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Matcha – the mysterious powder that revolutionised the world of green tea

2024-01-22
Matcha – the mysterious powder that revolutionised the world of green tea

The Japanese came to know and love it thousands of years ago. Now it is becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world too. Although we specialise in the topic of South American yerba mate, today we will look at a unique variety of green tea. Matcha – what is it, what makes it different and can it compete with mate? Let's find out!

Summary:

  1. Matcha – a unique powdered tea
  2. The healthiest variety of green tea. Matcha – what properties does it have?
  3. What is the taste of matcha?
  4. Matcha – how to prepare it at home?
  5. Yerba mate or matcha?

Matcha – a unique powdered tea

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages around the world, right after water. It is estimated that there are around 1,500 varieties of tea – all derived from a single plant, with the Latin name Camellia sinensis. The differences in taste, aroma, colour of the leaves and the resulting infusion, as well as the properties they exhibit, are due to the way they are grown, processed and the degree of oxidation. One of the most popular varieties is green tea, and among its variations, one in particular stands out – matcha.

The magic green powder – matcha. What is it?

Matcha, is a high-quality green tea of the tencha variety, which is ground into a very fine powder after drying. Its processing is already unique. Matcha is made from the young, fresh leaves of the tea plant. Approximately one month before the scheduled harvest, the bushes are shielded from the sun's rays with special bamboo mats. This slows down the growth process and intensifies the production of amino acids, chlorophyll and l-theanine. In the long term, this has a huge impact on the taste, aroma and properties of the infusion. The colour of the leaves also changes – they become a lighter, intense green. After harvesting and careful selection, the tea leaves are subjected to steam treatment, which inhibits the oxidation process, and then the leaves are dried and ground using stone querns into a powder with a very fine, silky texture. The powdered matcha tea looks like bright green flour.

Green matcha tea – an important part of Japanese culture

Although it originally comes from China, it has a special place in Japanese culture and tradition. As early as the 1st century, the Chinese invented a method of processing green tea that involved roasting and then grinding the leaves and shaping the resulting powder into cubes. This made storing, transporting and trading tea much easier. At the beginning of the 12th century, Buddhist monks developed the rules of the tea ceremony, and at the end of the same millennium, they brought powdered green tea and its brewing code to Japan. Matcha won the hearts of the Japanese people. The tea ceremony, called cha-no-yu (literally: “hot water for tea”) in Japanese, has a social and philosophical dimension in the Land of the Cherry Blossom. Initially combined with meditation, it later became a feature of sumptuous parties organised by the most prominent people in society. Finally, the tea ceremony has been simplified as much as possible. It is characterised by an almost stoic simplicity and serenity, in the spirit of the Zen philosophy. All superfluous elements in the form of rich decorations, costly utensils and lavish feasting have been discarded. Today, the tea-brewing ritual is an opportunity to come together, deepen erudition and uphold tradition. During the ceremony, it is very important to stick to strict rules. Essential is the venue where it takes place, the surroundings of the building and the decoration inside. The costumes, gestures, music, topics of conversation and food that accompany the brewing and drinking of tea are also significant. Special tools are used to brew matcha tea, the mainstays of which are the chawan, which is a small teapot in which the tea is made, and the chasen, a bamboo whisk used to whip the tea in the pot.

Powdered matcha tea

The healthiest variety of green tea. Matcha – what properties does it have?

Although matcha is one of many varieties of green tea, it definitely stands out from other types of tea generally. It is very rich in valuable ingredients – scientific studies have shown that there are more of these than in other types of tea. Matcha contains a high amount of antioxidants, which fight free radicals and thus help to reduce oxidative stress, slow down the body's ageing process and the formation of cancer cells. The catechins, phenolic acids and other polyphenols contained in matcha tea also have anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects, as well as helping to lower blood glucose levels, brighten the mind and improve cognitive function. Green tea powder contains caffeine, on top of which there is more than in coffee! Matcha therefore has stimulating properties, aids concentration and removes feelings of fatigue. However, its effects differ from those of coffee. In addition to caffeine, matcha also contains l-theanine, which supports brain function, reduces stress and helps you to relax. L-theanine therefore moderates the effect of caffeine, making the stimulation less abrupt and more harmonious. Matcha is also a rich source of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin C, which supports the body's immune system. Drinking matcha on a regular basis is great for the body's condition and well-being!

Matcha tea – are there any contraindications?

As the saying goes, what's too much is unhealthy. Matcha is not harmful and has no side effects, but it does contain caffeine, the consumption of which in excessive amounts can cause irritability, insomnia or over-stimulation. Drinks with caffeine should not be drunk by pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children and people with heart disease. People suffering from anaemia should also be cautious about drinking matcha – green tea can interfere with the absorption of iron.

What is the taste of matcha?

Over the past decade, matcha has already won the hearts of tea lovers not only in Japan, but all over the world. It is a true tea phenomenon and its popularity is attributed to its numerous health properties, its wide range of uses and its unique taste. Matcha resembles ordinary green tea in taste, but is more intense and distinctive, multidimensional and ambiguous. There are earthy, vegetal and marine notes, sometimes a slightly nutty, sweet aftertaste and even a spicy finish, referred to as umami. In order to preserve the properties and qualities of matcha for as long as possible, it is important to store it properly. It should be kept in a dark and cool place (or even in the fridge), in an airtight container that will protect the green powder from weathering and moisture. A good option is to store matcha in a tin.

In terms of quality, there are two types of matcha tea – ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial matcha is characterised by its high quality and is therefore more valuable in terms of its properties and taste. As the name suggests, it is used in the tea ceremony. Culinary matcha is of slightly lower quality and is used in cooking, as a colouring agent and as an ingredient in dishes to introduce unique, original flavour notes. In Asia in particular, matcha-infused dishes are very popular, like soba noodles, cakes and ice cream. Matcha latte – a drink made with matcha and milk, is a worldwide favourite. The powdered green tea is added to baked goods, cheesecakes, smoothies, sweets and dry dishes – the possibilities are endless!

Matcha – how to prepare it at home?

As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, matcha is part of Japanese tradition and culture, and is prepared and drunk according to strict ceremonial rules. It goes without saying that when preparing it at home, we will not wear a ceremonial kimono and we will not drink tea sitting on a traditional tatami. If you want to preserve a bit of tradition, you can get a special teapot and whisk, but it is also possible to prepare a delicious and valuable brew without them.

How to brew matcha tea?

  1. Pour one level teaspoon of powdered tea into a vessel (special matchawan teapot or regular cup).
  2. Pour in about 150 ml of hot water - the optimum temperature is around 70-80°C.
  3. Whip the tea vigorously for about 30 seconds with a bamboo whisk until you have an even, frothy consistency. If you don't have a special whisk, you can replace it with a milk frother or fork.

Matcha vs. yerba mate. Which to choose?

Yerba mate and matcha have a lot in common, but they are also different in many ways. Starting with the fact that they come from two completely different plants that are found in entirely different parts of the world. The way they are grown and processed, the method of brewing, the way they are drunk, the texture, the taste and the aromatic qualities differ. On the other hand, both infusions are very tasty and healthy, exhibit many positive properties that partly overlap and contain caffeine, making both yerba mate and matcha tea a possible alternative to coffee. We have tried to collect and compare the most important characteristics of matcha and yerba mate in the table below:


Yerba mate Matcha
The plant Ilex paraguariensis Camellia sinensis
Origin South America (Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) China / Japan
Method of cultivation and processing yerba mate leaves are collected, dried (using fire and smoke or warm air) and ground into finer pieces; in the classic version, pieces of leaves and twigs and dust go into the packet before harvesting, the tea plants are sheltered from the sun's rays, after harvesting they are steamed, dried, and ground into a very fine powder
Taste and aroma of the brew pronounced and intense, grassy, slightly astringent, noticeable bitterness, smoky aftertaste and aroma (in the case of smoke and fire-dried mate tea) intense and pronounced, with earthy, vegetal and marine notes, a slightly nutty, sweetish aftertaste and a spicy umami finish
Caffeine content about 19-44 mg/g about 25-175 mg/g
L-theanine content does not contain contains
Antioxidant content rich in antioxidants, the most important of which is chlorogenic acid rich in antioxidants, the most important of which is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
Vitamin and mineral content contains vitamins A, B (B1, B2 and B6), C and E as well as minerals including: potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus and silicon contains vitamins C and E and the minerals: sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper

While they are definitely different in form and taste sensation, in essence matcha and yerba mate have similar benefits, so choosing between one drink and the other can be difficult. Matcha tea can be a good option for people who are not used to the distinctiveness of yerba mate – the bitter taste and strong stimulation. We recommend that you try both to form your own opinion. Yerba mate as well as matcha are available in our online shop!


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Matcha, Mate, Japanese tea ceremony.
  2. J. Kochman, K. Jakubczyk, J. Antoniewicz, H. Mruk, K. Janda, Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review, Catechins in Human Health, 2020.
  3. T. Koláčková, K. Kolofiková, I. Sytařová, L. Snopek, D. Sumczynski, J. Orsavová, Matcha Tea: Analysis of Nutritional Composition, Phenolics and Antioxidant Activity, Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2020.
  4. D. H. Markowicz Bastos, D. Moura de Oliveira, R. Lobato, T. Matsumoto, P. de Oliveira Carvalho, M. Lima Ribeiro, Yerba maté: Pharmacological Properties, Research and Biotechnology, Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Biotechnology, 2007.
  5. C. I. Heck, E. G. De Mejia, Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations, Journal of Food Science, 2007.
  6. A. Gawron-Gzella, J. Chanaj-Kaczmarek, J. Cielecka-Piontek, Yerba Mate – A Long but Current History, Nutrients, 2021.
  7. Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan - 2015 - (Seventh Revised Edition), fao.org, 2022.

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