You may have heard of matcha, and you’ve probably sipped on a cup of green tea before, but do you know what the difference between the two is? Despite being made from the same plant, both have unique growing and preparation methods which result in them having very different tastes, color, and nutritional content. We reveal the main differences so that you can compare matcha and green tea, and know exactly what’s in your cup.
Matcha tea, particularly that which is classified as ceremonial-grade, undergoes a much more specific growing and preparation process compared to green tea. About three weeks prior to harvesting, the plants are covered to block out sunlight and encourage an increase in production of chlorophyll, L-theanine, and caffeine. This helps to give matcha a more vibrant color, delicious taste, and higher nutrient count.
Only the highest quality leaves are carefully selected harvested by hand, and then the veins and stems are removed. The whole leaves are slowly dried and stone-ground to make a fine powder which is ready to be used. The grinding process is incredibly slow, as extra care is taken so the granite grinding stones don't get too warm and affect the quality of matcha. When drinking matcha tea you’ll be ingesting the entire leaf, compared to green tea where the leaves are discarded in the tea bag after the tea has been brewed.
One of the most common questions we get asked is “What does matcha taste like”? Well, high-quality matcha tends to have an aromatic and rather unique flavor profile which can be difficult to describe. Because of its rich amino acid and chlorophyll content, it has a delicate and balanced taste with hints of unami, malty, and vegetal (think edamame beans) with a smooth, creamy aftertaste and a hint of natural sweetness. Despite being both made from the same leaves, green tea and matcha tea both taste quite different indeed. High-quality matcha does not have the same bitterness that green tea has.
The color also differs a lot: Matcha that is grown in the Uji province in Japan has an incredibly bright and vibrant green color that is much brighter than that of green tea, which tends to have a murkier greenish-brown tint. This is because matcha contains a higher amount of chlorophyll, which helps to give it additional health benefits.
When it comes to the major differences between to two, the nutritional content is hands-down the winner. Matcha simply blows green tea out of the water when it comes to the sheer amount of health compounds that it contains. Studies suggest that you would have to drink a whopping 10 cups of green tea to get the same nutritional benefits as you would in one cup of matcha.
Matcha contains a lot more antioxidants than green tea; the exact amount depends on where it is grown and sourced. In fact, 1 gram of matcha scores 1,384 on the ORAC scale which is used to measure antioxidants. One famous study showed that matcha tea contained 137 times more antioxidants than green tea. Matcha also contains more tannins, micronutrients, vitamins and over 10 times the amount of L-theanine than green tea does.
These are the main factors that differentiate green tea from matcha tea. As you can see, by choosing matcha over green you’ll be nourishing your body with more nutrients while also enjoying a superior tasting product. Matcha does come at a price though, even though it is economical as you only need to use a small amount of patch powder in each cup, it still works out more expensive than green tea. Not surprising really considering the growing and natural preparation process that it goes through to get from the field to your cup.
Whether you’re on the green tea or the matcha, or perhaps you like to mix it up wand enjoy both for different occasions, studies show that green tea leaves hold a variety of health benefits. Not to mention that they contain L-theanine, the ‘feel-good’ compound that promotes feelings of calm, focused alertness - making it an excellent coffee or black tea replacement. Enjoy!
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