Matcha is a traditional Japanese tea. It has been a part of tea ceremonies since the 12th century. Matcha literally means “ground tea”. “Tcha”, as well as “chai”, stands for tea. Tea has come to the European languages under one of the two names. Some traders were selling it as “chai”, others as “tea”, depending on how the farmers in different areas were calling it.
Tea trees intended for matcha production are shade-grown. This gives the leaves a much brighter green color, they become broader and thinner making it easier to grind. Once the leaves are collected, they are steamed, dried and stone-ground. Shade-growing prevents amino acids from breaking down, therefore matcha has a higher aminos content. Real matcha is often confused with powdered green tea, which has a bitter taste and doesn’t have the distinctive matcha vibrant green color. Real matcha also possesses an umami taste, which can be translated as “a pleasant savory taste”
Umami is one of the five basic tastes along with sweet, bitter, salty and sour.
There are two main grades of matcha: ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial is a primarily drinking matcha, it is made of younger tea leaves and has a smooth taste.
Culinary grade is mainly used for cooking. Try matcha ice cream!
Matcha is about as high in caffeine as coffee, and about twice as high as a regular green tea. However, as opposed to regular teas and coffees, matcha contains a lot of catechins. They bind with caffeine and make it release gradually over several hours after consumption. L-theanine, present in matcha, aids in calmness and relaxation. Combined with the slow release of caffeine, it provides a state of calm alertness for hours.
Some of the other benefits of matcha come from antioxidants. Antioxidants have been well-known for years for protection of cells in the body from free radicals. Matcha has a high content of these compounds, including already mentioned catechins. Other well-known antioxidants in matcha are flavonoids and polyphenols.