By Sue Salish
With so many terrific, tasty teas, how does a tea lover choose? Even though there seems to be an endless number of teas, in fact, all green, black and oolong teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Then, the growing, harvesting and processing methods have a huge impact on the resultant tea.
Green Tea vs. Matcha
Normal, everyday green tea is produced by lightly steaming fresh tea leaves, then rolling and drying them. Even without further enhancement, green tea is a healthy, tasty beverage.
Matcha is a type of green tea, but a very different type. Matcha's history goes back to 12th-century Japan, and its production follows very specific guidelines. For a tea to be authentic matcha it should be:
- Grown in Japan
- Made from tencha tea leaves—tea leaves that are shade-grown for weeks
- Steamed and dried, not rolled
- Stripped of stems and veining
- Stone-ground into a powder
The result is a bright green powder with a smooth, mellow, umami flavor.
The quality of matcha varies depending on the frequency of the harvest, age of the plants, whether the tea leaves are hand- or machine-harvested and whether they are from a single estate.
How to Use Matcha
The very best matcha is drunk on its own, and it's the choice for tea ceremonies, hence the name ceremonial matcha. The tea servers prepare this ceremonial tea by the koicha method, resulting in a beverage that's thick and syrupy, unlike any other brewed tea.
To prepare everyday matcha, the powder is whisked into a thinner tea, known as usucha. While there are traditional water-to-matcha ratios for koicha and usucha, most people make matcha the strength they enjoy most.
Matcha is also great for other drinks, hot and cold, such as lattes, smoothies and cocktails. It even lends itself well to baking and appears in recipes for cakes, cookies, puddings and ice cream.
The Benefits of Matcha
Green tea has a long association with a variety of health benefits. Many research studies have looked at the effects of green tea on a number of health issues, including mental alertness, digestive problems, headaches and weight loss as well as more serious concerns such as heart disease and cancer. While studies do indicate that green tea enhances alertness and may help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol, its effects on other health problems are inconclusive.
That said, green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, which may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. And because matcha is made by grinding the entire tea leaf, it contains chlorophyll and other phytonutrients, vitamins and fiber. On top of its nutritional benefits, matcha has less caffeine than coffee, so staying hydrated won't bring on the jitters.
How to Choose a Matcha Tea
Powdered green tea is available, but if it doesn't say "matcha," it isn't, and the resulting tea will most likely be very bitter. For green tea lovers, ceremonial matcha is a natural addition to the daily diet. Not only is it exceptionally tasty, it also adds vital nutrients.
For a high-quality ceremonial matcha, try Green Foods Ceremonial Grade Matcha Green Tea Energy Blend, made from organic whole leaf tencha cultivated and handpicked by farmers in Japan.
Sue Salish lives on an island. She loves everything about her home, especially the food and the funky people. Most days, when she's not spinning her own words or editing someone else's, you can find her contemplating the fresh veggies at the farmers market or gazing into tide pools.