Matcha is produced from the leaves of Camelia sinensis tea plants


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The Most Beneficial Tea in the World

Japanese matcha tea, once associated with tea ceremonies, is now gaining popularity worldwide as a milk-based beverage. In 2015, American newspapers started writing about the "tea frenzy" as matcha quickly spread across social media. There are two reasons for this: firstly, a cup of bright green drink looks photogenic, and secondly, it is beneficial.

Some people drink matcha for its health benefits, while others enjoy its unique umami taste, which the Japanese consider as a separate category. Regardless of the reasons, the popularity of this beverage continues to grow worldwide, with it being available on the menus of almost every cafe and coffee shop.

Let's learn more about this intriguing tea.

What is Matcha and How is it Prepared?

Matcha is produced from the leaves of Camelia sinensis tea plants—the same bushes used to make regular green tea. The difference lies in the cultivation process: the plants are shaded by covering the plantation with a dark net one month before harvest. This reduces sunlight exposure by 90%, slows down growth, and darkens the leaves. Such leaves contain more chlorophyll, giving matcha its vibrant green color.

Once only seen in tea ceremonies, Japanese matcha tea has now globalized as a popular milk-infused drink

This is what a plantation with shaded tea bushes looks like.

Depending on the processing method, two different types of tea are obtained after harvesting: gyokuro and tencha.

  • Gyokuro is produced by twisting and drying the leaves.
  • Tencha is produced by drying the leaves flat and grinding them.

Only tencha serves as the base for powdered matcha tea because this specific processing method provides the bright green color.

For matcha production, the leaves are dried in traditional ovens, which helps retain more amino acids. This makes the tea sweeter and more beneficial.

After drying, the leaves are rid of stems and veins, then ground into a bright green powder resembling talc. It can take up to an hour to grind 30 grams of matcha.

Premium grades of matcha are valued for the taste of young and tender leaves, which contain all the nutrients. They have a more intense sweet flavor and deep aroma. These leaves are harvested at the beginning of the season. Lower-grade varieties are made from more mature, tougher leaves, resulting in a sandy texture in the tea.

There are three types of matcha:

Ceremonial grade: This is the most expensive type of matcha. The leaves are almost always ground using a stone mill. The grinding process is labor-intensive and time-consuming, which accounts for its higher price. Ceremonial matcha is consumed without any additives and is served during tea ceremonies alongside dried fruits or Japanese sweets.

Premium grade: This type is less expensive than ceremonial grade. It contains a higher proportion of young leaves for freshness. Its taste is not as rich, sweet, or bitter as ceremonial matcha, making it a popular choice for everyday consumption.

Culinary grade: This is the most affordable type of matcha. It is commonly used in the food industry as an ingredient in various dishes such as desserts, ice cream, and baked goods. The color of this tea is dark green, almost swampy, and it has an intense bitter taste.

How Chinese Seeds Shaped the Traditions of Japanese Tea Ceremonies

Matcha tea was first consumed in China, but its recipe was quite different back then. During the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907 AD), tea leaves were steamed and pressed into tea bricks. These bricks were prepared with the addition of salt and sugar, which crystallized and helped them maintain their shape after drying. The leaves were roasted and ground into a powder for brewing powdered tea in hot water. Salt and mint were added to the tea.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), powdered tea became popular, and it was made from dried leaves processed with steam.

Matcha made its way to Japan thanks to the monk Eisai in 1191 AD. He dedicated his life to studying Buddhism in China and brought back Zen Buddhism, tea seeds, and traditional methods of preparing powdered green tea.

Eisai planted the seeds near a temple in Kyoto. Tea bushes grew there and became considered exemplary. The highest-quality tea in Japan was prepared from these bushes.

During that time, matcha was produced in very limited quantities, so only the shogun and the nobility could drink it. For Zen Buddhists, the preparation and consumption of powdered tea became a ritual. The tea powder was poured into a cup, infused, and whisked with a bamboo whisk until a froth formed.

This is how matcha is served during a tea ceremony: in a half-empty cup, accompanied by traditional sweets.

This is how matcha is served during a tea ceremony: in a half-empty cup, accompanied by traditional sweets.

In China, powdered tea gradually fell out of favor, while in Japan, it retained its position thanks to the monks. In the 14th to 16th centuries, matcha became widely popular among other segments of society.

Tea production expanded, and tea plantation owners in Japan continued to improve the cultivation processes.

In 1738, a tea merchant named Soen Nagatani invented the "Uji" method of processing green tea, which involved a different steaming technique for the leaves. He taught this method to farmers, making it easier for them to produce high-quality matcha, and enabling people from different social backgrounds to afford it. The Nagatani method is still used to this day.

The Health Benefits of Matcha: Contains Amino Acids, Antioxidants, EGCG Catechins, and Chlorophyll

Matcha is several times more beneficial than other teas because it is the only tea where we not only drink the infusion but also consume the entire leaf. Tea leaves are ingested along with their amino acids, antioxidants, EGCG catechins, and chlorophyll, all of which are present in the leaves.

Amino Acids: Matcha contains L-theanine, an amino acid that, when combined with caffeine, enhances energy, focus, and calmness throughout the day. It stimulates dopamine production, which increases the sense of happiness and alertness, resulting in an overall sense of well-being. L-theanine also lowers blood pressure, improves mood, and induces a feeling of relaxation.

Antioxidants: Matcha surpasses pomegranates, nuts, and dark chocolate in terms of antioxidant content. Approximately 60% of the antioxidants in matcha are polyphenols called catechins. These catechins reduce the risk of malignant tumors, help prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and slow down the aging process.

EGCG Catechins: Matcha contains the highest concentration of EGCG catechins, which are polyphenols with strong antioxidant properties. A cup of matcha contains at least three times more EGCG catechins than the highest-quality green tea.

Beneficial properties of EGCG catechins:

  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Exhibit antifungal and antiviral effects
  • Reduce glucose and insulin levels
  • Slow down the aging process and eliminate heavy metals from the body
  • Reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases
  • Contain a component that helps prevent the development of cancer. Regular consumption of green tea reduces the risk of gastrointestinal malignancies.

Individuals who regularly consume several cups of matcha per day have better overall health across all criteria. For example, the higher the daily consumption of tea, the lower the risk of death and stroke.

Matcha contains tens of times more antioxidants than many foods and beverages

Matcha contains tens of times more antioxidants than many foods and beverages. 

Chlorophyll: Matcha contains five times more chlorophyll than regular green tea. Chlorophyll helps cleanse the skin, protect the blood and heart, prevent joint inflammation, reduce the risk of cancer, and promote liver health.

The beneficial properties of matcha remain intact when consumed pure or with milk. Some cafes serve matcha with high sugar content in the cup, which reduces its overall health benefits. It may even be detrimental to certain individuals, such as those with diabetes.

One teaspoon of matcha contains 70 mg of caffeine, and the recommended daily caffeine intake is 300 mg. Therefore, if you brew 1 teaspoon of matcha according to a recipe, you can consume approximately 4 cups per day. If you exceed this amount, remember to monitor your caffeine intake to avoid side effects such as increased heart rate and sleep problems.

Reasons for the Growing Popularity of Matcha Latte

In recent years, matcha latte has been gaining popularity beyond Japan and is gradually appearing in coffee shops all over US. The interest in matcha is growing due to its health benefits, as it contains the same beneficial substances as green tea. As long as there is a trend towards healthy habits and lifestyles, matcha-based beverages will continue to gain popularity.

Matcha latte is a vibrant and aesthetically pleasing beverage with a milder taste compared to plain matcha.

Matcha latte is a vibrant and aesthetically pleasing beverage with a milder taste compared to plain matcha.

Due to its pronounced bitterness and umami flavor, matcha tea is not for everyone. However, it becomes more enjoyable when prepared with milk, resulting in matcha latte. This beverage attracts new customers with its smooth taste. In 2020, there was a surge in the popularity of matcha, resulting in matcha latte becoming a global phenomenon.

In their report, Zion Market Research predicts that the global matcha latte market has not yet reached its peak. By 2024, its sales turnover is expected to reach $4.83 billion USD.

How to Make Matcha Latte at Home: Recipe

Matcha has a unique taste that may not appeal to everyone. That's why matcha-based beverages with milk have become more popular, as milk helps soften the bitterness and mask the unfamiliar umami taste. Try making it at home yourself.

For one serving, you will need:

  • 15g of filtered water, heated to 90°C
  • 5g of matcha powder
  • 250g of milk or plant-based alternative
  • Sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Whisk or frother

Mix the matcha, hot water, and optional sweetener in a pitcher and whisk thoroughly. Heat the milk until steam appears, then froth it using a whisk or frother. Pour the milk into a cup, add latte art if desired, and enjoy.


What to Know When Making Matcha Latte

Matcha tea is the healthiest tea because we consume it along with the leaves. It contains antioxidants, amino acids, catechins, chlorophyll, and caffeine, which have not only health benefits but also provide a gentle energizing effect.

Powdered tea was invented in China, and Buddhist monk Eisai brought it to Japan, where it spread and gained the highest popularity. Soen Nagatani invented a processing method that made tea widely accessible, not only to monks and nobility.

There are three types of matcha, all equally good but used for different purposes. Culinary grade is loose and suitable for cooking. Premium grade is for daily drinking, while ceremonial grade is the most intense and expensive, reserved for tea ceremonies.

prepare matcha latte or add syrup for added flavor

If you don't enjoy the pronounced bitterness and umami flavor but are attracted to the health benefits of matcha, prepare matcha latte or add syrup for added flavor.

FAQ - Matcha and Matcha Latte

Matcha is a powdered green tea that originated in China and gained popularity in Japan. It is made from shade-grown tea leaves that are ground into a fine powder.

Matcha is rich in antioxidants, amino acids, catechins (such as EGCG), and chlorophyll. It provides numerous health benefits, including boosting the immune system, supporting heart health, and reducing the risk of certain diseases.

Unlike regular green tea, matcha is consumed by ingesting the entire powdered leaf, providing a higher concentration of nutrients. It has a vibrant green color, a unique taste, and a more potent flavor profile.

Matcha latte is a beverage made by mixing matcha powder with milk or a plant-based alternative. It offers a milder and creamier flavor compared to traditional matcha, making it more accessible to those who may find matcha's taste too strong.

To make matcha latte at home, whisk matcha powder with hot water to create a paste. Then heat milk or a plant-based alternative, froth it, and pour it over the matcha paste. Add sweetener if desired and enjoy.

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