Unique in flavor with beautiful emerald green, Matcha (抹茶) has been enjoyed in Japan for centuries. Discover the history, preparation, health benefits and recipes of this beloved green tea of Japan.
What is Matcha?
Matcha (抹茶) – literally ‘powdered green tea’ – is a unique green tea made of top-quality tea leaves that are covered before picking, then stone-ground into a delicate fine powder. Originally introduced from China, matcha has been around for 800 years in Japan. The deep, earthy green tea was used by monks to center themselves during meditation and it became part of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies over time. For the past 50 years or so, matcha has been used in traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi), baked goods, ice cream, and drinks.
Unlike regular green tea that we drink, matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves to prevent direct sunlight, which slows down growth and stimulates an increase in chlorophyll level, which turns the leaves into a darker shade of green. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked, leaves de-veined and de-stemmed, and then stone-ground to the fine bright green powder. It could take one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha (Continue reading here).
The high-grade matcha is for drinking and the lower grades are used for culinary use. High-grade matcha tends to be bright green. Regardless of the grade, remember to use your matcha powder quickly after opening as it’ll oxidize and lose its flavor.
1 Tbsp matcha is 6 grams, and 1 tsp matcha is 2 grams.
What Are The Health Benefits of Matcha?
It is said that drinking a single cup on matcha is like drinking ten cups of regular green tea. That is because matcha is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed. Since only the best quality of tea leaves and the stringent process is used to make matcha, it offers more of the health benefits of green tea than the other varieties.
In Japan, matcha is known as an antioxidant powerhouse. Antioxidants are the magical nutrients and enzymes responsible for giving us younger-looking skin, boosting memory and concentration, increasing energy level, and preventing a number of life-threatening diseases like cancer.
High in vitamin C, potassium, iron, as well as dietary fiber, matcha is also enjoyed to help maintain a healthy weight and burning fat. In addition, it has a wonderful ability to produce calming, meditative benefits when consumed. A welcome respite in our modern lifestyle.
Does Matcha Contain any Caffeine?
Matcha does have caffeine, but unlike coffee, it is absorbed slower by our bodies because of L-Theanine in the green tea. With that reason, drinking matcha provides longer-lasting, natural and steady energy without the crashing effect on the system, making it a great alternative to coffee.
Where Can You Buy Matcha From?
If you want to get high-quality matcha, my favorite tea shop Ippodo Tea Co. (一保堂) also sells matcha in different grades. They also have an online store so you can check it out. I like their Hojicha and Genmaicha too.
If you buy online, please be careful. Matcha should not be sold in a big bag because you have to use it in 2-3 weeks. And check out this “low-quality” matcha from this well-known tea shop in Japan. Even the lowest quality, the color has to be this beautiful, vibrant matcha color.
If there is no Japanese supermarket in your area, you can try specialty tea stores, Asian grocery stores, or gourmet grocery stores. Because of matcha’s rising popularity, you may be able to find it through some reputable online specialty tea shops that offer to ship internationally.
What should I look for when purchasing Matcha?
When buying matcha powder, the first quality to look for is its color – the powder should come in a vibrant bright green color, not yellowish or brownish-green. Sugar and natural flavorings should not be included in the ingredients. You should also look for the country of origin for the matcha product. And remember to check the expiry date.
How Long Does Matcha Last?
To store matcha, seal the package tightly and store inside the can. Avoid storing in direct sunlight and areas with high temperature or humidity. The shelf life of an unopened package depends on how it is packaged. In general, high quality (unopened) matcha lasts for 6 months. It’s best to use up the matcha within 2-3 weeks of opening the package. This gives you more reason to drink more matcha green tea or make delicious matcha desserts!
Watch How To Make Matcha (Japanese Green Tea) 抹茶の点て方
Relax and enjoy with authentic matcha at home. Green tea is full of antioxidants, and the unique earthy matcha flavor is irresistible.