Is Green Tea Matcha?
Understanding Green Tea
Green tea is made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, with its leaves and buds that have not undergone the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong teas and black teas. Green tea's oxidation process is limited by heating and drying the tea leaves soon after they are harvested. This prevents the green leaves from turning brown and gives it a more subtle and gentle flavour than other more processed teas.
Green tea is prepared by briefly steeping the tea bags or loose leaves in hot water. Once the tea leaves are infused, they are then discarded before the tea is consumed. The taste of green tea can vary depending on the type of tea, the way it is made, and the region where it is grown. However, all green teas have a grassy and slightly sweet taste. It is generally described as refreshing and lighter in flavour.
What is matcha?
Matcha is also made from the camellia sinensis plant, but the leaves are ground into a fine powder, making it a type of green tea. It's special because matcha powder contains the whole leaf, unlike other types of regular green teas where the leaves are steeped and then discarded. This means that when you drink matcha, you're consuming the entire leaf, which provides a host of benefits (we'll get into those shortly).
The tea leaves are also shade-grown, which makes them lower in caffeine content and high in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives matcha its vibrant green colour. In general, the higher the grade of matcha, the more vibrant green it is. Depending on which grade of matcha you buy, you may find a spectrum in appearance, from very bright green to a yellowish-brown powder.
Matcha has a unique umami and slightly sweet flavour. Some people find the taste to be grassy or bitter, but this usually depends on the quality of the tea. Higher-quality matcha powders will have a naturally sweeter flavour with less bitterness.
Key Differences Between Matcha and Green Tea
Now that we know what each tea is, let's look at the key differences between matcha vs green tea:
- Green tea is in leaf form whereas matcha is a powder made from grinding down green tea leaves.
- When you drink matcha, you're consuming the entire leaf which provides a host of benefits. Meanwhile, with green tea, the leaves are steeped and then discarded.
- Matcha is shade-grown which makes it high in chlorophyll and low in caffeine. Green tea can be grown in various conditions so it varies in caffeine levels.
- Matcha has a unique umami and slightly bitter-sweet flavour whereas green tea has a grassy and lighter flavour.
Green Tea Benefits
Now let's look at some of the benefits that green tea provides:
- Green tea is rich in antioxidants, including catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols, which can help protect cells from damage and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer (Dulloo et al., 1999).
- Green tea has been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat burning. This is due to the presence of caffeine and catechins, which are compounds that have been shown to aid in weight loss (Nagao et al., 2005).
- Green tea has also been shown to improve brain function. The caffeine in green tea can enhance mental alertness and concentration, while the catechins have been linked to improved memory and cognitive function (Kuriyama et al., 2006).
So what about matcha? As we mentioned before, matcha is a powder made from grinding down green tea leaves. This means that it contains the whole leaf and therefore provides all of the benefits that green tea does, plus a few extras!
- Matcha is especially rich in antioxidants due to the fact that you're consuming the entire leaf. In fact, matcha is said to have 137 times more antioxidants than green tea (Weiss & Anderton, 2003)!
- Matcha also has higher levels of caffeine than green tea. This means that it can provide a boost of energy and concentration – perfect for when you need an extra push.
- Lastly, due to its high chlorophyll content, matcha is a great detoxifier. Chlorophyll is known for its ability to bind to heavy metals and toxins in the body and help remove them (Chen et al., 2014).
Click here for a more detailed article on the health benefits of matcha.
Understanding the Production Process
To truly appreciate the differences between matcha and green tea, it's essential to understand how they are produced. While both teas come from the camellia sinensis plant, their cultivation and processing methods differ significantly, leading to variations in flavour, appearance, and nutritional content (Dias, 2017).
Green tea production typically involves harvesting the leaves, followed by brief steaming or pan-firing to prevent oxidation. This step helps retain the green colour and mild taste of the leaves. The leaves are then rolled and dried to produce various types of green tea, such as sencha or gyokuro, depending on the rolling techniques and drying methods used.
In contrast, matcha production begins about 20-30 days before the leaves are harvested, when the tea plants are covered with shade cloths. This shading process increases the chlorophyll content and reduces the caffeine content of the leaves (Weiss & Anderton, 2003). After harvesting, the leaves are steamed, air-dried, and then deveined and destemmed to produce a product known as 'tencha' - the dried leaves. The tencha is are finally ground into a fine powder using a stone mill or machine.
Conclusion: Which Should You Choose?
So, is one better than the other? It depends on what you're looking for in terms of taste, benefits, and budget. At the end of the day, both green tea and matcha provide a host of health benefits. A great place to start is by incorporating either (or both) into your diet and discovering your preference!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I replace my regular green tea with matcha?
Absolutely! If you're looking to increase your antioxidant intake and experience a more sustained energy boost, matcha is a great option. It has a unique umami and slightly sweet flavour, which some people prefer over the grassy taste of regular green tea. However, keep in mind that matcha is generally more expensive than regular green tea.
Which has more caffeine – matcha or green tea?
Matcha contains more caffeine than green tea. This is because you are consuming the entire leaf in matcha, which leads to higher caffeine content. If you're looking for a stronger energy boost, matcha is the better choice.
Can I use matcha for cooking and baking, or is it only for drinking?
You can definitely use matcha in cooking and baking! Matcha powder is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes, from smoothies and lattes to cookies, cakes, and even savoury dishes. Its unique flavour and vibrant green colour can add a delightful twist to your culinary creations.
Are there any side effects to consuming matcha or green tea?
Both matcha and green tea are generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderation. However, they do contain caffeine, which may cause side effects in some individuals, such as insomnia, nervousness, or an upset stomach. If you are sensitive to caffeine or have any concerns, consult with your healthcare professional before incorporating matcha or green tea into your diet.
How should I store matcha and green tea to maintain their freshness and quality?
Both matcha and green tea should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. For matcha, it's essential to store it in an airtight container to prevent the powder from clumping and losing its vibrant colour. Sipspa recommends to keep it refrigerated. Green tea leaves, whether loose or in tea bags, should also be kept in a sealed container to maintain freshness and flavour.
- Chen, Q., Espey, M. G., Sun, A. Y., Pooput, C., Kirk, K. L., Krishna, M. C., ... & Levine, M. (2014). Ascorbate in pharmacologic concentrations selectively generates ascorbate radical and hydrogen peroxide in extracellular fluid in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(21), 8749-8754.
- Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., ... & Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(6), 1040-1045.
- Kuriyama, S., Hozawa, A., Ohmori, K., Shimazu, T., Matsui, T., Ebihara, S., ... & Tsuji, I. (2006). Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(2), 355-361.
- Nagao, T., Komine, Y., Soga, S., Meguro, S., Hase, T., Tanaka, Y., & Tokimitsu, I. (2005). Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 81(1), 122-129.
- Weiss, D. J., & Anderton, C. R. (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1011(1-2), 173-180.