People ask green tea and matcha are the same thing? Green tea and matcha are both cultivated from Camellia sinensis plant but they have different flavors. There are also some differences in how leaves are cultivated, processed, and the form of consumption such as powder or whole leaves.
What is green tea?
Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves, but it does not go through the oxidation process unlike oolong teas and black teas. This shrub is originated in the southwest region of China. Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China is known for its origin of Camellia sinensis. It is not surprising that Yunnan province is identified as the birthplace of tea. Green tea is grown in the mountainous regions of East Asia.
Green tea comes from Camellia sinensis sinensis. Black tea comes from Camellia sinensis assamica. Green tea leaves are exposed to the sun until they are harvested. Harvested tea leaves are immediately processed through steaming, pan-firing, oven-drying, basket-firing, or sun-drying. These processes prevent oxidation from occurring. . Chinese green tea is pan-fried whereas Japanese green tea is steamed.
Different types of green tea vary based on growing conditions, production processing, and harvesting method. Tea type is also determined by the different parts of the tea plant being used to make tea. Harvesting time such as spring, summer, autumn, and winter also contributes to different tea names. Each type of green tea comes with its own flavor, aroma, and character.
The Word “Cha”
The word “Cha” means tea in Japanese. The Korean language also pronounces Cha meaning tea. The Chinese word Cha is this 茶.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is finely ground powder from green tea leaves. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies emphasize preparing, presenting, and drinking of hot matcha tea. The consumption of matcha powder is popular fused with drinks and foods such as green tea ice cream, tea lattes, soba noodles, etc.
Zen Monks and drinking matcha
Zen Monk Eisai Zenji studied in China and brought tea seeds to Kyoto, Japan from China. It is essential to know Zen Buddhism and its traditions to understand tea ceremonies and culture around it. Zen differs from other types of Buddhism. The Zen worships neither Buddha nor any images. It focuses on an individual’s enlightenment and inner spiritual experience. The basic concept of Zen is to find inner spirits. In order to accomplish this goal, monks must discipline his mind and work toward the goal. Zen’s philosophy applies to Japanese culture still today. The tea ceremony is infused into every aspect of Zen’s philosophy.
In the beginning, monks drank matcha to stay awake during long meditation. Later it evolved into rituals and tea ceremonies. Zen monks enjoyed the tea ceremony drinking matcha in an uncluttered and simple environment. They were able to settle into inner peace and spiritual mind through a simple, peaceful environment and repetition of actions to achieve an individual’s enlightenment. Eisai played a key role in introducing tea consumption to Samurai, the warrior class.
How matcha is made?
All matcha is made from shade-grown leaves. So what is shade-grown? Tea leaves are blocked from direct sunlight. That slows down the growth. At the same time, it enhances an increase in chlorophyll levels that help leaves turn a darker shade of the green. So this preparation starts several weeks before leaves are ready to be picked. By controlling the sun exposure, it causes the production of amino acids, Theanine. Theanine is the main component that provides an exotic taste of green tea.
When green tea leaves are left to dry and have not been ground, it is known as Tencha. After tencha leaves are stone-ground to fine, green powder, it turns to matcha.
As opposed to matcha, sencha is a green tea infusing whole tea leaves in hot water. Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan.
Matcha has different types of grades that indicate the quality of the powder. Flavor, oxidation, color, and texture are some factors to define quality. Higher grades use younger leaves for a delicate flavor.
Ceremonial grade – Highest quality. Use in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples.
Premium grade – High quality. Suitable for daily tea consumption.
Cooking/Culinary grade – Lower quality than Premium. Suitable for cooking and smoothies.
Some facts on green tea and matcha
The majority of green tea is produced in China while the most cultivation of matcha is from Japan.
Both Green tea and Matcha tea contain antioxidants that inhibit oxidation. Healthy cells could be damaged through a chemical reaction known as oxidation. Green tea and Matcha have been used in healing for thousands of years in ancient Chinese medicine. Later, it became a beverage.
Matcha contains a higher amount of antioxidants than green tea. It is due to the shade-grown methods and a process that entire leaves are ground into powder. So you are consuming entire nutrients in tea leaves. On the other hand, when you drink green tea, leaves are steeped into hot water, later those leaves are removed. So all those nutrients are not absorbed by the liquid. It goes hand in hand when you ask for caffeine. As you guessed, matcha contains higher caffeine than green tea.
Grinding the leaves is a labor-intense process. It is stone-ground by specially designed stone mills. If the grinding is too fast, millstones become too warm and that would degrade the quality of matcha. It requires slow grinding to keep the millstones cool temperature.
The temperature of water for matcha is just below the boiling point recommended 158-185 degrees Fahrenheit while green tea is often boiled to 185-200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drinking 2 -3 cups of green tea a day is suitable. Avoid drinking at night due to caffeine, it could interrupt your sleep.
Matcha is known for its vibrant green color while regular green tea has brownish-green. Its vibrant green color indicates that matcha contains a higher amount of chlorophyll than green tea.
Matcha has a rich flavor and velvety texture.
You will enjoy green tea and matcha no matter what either powder or leaves.
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