Matcha vs Green Tea: Understanding the Differences

Matcha vs. Green Tea: What Is the Difference?


Curious about the difference between matcha green tea powder and green tea? Although these two beverages share several commonalities—such as the fact that they are both derived from the Camellia sinensis plant—they are indeed two distinct beverages. 

Matcha and green tea have different flavor profiles, cultivation and preparation methods, and even health benefits. Many tea drinkers enjoy both green tea and matcha tea, while others have a preference between the two. Discover the differences between matcha powder and green tea, and learn which may best suit your needs.

Flavor of Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

Both green tea and matcha powder may be described as having a grassy, earthy, or vegetal taste. However, the similarities end there. 

Green tea is light, delicate and fresh. Depending on how it has been processed and any herbs or botanicals that have been added, green tea may taste floral, fruity, or nutty. It might feature notes of honey, jasmine, peach, citrus, ginger or other aromas.

Matcha tends to have a richer, more intense flavor. It is often blended with milk and sweetener to create matcha lattes, so many tea drinkers associate matcha with a frothy, velvety texture and sweet taste.

History of Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

Green tea and matcha powder share similar origin stories. Both teas are cultivated from the Camellia sinensis plant, which can be traced back nearly 5,000 years to ancient China when it was discovered by Emperor Shen Nung.

For hundreds of years green tea was considered a precious medicine that was only available to the most elite members of society. Around 800 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty, a Chinese man named Lu Yu published a book titled The Classic of Tea. This was the first publication documenting the art and culture of green tea in China. 

During the Song Dynasty, Buddhist monks began crushing green tea leaves into a rough powder and blending it with hot water in a bowl. The Zen monk Eisai brought this practice to Japan, where it was later adopted by Samurai warriors. Their pre-battle tea traditions eventually evolved into what is now known as the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Cultivation of Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

Although matcha tea and green tea are both derived from the same plant, they are cultivated and processed differently. Up to 80% of the world’s green tea comes from China, while most matcha is cultivated in Japan.

In general, green tea is grown in the sun and matcha is shade-grown during the final weeks before harvest. The shade increases chlorophyll levels in the tea leaves and turns them darker.

Green tea may be processed using either artisanal methods (sun-drying, basket-firing, or pan-firing) or modern methods (oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming). This banishes any bitter components and preserves the tea’s natural flavors.

Matcha green tea leaves are destemmed and deveined and then steamed shortly after harvest to halt oxidation. This gives matcha its brilliant emerald color. Finally, the leaves are stone-ground into a fine, bright green powder.

Preparation of Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

Matcha green tea is prepared by mixing roughly one teaspoon of matcha powder with hot water. Traditionally, a bamboo whisk is used to remove any clumps and blend the mixture into a uniform consistency. You may also use an electric frother to whisk the matcha. To make a matcha green tea latte, simply add steamed milk and your preferred sweetener.

Comparatively, steeping green tea is quite simple. Fill a kettle with fresh, cold, filtered water and heat to just short of boiling. Pour the hot water over the tea bag or tea leaves, and steep according to package instructions—usually around one to three minutes. Remove the tea bag or diffuser and enjoy sip by sip.

Health Benefits of Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

The Camellia sinensis plant is known for its myriad wellness benefits,* so matcha tea and green tea share many similarities in this regard. However, due to their unique cultivation, processing, and preparation methods, the two teas boast slightly different health benefits.

Both types of tea contain antioxidants, polyphenols, and a unique amino acid called L-theanine. Matcha powder and green tea have been used in traditional healing for thousands of years, and today they are commonly used during cleanses and detoxes.

When preparing green tea, the leaves are steeped in hot water to allow the essence of the tea to be absorbed by the liquid. When the leaves are removed from the water, some of the nutrients are removed as well. With matcha, the ground tea leaves are fully ingested. This means all of the nutrients—and caffeine content—is consumed.

Additionally, matcha green tea may contain anywhere from three to ten times the quantity of antioxidants contained in standard green tea. It is also packed with catechin or EGCg, one of the most powerful types of antioxidants. This is largely due to the shade-grown cultivation and processing methods.

Green tea contains roughly half the caffeine content of black tea, and a quarter the caffeine of coffee. Matcha green tea contains slightly more caffeine—around half the amount per cup in comparison to coffee. 

Matcha powder and green tea have much in common, but due to differences in cultivation, processing, and preparation, each variety offers its own unique flavor profile and health benefits. We recommend trying both types of tea to learn your preferences.

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