Matcha is a shade-grown, all natural powdered Japanese green tea made from the finest tea leaves. Extremely high in antioxidants, amino acids, and other nutrients, it has been the focal point of Zen Buddhist Monks for over 800 years as a revered form of art, an instrument for meditation, and a valued ingredient for health.
Matcha is one of the most unique teas on the planet, obtaining its tremendous health properties through careful growing, cultivating and processing. Unlike other teas, Matcha undergoes a number of additional steps in the production cycle before it makes its way to your cup, including: shade growing, hand picking, stem and vein removal, and granite milling into a fine powder.
Matcha is ground into a fine powder, which means you are consuming the entire leaf when drinking Matcha or enjoying a food or beverage made with Matcha. Matcha drinkers receive 100% of the benefits of the whole tea leaf, enjoying its antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Matcha contains higher antioxidant levels on a per gram basis than any other known natural fruits or vegetables. ORAC test results show that one gram of Ceremonial Matcha green tea contains 1,384 ORAC units – about 15x the antioxidants available in wild blueberries.
Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Lipophilic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States
One of the key components in Matcha is the amino acid L-theanine, which is found almost exclusively in shade-grown green teas like Matcha. When L-theanine is combined with the natural caffeine in tea, it metabolizes more slowly, releasing the caffeine over a longer period of time and providing a stable three to six hour long energy boost (versus coffee caffeine at an hour to an hour and a half).
A lot of different things can affect the quality of Matcha - region, geographical conditions, skill of the tea farmers, and the variety of the tea bush - all add up to the unique qualities of Matcha. Check for these elements when evaluating your Matcha:
A good quality Matcha should be smooth and sweet with just a hint of astringency. The sweetness comes from the L-theanine amino acids in the tea.
Matcha is a vibrant jade green (while green tea powders are often yellow-brown), due to the increased chlorophyll content that occurs during the shading process. Quality Matcha is ground using slow-turning granite grinders, which minimizes friction, allowing the tea to be ground without "burning," retaining the chlorophyll.
High quality Matcha powders are very fine (5-10 microns; finer than baby powder), and should feel similar to eye shadow. A lower quality Matcha will have larger particle sizes, resulting in a coarser feel when rubbed between your fingers.
For a more detailed breakdown of discerning a high vs. low quality Matcha, visit our blog post.