Introduction to Matcha

Mitchell Kwan2023-12-18

New to matcha? Here’s the perfect introduction for a matcha-better day! 🍵


By now, everyone's heard of matcha - known for its vibrant green color, refreshing flavor, and countless appearances in drinks and desserts. But it begs the question, what exactly is matcha? What are its origins? What are the different grades? What are the health benefits? These are all questions we're here to answer at The Matcha Vibe!

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a stone-milled green tea powder from Japan. By itself, it's just a powder - but when mixed with water, it becomes matcha tea; one of its most recognized forms.

When preparing matcha with water, there are generally two styles you can follow:

  • Ushucha matcha: Ushucha (thin-tea) is made by combining matcha with hot water and whisked until frothy. Ushucha matcha is one of the most popular ways of consuming matcha and is the traditional image associated with matcha tea.
  • Koicha matcha: Koicha (thick-tea) contrasts ushucha matcha and is made by combining matcha with less water to make a thick cream-like mixture. Koicha matcha helps to accentuate the umami flavors of the matcha powder and is much more concentrated compared to its ushucha matcha counterpart.

The main difference between ushucha and koicha lies in the matcha-to-water ratio; with koicha having a higher ratio of matcha-to-water compared to ushucha.

Origins of Matcha

Despite being popularised in Japan, matcha first originates from Chinese culture - where green tea leaves were ground into a fine powder more than a millennium ago. This ancient practice laid the groundwork for what would later become the revered Japanese tea ceremony.

The origins of matcha trace back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) in China, where the technique of stone-grinding tea leaves into a powdered form was born. Known as "luo cha" or "whipped tea," this early version of powdered tea gained popularity among Chinese monks and the aristocracy.

However, it was the exchange of cultural ideas, goods, and spiritual practices between China and Japan that led to the transformative journey of matcha. In the 12th century, Buddhist monk Eisai, credited with introducing Zen Buddhism to Japan, brought back tea seeds from his travels to China. Eisai championed the cultivation and consumption of tea for its potential to enhance meditation and overall well-being.

Under the influence of Zen monks, particularly the monk Myoan Eisai, the cultivation of tea plants and the method of powdered tea preparation flourished in Japan. The art of whisking powdered tea, as part of the Japanese tea ceremony, became deeply ingrained in the country's cultural fabric.

By the 16th century, tea master Sen no Rikyu refined the ceremony, emphasising simplicity, harmony, and respect. Matcha then became the focal point of the tea ceremony; representing purity and tranquility.

Grades of Matcha

Generally, there are two grades of matcha:

  • Ceremonial Grade: The highest quality matcha, known for its vibrant green colour and delicate flavour. It is best enjoyed on its own or in traditional tea ceremonies.
  • Culinary Grade: This matcha is more affordable and is commonly used in baking, cooking, and making matcha-infused treats.

Health Benefits of Matcha

The increasing popularity in matcha is in part due to its range of science-backed health benefits.

  • The high antioxidant content in matcha is thought to be one of its most remarkable health attributes. Antioxidants, such as catechins, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), are abundant in matcha. These powerful compounds are renowned for their ability to combat oxidative stress in the body, neutralizing free radicals and potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Unlike traditional steeped green tea, consuming matcha involves ingesting the entire powdered leaf. This means that you're not only savoring the flavor but also reaping the full spectrum of nutrients present in the tea leaves. Matcha is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, offering a nutritional boost that extends beyond the benefits of regular green tea.
  • The presence of L-theanine, a unique amino acid found in matcha, adds another dimension to its health profile. L-theanine promotes relaxation and alertness simultaneously, contributing to a state of focused calmness. This dual effect on the mind can enhance cognitive function, reduce stress, and even improve mood.
  • For those mindful of their cardiovascular health, matcha may offer cardiovascular benefits. Research indicates that the consumption of green tea, including matcha, may contribute to lower blood pressure and reduced levels of bad cholesterol, promoting heart health over time.
  • Matcha's potential to support weight management has also garnered attention. Some studies suggest that the combination of caffeine and catechins in matcha can increase metabolism and aid in fat burning. Moreover, matcha provides a sustained energy release without the jitters or crashes often associated with coffee, making it an excellent alternative for those seeking a gentle pick-me-up.

Coming Up...

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we dive deeper into the world of matcha and share 10 ways to improve your matcha experience!

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