What is Matcha?


Matcha green tea has been an essential beverage for me for the past 18-months. Where before, I would ensure I had a daily cup, now I find myself pulling away from coffee breaks, in favour of a further cup of matcha; sometimes drinking 3-4 cups a day.

Today we’re reviewing matcha broadly, and answering common questions on this refined green tea.

What is matcha powder?

Matcha is no different to any other black or green tea – it is produced from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.

Tea which is grown for matcha is typically grown in Japan, which is from where matcha originates. Part of the unique treatment which plants used to produce matcha undergo is sunlight depreivation. By shielding plants from sunlight for 2 – 4 weeks, the tea plants overproduce chlorophyll which gives matcha tea it’s deep green colour.

Leaves are harvested, refined and processed into a “raw” green tea leaf called tencha. These leaves are next ground into a very fine powder using a stone mill, producing the final matcha powder.

What does matcha taste like?

Where bagged green tea frequently tastes bitter (particularly when overbrewed), matcha green tea rarely does. When well brewed, matcha will taste very watery, fresh and neutral.

Overt notes in matcha commonly include grass, earth, lemon and cranberry tones. Every tea plant is slightly different, meaning no two batches of matcha will be the same.

Using water of a high temperature (more than 90°C) will produce a more bitter taste, versus using slightly cooler water (75-85°C). This bitter taste is caused by the very hot water releasing too many compounds from the tea too quickly. In this sense, brewing matcha is much like cooking food: keep limits on your temperature to achieve better taste.

The amount of matcha powder used is also a factor in taste. Using less powder will result in more watery flavours, while more powder may make the flavour of caffeine more overt.

Can I add flavours to matcha?

Yes! Ginger, mint, turmeric, lemon and citrus fruits all pair well with most green teas, including matcha. Matcha’s neutral, watery taste makes it compatible with a wide range of flavours and easy to mix.

Ginger is one of my personal favourites. Both fresh and powdered ginger are easy to add to a cup of matcha, allowing you to make your cup of matcha even more refreshing and uplifting.

In some parts of the world, it is common to add sugar or sweeteners to green teas. I would recommend against this with matcha, as sugars can easily overwhelm the more delicate notes of matcha green tea.

Similarly, it is very rare to add milk to matcha, unless making a “matcha latte”, or other specialty recipe where it is required.

Is matcha hydrating?

Yes. Matcha tea, with a typical concentration of matcha powder provides good hyrdation. The very small amount of caffeine in matcha can act against this, however the amount of water provided is huge in comparison.

Can I drink matcha everyday?

Yes. Not only can you drink green tea everyday, but you probably should. A range of studies have shown that drinking multiple cups of matcha green tea each day lowers overall mortality risks, compared to those who drink no matcha.

When should I drink matcha?

As with most caffeinated drinks, matcha is best during day-light hours. Because matcha has a caffeine content which is lower than most coffee preperations, it is not usually an ideal coffee-replacement for first-thing in the morning.

Additionally, matcha can upset the stomach is the stomach is empty, making it harer to drink at the start of the day.

My personal preference is to drink matcha throughout the later morning and afternoon, at which time the caffeine from my morning coffee may be beginning to wain. The boost of energy at this time is also ideal – to counteract lethargy after lunchtime.

Drinking matcha in the evening is broadly fine, as the caffeine levels are low enough to have little effect on sleep.

How do I prepare matcha?

A portion of matcha powder is forcefully whisked through hot water (75-85°C) for 10 – 15 seconds. This easily mixes the fine tea powder with the water. A matcha whisk made from bamboo is best, however metal whisks will also achieve a good result.

If you do not have access to a whisk, stirring with a teaspoon is fine, however you should triple your stirring time to ensure the drink is mixed properly.

What is L-theanine?

L-theanine is an amino acid analogue, recognised for having a calming effect on the mind. It is found in high levels in most, if not all green teas. Theanine content goes up when tea is left to brew for longer, producing a deeper umami flavour.

Is matcha good for your skin?

Yes. The anti-inflammatory benefits of matcha tea, particularly those provided by EGCg are numerous.
Dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne are inflammatory skin conditions that may benefit.

Matcha also includes significant amounts of methylxanthine, which promotes healthy circulation in the skin and helps to maintain a vibrant complexion.

What is a serving size of matcha?

A serving size of matcha is small, no more than 1 – 2 grams. This is about a quarter teaspoon or less. This small amount of powder is whisked vigorously to produce a proportionally larger amount of tea.

Traditional matcha scoops will typically carry 1 gram of matcha per portion.

How should matcha be stored?

Excessive heat, light, moisture, and air exposure can spoil matcha’s quality.

To keep your matcha fresh, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark location. Matcha will not degrade for many months, if not years in these conditions – plenty of time for consumption.

Matcha can be cooled or frozen to extend its shelf life further, however this is not recommended because it would impair the matcha’s flavour.

What’s a good beginner matcha powder?

I often recommend Mighty Matcha to those new to matcha. It is a very available, organic, and ceremonial grade matcha green tea. The flavours are very middling for what you might expect – a versatile general purpose matcha for cooking and every day drinks.