10 Difference between Matcha and Green Tea

The Difference between Matcha and Green Tea is easy to see just by looking at the two drinks. Matcha is bright green, opaque and often has a foam on top. A normal green tea on the other hand is more yellow and translucent. In this article however, we want to dive deeper and explore more differences between these two teas.  Let’s dive in and explore every difference between green tea and ceremonial matcha

 

Green Tea in a jar

What is Green Tea?

Green tea has a very specific definition and that is that it is made from the unoxidized leaves of the camelia sinensis plant. When the tea leaves are picked, they will begin to oxidize naturally and turn into a black tea.If the producer wants to produce a green tea, he will have to apply heat to the leaves in order to stop the oxidation process. In China, it is more common to apply the heat through the use of pan firing and in Japan it is more common to use steam, which locks in more of the vegetal flavors of the leaf.

 

matcha powder

What is Matcha?

When exploring the difference between Matcha and Green Tea it is important to clarify that matcha actually is a type of green tea. So we are really talking about the differences between matcha and normal green tea. 

Matcha is essentially made from powdered tea leaves, and through that small difference comes so many other differences. In the next section, we will try to cover every difference between Matcha and Green Tea.

 

Difference between Green Tea and Matcha

#1 Processing

When you grind a tea leaf into a powder, you really concentrate the flavor. All of the bitterness is magnified, so it is really important to use the best leaves possible. This is the a key difference between green tea and matcha, as premium matcha can only be made from the fresh sprouts of the tea plant. The tea plants are shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest to maximize their flavor even further and then the leaves need to have their stems removed. All this makes matcha more difficult to produce.

#2 Taste

If you have ever drinken a cup of matcha tea you will know that the biggest difference between Matcha and Green Tea is the taste. As mentioned before, when tea leaves are ground into powder, the flavor is really magnified. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste preference. Some people prefer the subtlety and sweetness of a normal green tea like sencha. Others prefer the strong, full-bodied flavor of a matcha tea. Whatever you prefer, it is difficult to ignore that these two teas taste very different!

 

Preparation of matcha

#3 Brewing & Preparation

Brewing and preparation is an important difference between green tea and matcha. The fact that matcha comes in a powder means that the preparation is entirely different. While normal green teas are brewed in a teapot, matcha is mixed directly into water. This means that you don’t need to worry quite as much about brewing time or temperature. 

When preparing matcha, you still will want some teaware. The chasen matcha whisk is the most important tool to get. This makes it easy to whisk up smooth and foamy bowls of matcha tea. You may also want to get the chawan matcha bowl. This bowl is the best tool to prepare and drink the matcha tea, and it is even used in the Japanese tea ceremony!

 

#4 Nutrition

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 green tea and matcha with regards to health benefits. As we will discuss later 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!

Antioxidants

Matcha has more antioxidants than a normal green tea. While the difference between green tea and 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. 

Tannins

When people use the word “tannins” with regard to tea, they are normally referring to the catechins. Catechins are responsible for the bitter or sour taste of a green tea. When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it converts theanine into catechins as a protection against the UV light. When the tea plant is cut off from sunlight, as it is with the production of matcha, this process is stopped and the tea leaf is able to retain more of its theanine

Amino Acids

Theanine is the main amino acid within the tea leaf. This is responsible for the sweet and savory flavors of a green tea. As we mentioned before, a big difference between Matcha and Green Tea is that matcha plants are shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest, in order to maximize the theanine content of the leaf. This not only creates a smoother and sweeter flavor, but it can also buffer some of the negative side effects of the caffeine, which we will discuss next.

Caffeine

One difference between Matcha and Green Tea 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 History

A little known difference between Matcha and Green Tea is the history. Matcha was the original way to consume green tea in Japan. This practice was brought over from China, where it was common to store tea in compressed bricks and grind it into a powder to mix with water. The Japanese monks that traveled to Japan to learn from the Chinese monks, found that this tea helped improve their concentration during long periods of meditation. The tea was later brought into Japan, and soon Japanese tea was being grown as early as the 1100’s. 

What we would consider a normal Japanese green tea would only emerge much later in the 1700’s. This means that for hundreds of years, matcha was the main way to consume tea in Japan. This is why matcha tea is used in the Japanese tea ceremony, as this was a tradition born in medieval Japan, many years before the invention of sencha.

#6 Cultivation

The cultivation is another difference between green tea and matcha. While some green teas like Gyokuro go through a similar shading and leaf selection process, the removal of the stems is a unique step that is only done to make matcha. These leaves are known as “Tencha” and they are one step away from becoming matcha. They simply need to be ground into a fine powder in a large stone mill.

 

matcha texture

#7 Texture

The texture difference between green tea and matcha is staggering. A premium matcha will be much heavier on the palate, with a smooth and rich consistency almost like milk.

A normal green tea like sencha on the other hand will have a much more watery consistency. The consistency of a sencha can still be thick and rich, but it won’t come close to a premium matcha. 

 

#8 Multiple Infusions

Not only is there a difference between green tea and matcha in terms of how the tea is prepared, but also there is a difference in how many times the tea can be prepared. Most high quality green teas can be infused 3-4 times. That means you can get multiple cups out of the same 5 grams of leaves. 

When you are preparing matcha, you consume the entire leaf all at once, so you will only get one bowl or cup of the tea. This can actually be a good thing, as you get to consume the tea all at once and don't have to wait a long time to extract everything.

#9 Price

A difference between green tea and matcha you might be familiar with is the price. A regular premium green tea can sell for 30 cents per gram, whereas it is difficult to find a high quality matcha for under $1 per gram. This has to do with a lot of different factors, but mostly the more labor intensive production process. For example, it takes a standard matcha mill an hour just to grind 50 grams of matcha powder. 

If you are looking for a matcha that is nice and smooth, without being expensive, we recommend the matcha tea Noike. This matcha is made from the Okumidori cultivar, so it shows less bitterness and it is grown right outside of Kyoto. Although it is quite inexpensive, it has a flavor that rivals matcha teas double its price!

 

tea with multiple infusion

#10 Versatility

One added difference between matcha and green tea is the versatility. Because matcha is a powder, it can be easily mixed into all sorts of different creations.

You may be familiar with matcha lattes or matcha shakes, but you can also use matcha powder to create ice cream, matcha cookies, matcha brownies and so much more!

This is almost impossible to do with leaf tea and one of the major benefits of matcha. 

 

Find the right Green Tea and Matcha

If you are looking to try some matcha tea, you can find it one our website nioteas.com. We meet with the farmers in person to tour the fields, oversee the production and of course test the teas. We have put together an assortment of our favorites. All of these teas are produce without pesticides, so you can enjoy them guilt free! You can try all 21 of these matcha teas at once with our matcha sampler

If you are interested in normal Japanese green teas, be sure to check out our assortment of sencha. This may be the most common type of green tea in Japan, but it is also the most diverse category, including bright green fukamushi sencha, smooth and sweet kabuse sencha and unshaded sencha as well. If you are new to tea and you just want to explore everything including matcha, be sure to check out our mega sampler, which includes 30 different kinds of teas sourced from all over Japan!

Final conclusion regarding the difference between green tea and matcha

It’s tempting to look for which green tea is better, matcha vs. sencha, but in reality they are both different. Finally, it comes down to your unique taste preference, so the best thing to do is just experience both types of teas and see which one you prefer. The most important part about journeying through the world of tea is to follow your tastes and keep trying teas you enjoy! Thank you all so much for reading our guide to the difference between green tea and matcha, we hope you found it helpful!

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