Matcha and green tea are often used interchangeably but they're in fact not identical. How do they compare? Both have an earthy flavor and descend from the Camellia sinensis plant, but you will find the differences lie in their preparation, benefits and more.
What is Green Tea?
Green tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are plucked, slightly withered, then immediately cooked to preserve the green quality and to prevent oxidization. This process is what gives green tea its lighter color compared to black tea and why it has a much higher concentration of chlorophyll, polyphenols, and antioxidants than other tea types.
Origins of Green Tea
Although originally used for medicinal purposes during the Han Dynasty (206-220), green tea didn't start being consumed for pleasure until China’s early Tang Dynasty (600-900). It wasn’t until the late 19th century that green tea made its way into European and more western cultures.
Benefits of Green Tea
Since green tea is loaded with antioxidants, it has many health benefits as a result, including:
- improved brain function
- protection against cancer
- lowered risk of heart disease
- protection of the brain from aging
- prevention of type 2 diabetes
What is Matcha?
Matcha is made from finely powdered dried green tea (tencha) leaves. The green tea plants used for matcha are shade-grown for three to four weeks before harvest with the stems and veins removed during processing. As a result, there are three different grades of matcha: ceremonial, latte, and culinary depending on their harvest and use.
Origins of Matcha
Despite Japan having such a stronghold on matcha, it actually first emerged during the Song Dynasty in China. The art of producing, preparing, and consuming matcha became a ritual performed by Zen Buddhists in China. In 1191, a Zen monk traveled to Japan and introduced matcha to the country. As matcha became less popular in China, the Japanese embraced it and it's now a key part of their culture, from Japanese tea ceremonies and the highest-quality matcha coming from the hills of Uji, Japan.
Benefits of Matcha
Since matcha uses the entire leaf, it has more nutritional compounds than green tea. With high levels of antioxidants and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), matcha has even more health benefits, including:
- reduced oxidative stress
- reduced inflammation
- improved memory and cognitive functions
- minimized photoaging
- strengthened blood vessels in the heart
- promotion of metabolic health markers
- reduced factors of tumor growth in the gut
Matcha also has a complementary combo of l-theanine and caffeine which provides a boost of energy without the jitters or mid-day crash.
What is the difference between the two?
From preparation to processing and the benefits of consuming both, this chart below shows the key differences between matcha and green tea:
|Processing||Hand-selection of the best shade-grown leaves stone ground into a powder||Cultivated under the sun and processed to stop fermentation|
|Color||Vibrant green||Dull green with a brownish tone|
|Taste||Rich, velvety and sweet||Light and fresh with grassy, earthy undertones|
|Preparation||Whisked in hot water with a chasen||Steeped in hot water for up to 3 minutes|
|Caffeine||280 mg||35 mg|
|Antioxidants||134 mg||63 mg|
|Tannins||99 mg||7 mg|
|Amino Acids||45 mg||3 mg|