Sencha vs matcha is a comparison that is often made, but the two teas are actually very different.
In this article we are going to go through 6 major differences between these two teas.
We’ll take a look at how the teas are produced and prepared to find all the differences between Matcha vs Sencha. Without further ado, let’s get started! 🍵🍃🇯🇵
Matcha vs Sencha: detailed comparison video
6 Main differences between Matcha vs Sencha
#1 Powder vs Loose leaf tea
The most obvious difference between matcha vs sencha is that matcha is in a powdered form and sencha is in a loose leaf form.
This affects just about every aspect of the two teas, from the production to the health benefits and the flavor.
Later we will discuss the difference in health benefits between these two teas but suffice to say that matcha is much more potent than sencha.
You are consuming the entire leaf compared to just an infusion, so you will be getting a heavier load of nutrients in matcha vs sencha.
The fact that the tea is in powdered form also affects the flavor and how the tea is produced, which we will also discuss later.
When you powder the tea leaf, you concentrate the flavor and make it much more bitter.
If you were to make sencha powder for example, it would be extremely bitter. There are special steps involved in the production of matcha to make it taste naturally smooth as a powder, all of which we will cover.
#2 Growing of sencha vs matcha
The growing process of Matcha and Sencha provides a lot of different decisions for the farmer to make.
We get asked about this process quite a lot, so we thought we’d put together a list to talk about all the different growing methods.
If you're interested, we invite you to read the article 👉 How is tea made? Complete explanation by Tea Experts.
The choice of tea plant cultivar determines the flavors and resilience of the leaves. The Yabukita cultivar is commonly used in Japan for Sencha tea due to its broad spectrum of flavors and frost resistance. However, for a lighter or sweeter tea, more rare cultivars like Saemidori or Okumidori are preferred.
Matcha, known for its smooth and creamy flavors, relies on a wider range of cultivars, such as Okumidori, Gokou, and Saemidori, as the Yabukita cultivar is less suited for achieving these desired qualities.
Delicate cultivars require more labor and may yield slightly less, necessitating higher prices to make their cultivation economically viable.
In addition to choosing the cultivar, farmers may choose to shade the tea plants before harvesting to enhance specific characteristics. This creates another difference between matcha vs sencha.
Shaded teas like Kabuse Sencha, Gyokuro, and Matcha are known for their intense sweet and umami flavors, as shading retains higher levels of chlorophyll, caffeine, and theanine.
Conversely, leaving the plants unshaded results in a drier and slightly more bitter Sencha. Premium matcha always has to be shaded whereas most sencha is unshaded, a major difference between sencha vs matcha.
#3 Harvesting and Processing
Most of the differences between matcha vs sencha come from the production process. Both teas follow the same basic process, but with a few key differences. Let's walk through the sencha vs matcha production process to see what makes these teas different.
In Japan, the tea plants are typically harvested for the first time in late April or early May.
These young and light green leaves on the top of the tea plant are the sweetest and most desirable for both sencha and matcha.
Both matcha and sencha are made using the top 3 sprouts of the tea plant, creating another similarity between matcha vs sencha
Once the leaves are picked, they are immediately processed.
Japanese green teas like matcha and sencha undergo steaming to preserve their vegetal flavors and prevent them from turning into black tea.
Sometime a longer steaming process is used for sencha to produce Fukamushi or deep-steamed sencha. Matcha would not be steamed for a longer time, marking another difference between sencha vs matcha.
Matcha has additional processing steps, including the removal of stems to maximize sweetness, and then the grinding of the remaining leaves into a fine powder using a granite mill.
This grinding process is crucial to achieve the unique texture and taste of matcha. This grinding process is only used to make matcha, making it the final difference in the production of sencha vs matcha.
#4 Health Benefits
When you drink a bowl of matcha tea, you are consuming the entire leaf. When you drink a cup of normal green tea, you are drinking just the water soluble components of the outer leaf.
This is a key difference between matcha vs sencha with regards to health benefits. As we have discussed earlier in this list, there are many things that matcha contains more of, due to the fact that you are drinking the entire leaf rater than an extraction. Matcha is essentially a superpowered green tea!
Matcha has more antioxidants than a normal green tea. While the difference between sencha vs matcha antioxidants isn’t 140 times like some sources suggest, it is likely closer to 5 times. If you think about the preparation of the tea, this really makes sense, as most of the leaves are left inside the teapot when you brew a normal cup of green tea.
Caffeine & L-Theanine
One difference between Matcha vs sencha that gets talked about a lot is the caffeine content. Caffeine is produced by the tea plant as a defense mechanism to protect itself against insects.
When the tea plant is under a lot of stress, like during the shading process, it produces more caffeine. In addition to this, because you are consuming the entire leaf, you are getting all the caffeine inside as well.
Even though matcha is a high caffeine tea, with about 68mg of caffeine per serving of premium matcha, you won’t feel the same jolt as you do with coffee. This is because the caffeine is also combined with theanine.
Theanine helps the body slow the absorption of caffeine, so rather than getting a quick jolt of energy and then a crash later on in the day, you may notice a long lasting calm alert feeling throughout the day.
#5 Matcha is more expensive than Sencha
A good ceremonial grade matcha sells for between $1-2 per gram whereas a premium sencha sells for between 30-50 cents per gram. So why is it that matcha is 3-4 times more expensive than sencha?
There are a number of different factors that make matcha more expensive than sencha, and most of them have to do with the longer production process.
The tea plant needs to be shaded for 3 weeks, whereas sencha can be unshaded or shaded for only one week.
The shading process can be very stressful for the plant, and reduce the total yield. Also setting up and maintaining the netting can require additional capital and manpower.
#6 Taste and Color
What does matcha taste like and look like? As we mentioned before, when you grind the tea leaf into a powder and mix it into water, it tastes completely different than a brewed tea.
Matcha is a much darker green color and it is opaque, whereas sencha tends to be a yellowish green color and is translucent.
The mouthfeel of sencha vs matcha also could not be more different.
Matcha is extremely thick, almost like milk or cream whereas sencha is more like a juice. This is because the concentration of tea leaf in the water is much higher.
Matcha also has much more of these steamed vegetable and seaweed notes compared to sencha.
Other differences in flavor
Of course the powdering doesn’t explain all the taste differences between sencha vs matcha.
As we mentioned before, if you took sencha powder and compared it to matcha, you would find a huge difference in taste.
The sencha powder would be very bitter and distasteful, whereas the matcha would be smooth and milky. This difference in taste comes down to the careful production of the matcha tea, which has been perfected over hundreds of years.
What's the difference between sencha vs matcha
Matcha was the original tea consumed in Japan, and is still the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
In the 1700’s sencha began to overtake matcha as the most popular tea in Japan, and this is where the discussion between matcha vs sencha first began. Many people were tired of the strict rules and principles, and wanted a simpler way to prepare tea.
Sencha is the most common type of green tea in Japan, and it can take on a wide variety of different forms.
Even though sencha is seen as a “basic” tea type, producing this tea is anything but simple.
It is made from tea leaves that are steamed, rolled and dried. The dried leaves are then infused into warm water to create sencha tea. It's prepared by infusing the processed whole tea leaves in hot water.
Whether you are new to sencha, or you have been drinking it for a long time, I’d love to invite you to read the article 👉 Everything You Need to Know About Sencha.You'll discover all the secret of this superior green tea.
Matcha vs Sencha History
Both Sencha and matcha have a long rich history. Matcha is actually the older of the two teas, but both have been enjoyed in Japan for hundreds of years. If you're interested in the history of Japanese tea, the article 👉 History of green tea in japan & Tea ceremony is made for you!
The consumption of powdered tea began in the Tang dynasty from the period of 618-907AD. During this time it was common to store tea in compressed bricks and then grind pieces of it into a bowl to prepare with hot water.
There are records of tea being consumed in Japan as early as the 700s AD. At the time, monks from Japan would go on pilgrimage trips to China to learn about buddhism from the Chinese monks.
They found that the tea helped them stay focused during long periods of meditation and eventually they brought some tea seeds over to plant on the temple grounds around the area that is now Kyoto.
In 1738, a farmer by the name Nagatani Soen came up with an important discovery. At the time, tea was prepared according to a strict set of rules and principles, just like you see in the Japanese tea ceremony. There was a desire for a more simplistic method of brewing tea, but this was a bit more complicated.
Nagatani Soen found that by steaming the tea leaves and rolling them, he could lock in the flavor until they were ready to be infused.
He could then prepare the tea leaves in a simple tea pot, and avoid the need for all the utensils required to prepare matcha. It was here that sencha tea was invented, which soon became the most popular type of tea in all of Japan.
Which one should you choose between sencha vs matcha?
The choice between sencha vs matcha can be a tough one.
We thought we’d try to make your decision a little bit easier by laying out a short buying guide for sencha and matcha as well as a short brewing guide for the two.
This way you know exactly what you’re getting into before making a decision!
Don't worry, whether you choose sencha or matcha, you will undoubtedly find something you like about the tea as they are both delicious!
Choosing the right sencha
Sencha is such a diverse category of green tea, but that means that there is a little something for everybody.
If you prefer these intense bold flavors, perhaps you may enjoy the Fukamushi-Sencha Murasaki.
With Sencha teas being as broad as they are, they are difficult to get tired of. There are so many different flavor profiles that can be explored all at once through the same tea.
Choosing the right matcha
When it comes to choosing a matcha tea, it all comes down to what you are planning on using the matcha for.
If you are going to preparing matcha plain, with just water, we recommend you check out some of our ceremonial matcha.
If you are more of a matcha latte fan, we have a great matcha green tea latte you can try.
This one is from Mr. Masuda, a talented farmer in Shizuoka. Even though this matcha is a bit more bitter, it is grown with love and care and without pesticides.
Whether you prefer to try matcha or sencha, we have a sampler for you! We offer both matcha samplers and loose leaf tea samplers that we have carefully curated through our travels around Japan.