Matcha vs. Green Tea: What's the Difference?

Ever wondered what the difference is between matcha and green tea? While closely related, matcha and green tea are different beverages, with different preparation methods and histories stretching back hundreds of years. In essence, green tea is a loose leaf tea that is prepared by infusing the leaves, while matcha is a powdered green tea prepared by whisking matcha powder together with hot water.

Green tea vs. matcha

Green tea is:

  • Originally from China, and now grown in countries including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam
  • Prepared using whole leaves from the camellia sinensis plant
  • Leaves are pan-fired or steamed to halt oxidation
  • Infused in a pot or cup
  • Low in caffeine
  • High in antioxidants
  • Different green teas can have different flavors, from light and fruity to rich and grassy

Matcha is:

  • Made in Japan
  • Produced from shade-grown tea leaves
  • Leaves are steamed and then ground into a fine powder
  • Whisked in a bowl with hot water, or added to smoothies, lattes, and baked goods
  • High in caffeine
  • High in antioxidants
  • Matcha has a smooth, rich flavor with notes of umami and just a hint of bitterness

Differences between matcha and green tea

While green tea and matcha share many similarities, there are some important differences between these two types of tea. These include:

1. Country of origin

While both green tea and matcha are produced from the same plant, they are often associated with different countries of origin. Matcha is produced primarily in Japan, and is a significant part of Japanese culture and cuisine. Green tea is grown in China, Japan, and other Asian countries like Vietnam. The tea plant itself originated in China in the foothills of the Himalayas, and has since spread throughout the region.

2. Processing method

Matcha and green tea also differ in terms of their processing method. Green tea is harvested from the camellia sinensis tea plant, after which the leaves are either steamed or pan-fired in order to halt oxidation. Japanese green teas tend to be steamed, while Chinese green teas tend to be pan-fired. The tea leaves are then shaped, dried, and packaged. Matcha has many of the same initial processing stages as green tea - the leaves are harvested and then steamed to halt oxidation. The tea leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. The final consistency of the leaves (whole leaves vs. fine powder) is one of the main differences between matcha and green tea.

3. Caffeine content

All teas made from the camellia sinensis plant contain caffeine. In general, green tea contains somewhat less caffeine than other types of tea, containing about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Matcha, on the other hand, is very high in caffeine, containing almost as much caffeine as coffee per cup. This is because when you drink matcha you’re consuming the whole tea leaf, so the caffeine naturally present in tea is much more concentrated. The tea plants used to produce matcha also undergo a shading process prior to harvest that further increases the caffeine level.

4. Antioxidant content

While both green tea and matcha are extremely high in antioxidants, matcha contains more antioxidants than green tea for the same reason that it contains more caffeine. Because matcha is a much more concentrated form of green tea, the antioxidant levels are correspondingly higher.

5. Flavor

Matcha and green tea are similar, but have slightly different flavors. Green tea has a broader range of different flavor possibilities, and can be mellow, floral, nutty, vegetal, and more. Matcha is best described as having a much more concentrated green tea flavor, with an oceanic taste and sweet and slightly bitter notes.

What is green tea?

Green tea is a drink produced from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. These leaves are usually either pan-fired or steamed in order to halt the oxidation process and preserve the bright green color and light, grassy character of the tea. These leaves are then infused in hot water in order to prepare the tea. Green tea orginated in China, and is now cultivated in many other Asian countries, including Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. There are many different kinds of green tea produced from different varietals of the tea plant.

The history of green tea

Tea has a rich history in China stretching back centuries. While both myth and archeological research indicate that tea may have been consumed in China as far back as three thousand years ago, its status as a popular staple for both elites and common people arose over the course of hundreds of years. By the seventh century Tang dynasty, however, green tea had become an integral part of Chinese life, and specialized cultivation methods, ceremonial preparations, and cultural significance had developed around tea. Chinese green teas are typically pan-fired soon after they are harvested, which halts oxidation.

Around the sixth century, tea consumption and production spread from China to Japan, as well as to other neighboring countries such as Korea and Vietnam. Today, green tea is often associated with Japan just as much as with China. Unlike Chinese green teas, Japanese greens are steamed rather than pan-fired, resulting in a more vibrant green color and a vegetal, umami-packed flavor.

How to prepare green tea

Preparation methods for green tea vary depending on the type of tea you’re brewing. In general, green teas are brewed at a much lower temperature than other types of tea, with a recommended water temperature of 140-175 degrees. Green teas are also typically infused for a shorter period of time than other types of tea, with a recommended steeping time of anywhere from 1-4 minutes depending on the tea.

If you’ve had green tea before and found it bitter or overly strong, you’re definitely not along. Because green tea is more delicate than other types of tea, it can become burnt or bitter if you steep it for too long or use water that’s too hot. Our guide to making green tea taste good can help ensure you get a tasty, flavorful cup of green tea.

Our green teas

We carry a variety of both classic and flavored green teas. Our Chinese green teas include Dragon Well, Chun Mee, and Gunpowder, while our Japanese green teas include Gyokuro, Kabusecha, Sencha, and more. We also offer a large selection of flavored green teas, from classics like Moroccan Mint and Jasmine Yin Cloud to creative blends like Winter Forest and Sunrise Melody.

What is matcha?

Matcha, meanwhile, is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. Like some Japanese green teas, matcha is shade-grown for the last few weeks leading up to the harvest, resulting in a bright green leaf with a rich, slightly sweet flavor. Matcha is stone-ground into a bright green powder that can be consumed with water or added to flavored drinks and baked goods. Matcha is a popular drink Japan, where there is a detailed tea ceremony surrounding the practice of consuming matcha. When prepared traditionally, matcha powder is whisked with hot water in order to form a frothy, savory beverage that can be drunk straight from the bowl.

The history of matcha

Powdered green tea was first produced in China during the Tang Dynasty. In the 12th century, Chinese monks brought both Buddhism and matcha to Japan. The ritualized use of matcha by Japanese monks grew quickly, and by the 15th century, its popularity had spread to Japan’s upper classes. Over centuries, an intricate tea ceremony surrounding matcha was developed. Today, matcha is primarily associated with Japan, and has a rich history and cultural significance within the country.

How to prepare matcha

Matcha is traditionally prepared using a whisk, scoop, sifter, matcha bowl, and hot water heated to approximately 175 degrees. First, scoop the matcha powder into a sifter (we recommend about two scoops, or one teaspoon, of matcha powder per bowl.) Sift the powder into the bowl, then add a small amount of hot water and whisk until smooth. Then add up to 6 ounces of water, and whisk until frothy. Preparing matcha is largely a matter of personal taste, so feel free to play around with these ratios to figure out what works best for you!

If you’re new to matcha and not sure where to begin, our matcha starter kit a great introduction to the world of matcha. It contains everything you need to make matcha at home, including a tin of ceremonial grade matcha and a matcha bowl, whisk, scoop, spoon, sifter, and whisk holder.

Our matcha

We carry a variety of different kinds of matcha, including high-quality ceremonial grade matcha. We also offer culinary grade matcha, which can be added to smoothies, lattes, and baked goods, as well as matcha powder that you can take with you on the go! If you’re interested in making matcha at home, we also carry all the matcha accessories you’ll need to whisk up the perfect bowl, including whisks, sifters, scoops, and more.

FAQs about matcha and green tea

Does matcha taste like green tea?

Matcha tastes similar to green tea, but more concentrated. This is because you’re consuming the whole tea leaf when you drink matcha, while you’re only consuming an infusion when you drink green tea.

Is green tea powder matcha?

Matcha is just powdered green tea. In fact, matcha is often used to provide the “green tea” flavor in baked goods and other concoctions like green tea lattes, green tea ice cream, and green tea cakes.

How long should you steep green tea?

While steep time varies depending on the particular type of tea, you should generally steep green tea for about one to two minutes.

What temperature should you use to prepare green tea and matcha?

You should use a water temperature of approximately 175 degrees for both green tea and matcha. Some specialty teas, like Gyokuro and Kabusecha, have even lower recommended water temps.

What’s the difference between green tea and black tea?

Green tea and black tea are two different types of tea made from the camellia sinensis plant. Green tea tends to be lighter and lower in caffeine, while black tea tends to be more robust and higher in caffeine. Green tea leaves are also pan fired or steamed to halt the oxidation process, while black tea leaves are fully oxidized.

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