Interesting Facts about Matcha
Grades of Matcha
Matcha grades are determined simply by quality and there is no standard definition for the often quoted grades of ceremonial, premium, cooking or restaurant grade. So what is good and not-so-good quality? Good quality Matcha has an Umami taste, has less bitterness, is a finer powder and brews a vibrant green cup (not yellowish). These attributes are affected by the origin, tea farm and producer. Matcha is broadly graded in a range that goes from a food ingredient to being suitable for the formal tea ceremony. Generally ceremonial grade is produced with only first flush teas and contains more Umami and less bitterness. The other grades are made with the 2nd flush or mixing the 2nd and 1st flush matcha and its color is a little darker. Within the ceremonial grade Matcha, there are two types: Koicha and Usucha.
Koicha and Usucha
There are two ways to prepare and drink Matcha - Koi-cha and Usu-cha. Koi-cha is usually translated as thick tea and Usu-cha as light (or thin) tea. For an equal quantity of hot water, twice as much Matcha is used in the preparation of Koicha than Usucha. For Koicha, you slowly knead the tea into the water using a chasen (bamboo tea whisk) then whisk a little faster to produce a creamy and thick liquid. To achieve the taste and sweetness appropriate to Koicha you need to use the highest quality Matcha. Making Koicha with anything else will result in a bitter drink. Sometimes the terms Koicha and Usucha are used for the Matcha that is appropriate for each.
What Matcha should I buy?
Koicha and Usucha are used for the tea ceremony. Both Premium Restaurant and Restaurant Matcha are usually used as an ingredient in beverages and pastries. So we do not call them either Koicha or Usucha. Premium Matcha is richer, brighter green and less bitter than Restaurant Matcha. Our other Matcha, Chiyo-no-shiro, is higher quality than Premium Restaurant Matcha and often used as a practice Matcha for the tea ceremony.
Health Benefits: Is Matcha healthier than the other green teas?
In a word, yes. In the early history of tea, the leaves were chewed for their health benefits. Today, we receive the health benefits of loose leaf green tea by drinking the tea infused liquid. Brewed green tea is a very healthful drink but since we don't consume the leaf, we miss out on two additional benefits, Vitamin E and fiber. When you brew green tea, you extract most of the healthy ingredients. However, only a very small amount of the Vitamin E and fiber in green tea is extracted in the brewing process. Powdered teas such as Matcha are ground to a specific size and stay suspended in the liquid. As you drink either of these teas, you also consume the ground leaves getting all of the Vitamin E and the fiber that the tea plant has to offer. It's important to note that since you are consuming the leaf, be sure to select only powdered teas that are grown in a safe environment.
Matcha and Powdered Sencha
There are two differences in these teas. Matcha is made from Tencha (see below). Tencha is grown in the shade for about a month before harvest. This adds sweetness to the tea and gives Matcha its characteristic taste. Our powdered Sencha is made from quality first flush Sencha, not Tencha. The second difference is the fineness of the grind. Matcha is ground finer than Powdered Sencha and is intended to be whisked into a frothy liquid as you see in the tea ceremony. Powdered Sencha is designed to release its entire flavor when it is gently mixed with water in a cup or shaken in a water bottle.
Tencha is the raw material of Matcha. Tencha is grown in the shade for about a month before harvest. The shading reduces photosynthesis resulting in leaves with a high level of chlorophyll, responsible for Matcha's deep green color, and theanine, the amino acid responsible for its sweet full-bodied flavor. To produce Matcha only the top youngest leaves are used. Once picked, the leaves are steamed, dried, and cut. Unlike Sencha or Gyokuro, Tencha is not rolled or kneaded because it is made for grinding into Matcha powder. Dried leaves are refined to remove the stems and veins leaving only the meat of the leaves. The leaves are ground into Matcha powder using a granite wheel. The stems are used for one of our specialty teas Tencha-Kuki Houjicha.
Yes, Den's Tea considers Matcha a superfood, although we understand that ?superfood? is just a marketing term. We think superfoods can be even more super if you consume them often. As well as the health benefits mentioned above, Matcha tastes good and can be easily consumed every day with variations.
See our YouTube page to see Matcha brewing:
Iced Matcha Shot Latte 12oz:
- 2 teaspoons Matcha (Sieve before using for a smooth taste.)
- 6oz water
- 6oz milk (regular, low-fat or soy)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Mix all ingredients together with hand-held frother. If you serve as iced, use small amount of hot water to knead the matcha to avoid lumping, then pour in cold water. Serve over ice.