Matcha comes in several grades that aren’t officially regulated, but the most important distinction is between ceremonial and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial grade is made from the youngest, most tender tea leaves and is smooth and fine in texture. Use it when you’re planning to drink pure, unadulterated matcha or a top-notch latte. Culinary matcha is a less expensive and made from comparatively older leaves. It is best for baking, cooking, or making blended drinks where the matcha flavor is not imperative. (“Premium” or “select” matcha is somewhere in between the two major grades, and you can find organic versions of matcha in each category.)
To make green tea, the leaves are quickly steamed or heated to stop oxidation, the chemical process that causes browning. To make black tea, the leaves are crushed, torn, curled, or rolled and allowed to oxidize before being dried. This additional processing step degrades some of the flavonoids. As a result, black tea has slightly lower amounts of flavonoids than green tea.
Rooibos is especially rich in the super-antioxidant compound quercetin. A titan among the antioxidants, quercetin imparts benefits to the heart, helps to reduce the risk of various types of cancers, fights viruses and is significantly anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is part of all known chronic degenerative diseases. The anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin means that it helps to reduce the risk of many types of health disorders.
The first early harvest of tea, plucked before the first flush, is called shincha. Shincha is made from the youngest new growth leaves, and is plucked from early April to early May. Shincha typically refers to the early harvest of sencha, but can refer to any type of tea plucked early in the season, before the main harvest. Because of the limited quantities in which it is produced, shincha is highly prized and expensive to obtain.
On this episode of Consumed, host and Eater Drinks editor Kat Odell looks into the matcha production process — how it differs from that of more traditional steeped green tea, and how two of New York's noted matcha purveyors (Ippodo Tea Company and Matchabar) are working with the product today. Watch the video above for a lesson in powdered green tea; if your interest is piqued, check this map for the best places to drink matcha across the country, and these recipes for making iced matcha drinks at home, perfect for the summer.
Instead of being rolled, shaped and dried like traditional green tea leaves, the leaves destined to become Matcha are laid flat to dry. Grinding the leaves into Matcha is a slow process. If the mill stones overheat, the delicate green tea leaves might become damaged, which alters the flavor and taste. For reference, it takes about one hour to grind 30g of Matcha.
Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, it’s important to note that much of this research isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, it’s largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.
Most importantly, EGCg and other catechins counteract the effects of free radicals from the likes of pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals, which can lead to cell and DNA damage. Since over 60% of the catechins in matcha are actually EGCg, a daily matcha regimen can help restore and preserve the body’s integral well-being and balance. Read more on our Change The Odds Page.
Green is truly the color of health. Matcha helps to safely cleanse and purge the body of harmful elements. Chlorophyll the element that gives green tea and other plants their signature verdant color is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body. And because matcha is carefully shade-grown, it is substantially richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it a superior daily detox.
I never told anyone this, and by now, you’re probably thinking I’m a fool. But can I just say that I actually thought if I followed the commenters (about how long to steep) that I’d be ok? Man, listen. The same thing happened again. Exactly as it happened before, except it actually made me vomit! Thank God ever since the first incident, I keep alcohol in my medicine cabinet and I always take my phone to the restroom. I sniffed it quick as I felt a blackout coming on. The smell allowed me to hang on to the edge of consciousness. However, with only enough strength to pull the Emergency Call screen up on my phone, I thought for sure that I was going to go out in the bathroom, Elvis Presely style. Was this my punishment for being so vain?
A well-known compound found in green tea is called EGCG (which stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate). EGCG is associated with enhanced metabolic activities that may prevent weight gain or assist with weight maintenance. Some of the ways that EGCG seems to work is by boosting thermogenesis (the body producing heat by using energy) and suppressing appetite, although not every study has found evidence that these effects are substantial.
Tea culture of Korea was actively suppressed by the Japanese during the Japanese forced occupation period (1910‒1945), and the subsequent Korean War (1950‒1953) made it even harder for the Korean tea tradition to survive. The restoration of the Korean way of tea began in the 1970s, around Dasolsa. Commercial production of green tea in South Korea only began in the 1970s,. By 2012 the industry was producing 20% as much tea as Taiwan and 3.5% as much as Japan. Green tea is not as popular as coffee or other types of Korean teas in modern South Korea. The annual consumption per capita of green tea in South Korea in 2016 was 0.16 kg (0.35 lb), compared to 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) coffee. Recently however, as the coffee market reached saturation point, South Korean tea production doubled during 2010‒2014, as did tea imports during 2009-2015, despite very high tariff rate (513.6% for green tea, compared to 40% for black tea, 8% for processed/roasted coffee, and 2% for raw coffee beans).