Matcha is the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies and an increasingly popular drink outside of Japan. It is made from shade-grown green tea leaves that are milled into an ultra-fine powder and prepared with hot water using a bamboo whisk, or chasen. It is then whisked until frothy, and drunk rapidly, almost like a shot - or the espresso of the tea world. Properly preparing a good cup of matcha takes practice, but stick with it and you’ll be whisking authentic bowls of sublime matcha in no time! While you sip, it’s nice to know a little about what sets matcha apart from other beverages, so we’ve compiled 5 key facts below.
1: Matcha is More Powerful than Your Regular Brew
Because matcha is made from a fine powder, you are actually consuming the entire tea leaf, instead of just what’s extracted from it (this is also why matcha tea bags in grocery stores make no sense). As a result, matcha is considered even healthier than brewed teas. Roughly 50% of the compounds in tea leaves are not water soluble, so even an extremely strong cup of loose leaf tea just won’t give you everything the tea leaves have inside. Matcha will. What’s more, the process of shading the tea leaves preserves a higher L-Theanine content. L-Theanine is an amino acid unique to tea that provides many calming effects. It is also largely responsible for the savory notes you’ll find particularly present in good matcha.
2: Matcha Contains More Caffeine When Compared to Coffee
One shot of espresso contains around 60 mg of caffeine, and a single teaspoon of premium matcha delivers about the same amount! That is to say, tea is emphatically not coffee’s weaker sibling; by weight, it actually has more caffeine than coffee! Matcha just happens to be a particularly good vehicle for delivering tea’s caffeine because it is highly concentrated. Depending on how strong you like it, you could be as caffeinated as you would be with a cup of coffee in about thirty seconds.
3: Matcha Has a Much More Pleasant Effect on the Mind than Coffee
All of that said, matcha doesn’t only effectively wake you up - it keeps you calm at the same time. We’ve had so many people tell us that they switched to tea from coffee because they were sick of feeling jittery and stressed out. Matcha’s L-Theanine is, as I’ve said above, the main reason why it hits so differently. L-Theanine not only slows the metabolism of caffeine, but increases GABA - a relaxing neurotransmitter - in the brain. Meanwhile, EGCG, tea’s primary catechin, has been found to increase endocannabinoid activity (that is to say, the brain’s naturally occurring version of THC).
Basically, there’s a good reason that matcha has been the focus of Zen Buddhist monks in Japan for centuries: it’s the perfect meditation aid! So while I did say you could finish your matcha in thirty seconds, I do highly recommend slowing down and taking a little bit more time to savor it - rather more like a shot of espresso than a shot of liquor, I find there’s no need to simply get it over with!
4: Shading is Key for Several Reasons
Tencha (the base tea that becomes matcha), is always shaded. This is a critical step, and the primary difference between simple Green Tea Powder and Matcha Powder. The shading is responsible for several things, namely: 1. The leaf spreads out to catch more light, making it thinner, more brittle, and ultimately able to be milled into a finer powder. 2. The leaf increases chlorophyll production. This is the reason matcha is typically such a vivid green. 3. It blocks the conversion of L-Theanine to more bitter catechins, preserving the savoriness of the tea, as well as the benefits of L-Theanine. Other teas, when exposed to sunlight, will undergo this chemical change, which is part of why matcha tastes so unlike any other tea out there!
5: Matcha Degrades More Quickly than Other Teas.
If you haven’t had a chance to experiment with aging teas, I really encourage you to do so. Many teas age beautifully. Green tea and matcha do not. If you want to see what I mean, wait until April and order some of the recent harvest’s green tea, and compare it with the same tea from last year. The differences in color, subtlety, smoothness and astringency will be stunning, and that’s just with loose leaf! Matcha, meanwhile, is such an ultrafine powder that it has orders of magnitude more surface area exposed to oxygen than does a whole leaf. Oxygen is what causes matcha to degrade, resulting in a more bitter, less vibrant and complex matcha. Doing some very rough math, let’s say a 5 millimeter wide leaf of tencha has about 50,100,000 square microns exposed. That same leaf, divided into 10 micron particles has 1,037,743,613 square microns exposed - so 20X more surface area. Whether that means milled matcha literally ages 20X faster than loose leaf is something I can’t say with confidence. But it does age much more rapidly. That’s why we think it’s so important to have freshly milled matcha - stored in whole leaf form until we’re ready to mill and send it to you!Ready to reap the benefits of matcha? River and Stone Tea has the premium, ceremonial grade matcha you need. Buy matcha for yourself or purchase matcha wholesale in bulk for retail. Order your matcha online today!