With its dazzling bright green color and unique umami flavor, akin to a seaweed or spinach, matcha has made a splash over the last few years and is now a popular food ingredient as well as being drunk as a tea. Yet its matcha’s unrivaled health properties which most recommend it as an essential addition to the daily routine of any tea lover.
What is Matcha Tea?
For over a thousand years, matcha has been highly prized in Japanese culture for its health properties, and ability to lend the drinker focused clarity of thought, thanks to its high caffeine content. Zen monks would drink it to aid with concentration during meditation, while samurai warriors would drink it for a sharp mind during battle.
Whereas other green teas are made using the leaves, buds and stems of the tea plant, matcha tea consists only of the leaves of the plants, which are grown under shade. They are picked when there are just three to five leaves on each stem – any fewer and yield is too low, while more than that means the leaves become too mature, reducing the quality of the tea.
But the biggest difference between matcha and other teas is that matcha is a powder. The tea is made by first picking the young leaves, then steaming them for 30 seconds to kill off the enzymes that would otherwise cause the leaves to degrade, locking in their fresh, grassy taste. The leaves are then speed-cooled by blasting them with air, before being dried over a fire pit. Once dried, the leaves are sorted through to ensure the best quality, before being cut to form ‘tencha’. Finally, the tencha is ground to form a fine, silky powder: matcha.
Ceremonial Grade v’s Culinary Grade: What’s the Difference?
Although all matcha goes through this process, not all matchas are alike. A vast number of factors can affect the final result, from the quality of the growing, to the method of picking, to the way the leaves are treated during processing. Originally each step would have been done fully by hand, allowing for a high level of precision; nowadays, cheaper matchas are more likely to have been machine harvested and prepared.
Consequently, before packing, matcha is sorted into grades. The highest is ‘ceremonial grade’ – matcha deemed fit for use in Japanese tea ceremonies. A true ceremonial grade matcha is made from the youngest leaves, from which the veins have been removed. If you want an outstanding matcha to drink in water with no additions like milk or sugar, this is the grade you should look for.
All other matcha is deemed ‘culinary grade’, and is further split into five categories: premium, cafe, ingredient, kitchen and classic. These matchas are more versatile: they can be drunk as a tea, but can also be used in lattes, smoothies, iced matcha, or even as a food ingredient in cakes, sweets and more.
Is Matcha Tea Good For You?
As a green tea, matcha offers the same great medicinal benefits as all teas made from the camellia sinensis plant: a wealth of antioxidants called catechins which are known to aid the body by fighting free radicals, helping protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimers. The tea bush is also caffeinated, delivering a hit of energy to those who drink it.
The difference with matcha is that, unlike most teas, which are made by steeping leaves in the water and drinking the resulting infusion, matcha tea is made by whisking powdered leaves into the water to form a solution. That means that the drinker consumes the whole leaf, getting the full benefit of the plant’s leaves.
Best Ceremonial Grade Matcha Tea
There are many ceremonial grade matchas on the market nowadays as this delightful tea has gained in popularity, but few rival the elegance of Kanza. Specially crafted by Japan-based Ippodo Tea, Kanza showcases the best of what matcha can be.
Only the best leaves, carefully shaded to protect the umami characteristics without creating astringency, make it into Kanza. The result is a matcha that demands attention, whether you serve as a koicha (thick matcha), usucha (standard liquid consistency), or even made with iced water for a cold matcha.
The flavor is rich, deep, and luscious, delivering deep, full-bodied umami tones akin to a heavy red wine. The color is a dazzling jade green, bringing to mind the extravagance of jade jewelry with its beautiful sheen. The texture is silky smooth, delivering a flawless experience from the first drop to the last. .
- Available in a delightful 20g pot, enough for five to ten servings.
- Rich, deep umami with fragrant overtones and a clean finish.
- Cold whisk to highlight the sweetness of this matcha, or whisk vigorously with boiled water cooled to 80ºC in a tea bowl to release the full spectrum of flavors.
Best Everyday Matcha
From a rare treat to one you can indulge in every day: Soar Organics have sourced organic matcha from the Uji, Kyoto and Kagoshima regions in Japan and blended together first and second harvest leaves to make a matcha that is both high quality and affordable.
The result is a fine, smooth tea with the classic umami matcha taste that’s highly versatile in nature. Sip as a morning latte for a boost of energy, stir into smoothies for an afternoon pick-me-up, or simply whisk with water for a classic matcha tea.
Best of all, there are no sweeteners or additives, just pure, clean, certified organic matcha powder, so you can enjoy your daily matcha tea guilt free.
- Opt for a 30g tin, enough for around 25 servings, or for a 500g bulk bag.
- Classic rich and earthy matcha taste, with notes of dark chocolate bitterness breaking through.
- Prepare this matcha almost any way you want: whisked into hot or cold water, with milk or without.
Best Matcha Tea for Achieving Calm and Clarity
For those used to getting their caffeine hit from coffee, matcha tea can be a revelation. Unlike the jittery, foggy-headed energy kick that coffee gives, matcha tea delivers a crystal clear, sharply focused boost, thanks to its high levels of an amino acid called L-theanine.
With this in mind, Buddha Teas have paired their organic matcha with water-soluble, THC-free CBD, delivering both clarity and calmness in one neat cup. The mix also contains organic sencha green tea, a loose-leafed green tea which delivers vital antioxidants known for their healing and youth-preserving powers.
The result is a matcha tea with a herbal, floral flavor profile, that’s finely tuned to deliver maximum health benefits without compromising on taste.
- Available as a box of 18 bags
- Sourced from Kagoshima, Japan, a premier region for both sencha and matcha teas.
- Steep the tea bags in hot water for three to six minutes to fully release the flavors and aromas.
The Best Matcha Tea For Chocolate Lovers
With its heavy, earthy flavor notes with a hint of bitterness, matcha is often likened to a quality dark chocolate. Art of Tea have gone one step further, blending their matcha powder with cocoa powder and passion fruit powder.
The result is a truly sumptuous drink, somewhere between a matcha tea and a hot chocolate, which is rich and not too sweet. The passion fruit lends almost a floral tone to the mix, elevating this tea far above the everyday.
Whisk with hot water, or use steamed milk to make a smooth and creamy treat. You can even sprinkle in a few marshmallows for ultimate indulgence.
- Available in a 10oz pouch, enough for around 25 servings.
- Deep earthy flavors with hints of sweetness and fruitiness
- Whisk the powder into hot water or milk, add cream and sugar (or marshmallows) as required.
Best Matcha Tea Drops
For those new to matcha powder, knowing how to prepare it — and how much to use to get the right balance — can be a problem. Tea Drops solves this with their neat matcha tea drops. Simply drop into a cup of hot water and stir. The drops dissolve perfectly, leaving no residue at the bottom of the cup.
This lively bright green matcha has the classic flavor profile: earthy and full bodied, packing in the freshness of the leaves that went into its making.
The drops are made of just organic matcha tea and organic sugar with no additives or preservatives, delivering nothing but a clean hit of matcha energy to start your day. Or for those of you who like your matcha unsweetened, Tea Drops do a sugar free version. Why not try both and see which you prefer?
- Choose between a recyclable cylinder of 10 drops, or a burlap sack of 25.
- Classic earthy yet lively matcha with a hint of sweetness in the sweetened version.
- Drop into a cup of hot water and stir. Or add milk for a creamier latte version.
Best Decaffeinated Alternative to Matcha Tea
As the day draws to a close, sometimes you want the rich, umami taste found in matcha but without the caffeine hit that typically comes with it. For those times, look no further than Gua Pian, one of China’s most famous green teas.
Like matcha, Gua Pian uses only the young leaves of the tea plant, not the buds or stems. The leaves are first wok fried and beaten to kill off the enzymes, holding in the fresh taste. They are then slowly baked over an ash fire to dry them. Next comes a step unique to Gua Pian: the leaves are packed into a bamboo tray and are walked back and forth across an open fire for about an hour to flash roast them.
The result is a tea with the same grassy umami taste and a smooth buttery texture as a good matcha, with an added toastiness thanks to the flash roasting process. And like all green teas, it’s packed with the antioxidants that make green tea so healthy, but with far lower caffeine levels than matcha contains.
- Sold as loose leaf tea as a 4g sample or a 28g (1oz) pack
- Grassy and lightly toasted flavor notes with a sugary undertone
- Brew in water warmed to 85ºC in an open vessel for two minutes.