What you need to know about matcha tea

Matcha seems to be everywhere these days — in lattes, cakes, smoothies and even beauty products. If you want to try it at home, finding the best matcha teas helps ensure a good experience, because low-quality matcha can taste muddy and bitter. 

Learning more about matcha and how to prepare it makes purchasing quality tea more straightforward. Whether you want to whisk it in a bowl the traditional way or add it to your morning smoothies, you’ll soon find the right option to meet your needs. 

What is matcha tea? 

Matcha tea is a type of green tea made from the young leaves of the tea plant. These leaves are shaded while growing, which slightly changes the chemical makeup and results in a sweeter flavor. 

Once dried, these leaves are ground into a powder to make a fine paste that you mix with water to make tea. Because you drink the ground leaves, rather than just steeping them in water and straining them out, matcha packs an intense caffeine punch, on par with a strong cup of coffee. However, due to the presence of an amino acid compound called L-theanine, it makes you feel alert yet relaxed, without the caffeine jitters. 

What does matcha taste like? 

Matcha has a complex, earthy and grassy flavor, with a hint of nuttiness and sweetness with a savory umami endnote. The best way to discover what matcha tastes like is to try it. While some people long how it tastes, others aren’t keen and some find it an acquired taste. 

How to find quality matcha

You’ll come across plenty of inferior matcha, so it’s important to learn how to tell what’s good and what’s not. First off, ignore any claims such as “premium” or “ceremonial grade” as these have no legal definition. It doesn’t mean matcha with these labels is bad, but they don’t mean that it’s good, either, so look at other factors instead. 

The following can all be indicators of quality matcha but aren’t guarantees. Matcha with at least a couple of these features is likely to be of good quality. You should also consider the price and be suspicious of cheap matcha. 

  • Grown in Japan: Matcha sourced from Japan is much more likely to be grown in adherence to traditional growing and harvesting techniques. Anything grown outside of Japan is likely to be powdered green tea, rather than true matcha. 
  • Stone-ground: Traditionally, green tea leaves are stone ground to turn them into powder and quality matcha sticks to this technique. Steel-ground matcha is subjected to more heat from friction and loses some important compounds, which affects the overall quality.
  • First-harvest: Matcha made using leaves from the first harvest has a mellower and richer flavor than second-harvest matcha. If you intend to drink matcha made with just water, always opt for first-harvest, while second-harvest is fine for baking and matcha lattes. 

How to prepare matcha tea the traditional way

Sift matcha into a tea bowl

Measure 1 teaspoon of matcha powder into a tea bowl to make a thin tea or 2 teaspoons to make a thick “koicha” tea. You can use a small fine mesh strainer to sift out any lumps, but this isn’t an essential step. 

Add water

For thin matcha, add two ounces of hot water, just off the boil. Or, for thick matcha, add just one ounce. 

Whisk

Using a tea whisk, vigorously mix the matcha powder and water together in a zigzag or M-shaped motion. 

Drink

Once the powder and water are fully combined and free from lumps, it’s ready to drink. 

How to prepare matcha tea the simple way

Mix matcha and water

Measure 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha powder into a mug. If you’re not yet sure how strong you like your matcha, you’ll need to experiment. Add a few drops of near-boiling water and mix with a teaspoon to form a thick paste. 

Add more water

Add around six ounces of near-boiling water to the paste and stir well to combine. 

Drink

You can now enjoy your matcha tea while it’s still hot. 

Other ways to consume matcha

If you’re not sure about regular matcha tea or simply want more ways to enjoy matcha, these are some other ways to consume it. 

  • Lattes: Matcha lattes are made from matcha powder mixed with hot dairy or nondairy milk and usually with sugar or another sweetener added. 
  • Smoothies: You can add a teaspoon or two of matcha powder to a smoothie for a caffeine boost. 
  • Baked goods: Matcha works well in cakes, cookies, frosting and more. 

Best matcha teas

Wild Matcha Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder.jpg

Wild Matcha Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder

Shade-grown according to Japanese matcha practices and stone-ground to preserve compounds and nutrients, this is a quality option. It’s made in small batches using tea grown on just a single-family farm in Japan. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Jade Leaf Organic Teahouse Edition Matcha Powder

Jade Leaf Organic Teahouse Edition Matcha Powder

This matcha is made from nothing but shade-grown, first-harvest Japanese green tea leaves. It has a rich yet mellow flavor profile and a silky smooth texture. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

FGO Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder

FGO Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder 

Made using Japanese shade-grown organic tea leaves, this is a solid choice for baking and making lattes. However, the flavor isn’t delicate enough for making traditional tea.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Naoki Matcha Superior Ceremonial Blend

Naoki Matcha Superior Ceremonial Blend

The tea leaves used to make this powder are grown in Uji in Kyoto, using traditional matcha methods. It’s sweet and mellow without much bitterness, making it great for people new to this tea.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Micro Ingredients Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder

Micro Ingredients Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder

Not only is this tea USDA certified, it’s safety tested to make sure it’s free from heavy metals. While it’s made from first-harvest leaves, it’s only culinary grade, so it’s best for baking, lattes and smoothies. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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