. The mesh size difference doesn't affect "how healthy" the matcha actually is.
Add hot but not boiling water.
Whisk vigorously to kill clumps and aerate the matcha. Be careful not to stir as stirring will not create a frothy matcha. Whisk in a zigzag pattern until all the powder is dissolved.
Careful! It is important to keep an eye on the label when buying matcha. One-ingredient matcha is the best quality, and you should be distrustful of any powder which has added cornstarch or other ingredients.
More Fun Recipes
If you’re looking to upgrade your matcha experience, you might try some of these popular variations on the classic cup of matcha tea! Matcha’s versatility is great if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to eat or drink the same thing day in and day out.
All of these recipes use the same basic matcha mix that we just discussed as a base.
It’s simple! Just add milk to your matcha and voila! You have a matcha latte. If you’re avoiding dairy, then coconut or almond milk works as a substitute. And for days when it’s just too hot for tea, add ice for an iced matcha latte!
Pour your cup of matcha over a scoop of ice cream. You can wait until it melts or eat it together. Your choice!
Pink Coco Matcha
Start with ice. Add coconut water and then pour whisked matcha over the top. The two liquids separate, green on top and pink on the bottom, but you can stir them together for a different flavor!
The possibilities for matcha powder are endless! Whatever you do, just remember that there is no wrong way to enjoy this delicious tea.
So what will you try first?