Matcha is one of the most premium, flavorful and healthful types of green tea. It’s grown in the shade, processed into a fine powder, and then blended into tea, lattes, smoothies, ice cream, and more!
For over 800 years, Buddhist monks have drank matcha as a tool for meditation for its calming and focus-enhancing effects. Over the years, researchers have discovered a long list of other health benefits, too.
How is Matcha Grown?
Similar to wine, growing high-quality matcha has a lot to do with the region it’s grown in, including the soil, topography, and climate. While there are a few regions in Asia that grow matcha, the region that is known for growing the highest quality matcha is Kyoto, Japan, which is thought to be the birthplace of matcha.
During the first few months of its growth, matcha is grown like any other plant: in the sun, but during the last month, a large shaded structure is placed over the plants to reduce sunlight exposure and slow the growth process. The darker the shade it’s grown under, the higher quality the matcha will be. This results in higher concentrations of chlorophyll and l-theanine, an amino acid that gives matcha its sweet-savory flavor and health benefits.
Starting in May, harvesting begins, and the top leaves are delicately picked from the plant. These tea leaves are then steamed for 15-20 seconds within 20 hours of being harvested to reduce oxidation and maintain the matcha’s vibrant color and flavor. The leaves are then stripped of their stems and veins to leave only the highest quality, best-tasting part of the plant.
The matcha is then ground into a fine powder using a stone mill, and finally ready to be consumed.
What’s the Difference Between Matcha and Green Tea?
Matcha and green tea come from the same plant family as other teas: Camellia Sinensis, but the main difference is how they are grown and how they are consumed.
Cultivating and Harvesting Matcha
Green tea does not go through as stringent of a cultivation process as matcha, it is simply grown in the sun, and then harvested. The result of this is a much duller green color than the vibrant green you see in matcha.
Green tea is harvested by a large machine, steamed to prevent it from fermenting, and then blow dried, while matcha is hand-plucked, steamed, de-stemmed, deveined, and stone ground.
Green tea is then processed into tea bags and eventually steeped in hot water, while matcha is sold in powdered form, and blended into water or milk.
Green tea ends up tasting light and fresh with grassy undertones, while matcha is a much richer, sweeter, and more concentrated green tea flavor.