Matcha green tea is a finely ground powder made from specially grown and ground green tea leaves that originate in Japan. Matcha green tea is specifically made from the younger tea leaves from the green tea plant that is grown on green tea bushes that are kept under partial shade.
The shade works to increase the chlorophyll, or nutrient that makes the leaves of green tea so especially green, content in the green tea leaves. This makes them extra bright and nutritious, as well as contributing to their bitter and grassy flavor.
Matcha green tea leaves are picked by hand and separated from their stems and veins by hand as well.
Traditionally, matcha green tea leaves are ground using granite stones but there are much more modern ways now, although grinding still takes about an hour if done properly and can be done in the dark to protect nutrients.
A mortar and pestle is a very common way of grinding powder, although matcha green tea powder can easily be bought pre-ground.
It is used in a variety of recipes such as ice cream, smoothies, icing, doughnuts, and more but the easiest and most common form is in teas, both hot and iced. Matcha green tea can also be made into other drinks such as lattes.
The taste of matcha green tea can be off-putting to some and tea drinkers as the leaves that matcha green tea is made from have high chlorophyll levels. The same nutrient that makes matcha green tea leaves so bright green also creates a vegetable-like, bitter, and almost grassy taste.
Green tea is a great beverage not just to cool down or warm up; it also has many documented health benefits. Green tea is made simply by putting green tea leaves, often in a tea bag although some make loose-leaf tea, in boiling water and adding typical additives for tea, such as honey or milk.
Matcha tea has the added elements of powder and whisking.
Some call it the healthiest drink. Green tea is full of an antioxidant called catechin that fights off cell damage. Green tea improves blood flow, lowers cholesterol, and has been shown to prevent a variety of heart-related issues. It also helps with your brain and weight loss.
While green tea sounds amazing on its own, matcha green tea has even more benefits. When you drink normal green tea, you discard the tea bag and therefore the green tea leaves once your tea is made.
With matcha green tea, the powder is consumed so you get the entire leaf! As a result, you get an extra dose of the antioxidants that lower blood pressure, lower heart disease risk, and boost metabolism.
Matcha green tea is also extra high in a catechin called EGCG, or epigallocatchin gallate. Epigallocatchin can prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer as well as help with weight loss.
Matcha green tea contains caffeine but less so than black tea or coffee; matcha green tea has more caffeine than regularly brewed green tea (but it also has more EGCG at 17 mg to 109 mg per serving!).
History of Matcha
While matcha green tea and matcha flavoring may seem like a new trendy thing, matcha has been around for almost a thousand years. Matcha green tea can be traced all the way back to when China was controlled by dynasties and Japan was under the rule of Shoguns.
Matcha can specifically be pinned down to the Tang Dynasty of the 7th to 10th centuries in China. During the Tang Dynasty, people would steam tea leaves and form them into bricks that were then roasted and pulverized into a powder that was mixed with water and salt.
The Song Dynasty that followed from the 10th to the 13th centuries is the dynasty that actually made matcha green tea popular.
A Japanese Buddhist monk named Eisai studied in China before returning to Japan with tea seeds and the knowledge of how to turn them to powdered matcha green tea!
Matcha went on to become a status symbol as it was a luxury grown in small quantities. The Japanese also went on to create a method of growing the matcha green tea seeds that maximizes all of the health benefits.
Matcha is also known for being used in the Ritual of Matcha. From the 1500s, a Zen student named Murata Juko used fragments of pillars of the tea ceremony to create a formal ritual that involved the cultivation and consumption of matcha green tea as well as a ceremony.
Zen Master Sen no Rikyu is formally responsible for popularizing the tea ceremony ritual that Juko conceived of with matcha green tea.
The matcha green tea ceremony is now considered a deeply historical and widely known part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. There are four basic principles of the Japanese Tea Ceremony:
How to Make Matcha Green Tea
Before you can sweeten your matcha green tea, you have to know how to prepare your matcha green tea. Matcha green tea has a short shelf life at only two months, so it is best to buy in small quantities that are stored in the fridge for maximum freshness (and color).
If you plan on cooking with matcha green tea often, you may want to buy the matcha green tea-specific bamboo whisk called a chasen. It is specifically made to eliminate matcha green tea clumps while creating a nice aesthetic layer of foam.
A spoon or fork will not work to break up matcha green tea, although a normal whisk will.
- The first thing you will notice about matcha green tea is that it clumps very easily. Because of this, you should sift a quarter of a teaspoon (for one serving) carefully into a small bowl or mug before you add any liquids to avoid a lumpy drink.
- Next, add just two ounces of hot water to the bowl or mug with the dry matcha green tea powder.
- Using a whisk, energetically whisk from side to side, back and forth, and/or in a zigzag pattern in order to evenly disperse the matcha green tea powder and create the foam layer. If you whisk in a circular motion, similar to scrambling eggs, your matcha green tea will not foam.
- Add more hot water, or create a latte using steamed milk! Use six ounces of your liquid of choice.
- Add whatever sweetener you have chosen until it is sufficiently sweet for your taste.
- And lastly, whisk once more until the foam is created.
How to Sweeten Matcha Green Tea
Green tea can have a bit of a bitter, grassy taste to it. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to sweeten matcha green tea without shelling out cash on a sugar-filled drink from an overpriced commercial chain.
When adding your own sweetener, it is usually best to buy a matcha green tea that has no added sugar.
- Matcha Green Tea With Added Sugar: One easy fix to too-bitter matcha green tea is to buy matcha green tea that already has sugar added to it! These flavors are sure to be less bitter and more sweet than sugar-free alternatives.
- Honey: Honey is a fantastic addition to most teas but works especially well as a sweetener for matcha green tea.
- Table Sugar: This is perhaps the easiest way to sweeten your matcha green tea — with table sugar. Table sugar is a normal additive used in most teas and coffees and is sure to make your matcha green tea sweeter. Just be careful not to use too much!
- Brown Sugar: Brown sugar is an amazing addition to matcha green tea as not only does it make it sweeter but it adds a deep caramel and toffee-like flavor. It blends well with both chocolate and fruity flavors, and works perfectly with matcha green tea.
- Maple Syrup: This is an ingredient native to Canada and Canadians swear by putting maple syrup in with matcha green tea. The maple syrup effectively alters the taste of matcha green tea, but not too much. It is 260 calories per 100g serving but it is super affordable, available, and delicious.
- Stevia: Stevia is an extremely common sugar alternative that you have likely heard of before. It is notable as it is zero calories and natural. As a subtle and slightly bitter flavor itself, stevia simply works to amply matcha green tea’s natural flavor without drowning it out.
- Soy Milk: Soy milk is another subtle sweetener. However, it is high in protein and contains vitamin B-12 (a mood elevator), vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. It sometimes has a vegetable-like taste as it is a plant-based product but there are many flavored options (such as vanilla) that are sweeter and work great with matcha green tea!
- Oat Milk: Oat milk tastes very similar to cow’s milk, but is sweeter than it and most other non-dairy alternative milks. It does have an oat-like aftertaste, as can be expected, but pairs surprisingly well with matcha green tea.
- Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is a unique sweetener for its nutty and tropical flavor. Light coconut is a great alternative with a less intense flavor and a healthier high water volume.
- Almond Milk: Almond milk is similar to soy milk in that it has a subtle sweetness and many flavors (again, vanilla works well!). However, almond milk has its own nutty taste with less planty undertones than soy milk.
- Cashew Milk: Cashew milk is less nutty than almond milk and arguably less intense. It also tends to be a little bit thicker. It has a uniquely sweet and salty flavor profile.
- Macadamia Nut Milk: Macadamia nut milk has a thick, rich, and buttery flavor with a hint of nut. It has a stronger taste than almond milk and is surprisingly smooth.
- Coconut Sugar: Coconut sugar, or coconut crystals, is not a super common additive but can mix well with matcha green tea because of the subtle sweetness. It tastes similar to brown sugar and has a taste not unlike caramel.
- Apple Honey: Apple honey is a very common additive among vegan recipes. Apple honey is super easy to make and the fruitiness pairs well with matcha green tea.
- Agave Syrup: Agave is a very, very sweet sweetener. However, it is a super-common additive to matcha green tea! Just know that a little may go a long way. You can also try a variety of flavors, with darker syrups being stronger with a caramel flavor and lighter flavors with a less intense, more neutral flavor.
- Medjool Dates: This is an especially unique item, but Medjool dates have a super-strong caramel flavor that blends great with matcha green tea. It has a lot of calories but is also packed with antioxidants and helps with digestion. They can be made into date syrup or blended into a more subtle sweetener.
- Cane Sugar: Cane sugar is a less processed, more raw version of table sugar. It has less sugar per serving so is healthier, but maintains a sweet taste. It is considered an especially sweet sugar and even has a comforting fruity aroma.
- Beet Sugar: Beet sugar is distinct in its earthy, oxidized aroma. Beet sugar is also said to have a somewhat burnt aftertaste, although this is said to be faint.
- Date Sugar: Date sugar has a flavor as surprising as the product is unique. This sugar tastes especially like butterscotch! It is similar to medjool dates in the antioxidant and digestive aid properties it possesses. It is a great way to spice up matcha green tea and add an even sweeter flavor to the often bitter drink.
- Monk Fruit: Monk fruit is a fairly widely available sweetener that boasts zero calories, zero sugar, and zero carbs. Still, monk fruit is especially strong in its sweet, sometimes too sweet, flavor. Still, it packs antioxidants too. While it is available, it may take searching through a few stores before you can find it.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.