What's the Difference Between Matcha and Green Tea?

Whats the difference between matcha and regular green tea? While matcha is technically a type of green tea, it functions very different from other green teas. In this article, we’re going to compare matcha with sencha, a very common type of Japanese green tea to see what makes them similar and what makes them different.

First, let’s start with the basics. Matcha comes in a powder and sencha comes in loose leaf form. Already this creates major differences in how the tea is prepared and consumed. With regular green tea, you are drinking an extraction of the leaf and with matcha, you are drinking the whole leaf mixed into water. This makes preparing matcha slightly less complicated. You don’t need to worry about temperature as much and you don’t really need to worry about brewing time at all. While leaving the sencha tea brewing for 1 extra minute can make the tea quite bitter, with matcha that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. Matcha can be made with cool or room temperature water, and also hot water up to 175 degrees, whereas most Japanese green teas that come in loose leaf form are quite sensitive to temperature changes. This is because the flavor of a loose leaf tea is dependent on what is extracted from the leaves. Hotter water and longer brewing extracts more of the bitter components from the leaf and these end up in the final tea. 

To prepare matcha, all you have to do is whisk the tea into water. There are a few different ways you can do this. The best way to do this is with a bamboo tea whisk or Chasen. This is how it’s done in the Japanese tea ceremony, and although this method is hundreds of years old, it still does the best job at creating that foam on top of your matcha. The reason you want this foam is because it adds a creamier texture and taste to the tea. You can also use more modern tools like a metal whisk or even a fork to mix the matcha powder into the water.

So one difference between matcha and other green teas is how its prepared, but another difference is the components within the tea. Because you are drinking the entire leaf instead of just an infusion, you are getting more caffeine, more antioxidants and more l-theanine than with a typical loose leaf tea. While most of the reason for this is just that the tea is in powdered form, there are certain steps that take place in the production process that make matcha tea more nutrient dense.

First off, matcha is made from the youngest leaves of the tea plant. This separates it from teas like Bancha, Hojicha, Kukicha and many types of sencha. Teas like Gyokuro, Kabusecha sencha and Shincha are made from these young tea sprouts, so in that sense they are similar. The plants used to make matcha are shaded for 3 weeks prior to the harvest in order to boost the levels of chlorophyll and theanine. This makes the tea smoother and sweeter, as well as greener in color. Gyokuro is the only type of leaf tea that is shaded for this long, which makes matcha quite different from other Japanese green teas.

What makes matcha similar to all other Japanese green teas is that it is steamed after the harvest. By heating the tea leaves after they are harvested, you deactivate the enzymes that cause oxidation and prevent the tea from turning into a black tea. This heating process is essentially what makes a green tea a green tea. The tea leaves are then dried at multiple stages throughout the production process, but then the leaves used to make matcha undergo a unique step, they actually have their stems removed.

The stems within the leaf don’t grind as well as the leaves, and they also detract from the sweet and savory flavor of the tea, so they are removed to make Tencha. Tencha leaves are then ground up in a large stone mill to make matcha. It takes this mill up to an hour just to produce 50 grams of this precious tea powder.

When it comes to the flavor of the tea, sencha is a lot more mild than matcha. Matcha teas really play on these powerful savory notes, and some of these grassy or seaweed flavors. Sencha is a lot lighter, with these flavors of baby spinach, sweet corn and edamame. If you are a beginner in the world of tea, you may want to start with a tea like sencha instead of matcha, as it will be a bit softer on your palate. 

So to recap the differences of the two teas in chronological order from growing to tasting, matcha is made from younger leaves, shaded for a longer time, it has it’s stems removed, its ground into a fine powder and it can be mixed directly into water instead of brewed. The flavor of matcha will finally be more intense and the tea will have more caffeine, theanine and antioxidants than a normal green tea.

Thank you all so much for reading, I hope you’ve all enjoyed this article comparing the differences between these two teas. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below, otherwise, we’ll see you next time.