Brewing tea from the world’s finest herbs is one of the best things you could do for your physical and even mental health, there’s no denying it. Whether you’re shopping for your favorite teas or you’re aiming at trying something new, you understandably want satisfying quality, you want your money to be well spent, rather than buying something that’s a far cry from what you expected.
When we speak of the world’s finest herbal teas cherished by many, we couldn’t help but think of matcha. If you want to know why namely matcha, we’ll give you more than one reason.
What is matcha?
Let’s start by explaining what matcha is. This is a specially grown and processed type of green tea, that’s finely ground into a powder form. The plants used for the making of this premium tea are shade grown for around 3 weeks prior to harvest, with the veins and stems being removed during processing. Matcha is so highly esteemed that in Japan (where the highest quality matcha actually originates from) the traditional Japanese tea ceremony revolves around the preparation, serving and consuming the beneficial drink.
Old traditions are, however, only one of the reasons why people like this tea so much. The other reason is the amazing reflection this herb has on your health. Matcha is known to be one of the most antioxidant-rich teas known to man, and an efficient anti-aging superfood for the zen monks for hundreds of years. Matcha’s antioxidant might is so great, that it is 6.2x stronger than goji’s, 7x stronger than dark chocolate’s, 17x greater than blueberries’, and 60.5x more than spinach’s. According to a study done in the University of Colorado in 2003, one cup of matcha has 137x more antioxidants regular green tea. The majority of these precious nutrients in matcha are catechins, and more specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is considered to be a strong anti-carcinogen.
Furthermore, matcha’s leaves contain good amounts of easily-assimilated dietary fiber. That’s why the plant helps you stabilize the blood pressure and promotes smooth stomach digestion.
Need your mind sharpened and flexible? Matcha is a real mind booster and can provide that for you! This high grade tea is brimming with the amino acid L-theanine (it has 5 times more theanine than mass produced green tea), which has psychoactive qualities because it generates alpha waves within the brain. Unlike beta waves that are induced by stress, alpha activity is known to relieve anxiety and stress, and promote a relaxed mind. Despite that matcha has a bit of caffeine in its nutritional profile, the abundance of L-theanine overshadows its effects. That means you won’t have those nerve jitters, but you will experience higher concentration and clarity.
Picking up from the mind-empowering properties of matcha, we naturally should also note the fact that it will make you brimming with energy. That’s why it’s ideal as a low caffeine coffee-substitute that can help you stay wide awake or charge you with power before your workout.
Another valuable property of matcha is its ability to be a natural detoxifier. By being grown in shade, matcha is richer in chlorophyll than most other green tea varieties. High chlorophyll content is what gives the tea’s vibrant green color, but it’s also what gives its detox effects, thanks to which the green tea can help you clean toxins and heavy metals out of your body.
Matcha has great cholesterol lowering qualities. It has been proven that individuals who drink this green tea daily have lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels. Another research has shown that men who consume matcha on a regular basis have 11% less chance of developing heart disease.
At last, but not least, matcha is a great immunity booster. That’s because besides the catechins that have antibiotic properties, matcha also contains calcium, potassium, iron, vitamins C, and A. Latest research suggests that the nutrients in this green tea may have the propensity to prohibit HIV attacks on human T-cells.
Well, that definitely has to be enough to list matcha among the most special superfoods in the world, right? So if you’re keen on trying this herbal bliss for yourself, you have to know how to rate the quality of matcha green tea for yourself, so you don’t end up disgruntled with your purchase.
Just because the package reads “A grade”, “ceremonial grade”, “ingredient grade” or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean that the matcha is strictly top quality, or all grades are equal. Normally, high quality matcha delivers smooth taste, much better mouth feel, and basically it’s less bitter. On the other hand, low quality matcha has a coarse and much bitter taste. We are going to give you a few tips on how to differentiate low quality matcha from high quality matcha.
Here are the criteria that could help you assess the quality of matcha when you want to get some for yourself. A good balance between all of them is what you should be aiming for, as every single one is of importance.
It’s reasonable to start by reading the region or country of origin of the product you’re buying. The popular belief says that most high quality green tea comes from Japan where it has been grown for nearly 900 years. There are a few regions that produce matcha, but there are two that have distinguishing matcha: the Uji city in Kyoto prefecture and Nishio city in Aichi prefecture. These two locations are considered responsible for around 80% of all matcha produced in Japan. Taiwan and China are also grow matcha, but green tea connoisseurs still prefer Japanese origin.
You probably wished this one wasn’t part of the list, but in the majority of cases it should be. Just like many other things in life, premium matcha does cost more than low quality one. The price, however, varies. Ceremonial grade packings normally range from 20 to 30 something dollars. There is even high quality matcha that is good for tea, as it is for cooking purposes. That is for example the Kiss Me Organics organic culinary grade matcha. Anything cheaper will probably belong to the lower quality green tea group. The taste difference is quite noticeable, as the cheaper version would leave a bad taste in the mouth, both literally and figuratively.
Speaking of taste, it’s definitely in the matcha quality rate criteria. Have you ever tasted good matcha? If you had, then you’ve probably noticed the sweet-like, vegetable smell it possesses. This is a result from the strong presence of L-Theanine, engendered through the shade-growing process. It’s namely this essential amino acid that gives matcha its fine, clean, green tea taste that you take delight in. The leaves of low quality green tea have a lot less theanine (either because they haven’t been grown in shade, or have been picked too long after they should), so they bear a significantly bitter, sharp flavor that doesn’t deliver the sweetness and taste you would want.
Once you’ve opened the package, put your nose close to its content and inhale deeply. What’s the aroma like? If the matcha inside has a fresh, vegetal, and luring scent, then you’ve got yourself some high quality matcha to brew. But instead, if the smell is something like old lucerne, stagnant and somehow dusty, then probably you won’t be pleased with the product.
Image credit: vivirsanos.com
Another important characteristic that will help you know if your matcha is high quality or not, is its color. You should look for a particularly vibrant green color (just like the powder on the left in the photo above). Think like that: the greener, the better! Because matcha is grown in shade it should be brimming with chlorophyll, the substance that is responsible for the bright green color of the tea. Lower grade matcha leaves may not be shaded properly, may be older, or/and harvested from a lower part of the plant’s stalk. Therefore, their color usually tends to be pale-green, slightly yellowish or even leaning towards brown.
High grade matcha does have the ability to tingle your senses and make you feel simply amazing. It looks and feels more like a fine powder than your ordinary loose leaf tea. The feel and texture could disclose the category of matcha. Typically the high class tea brings a smooth and silky sensation fairly because of its particle size which is between 5-10 microns. Lower grades have larger particles, which leads to a more rough feeling when rubbed between the fingers.
How to prepare matcha?
You’ve complied with the most essential pinpoints, and you’ve supplied yourself with a high quality product. So far so good, but there’s still something that you need to consider if you really want to enjoy a fine tea drink, and that’s the method to prepare the green tea.
Boil around 200ml of water. When the water has reached the level of boiling, remove it from the stove. Wait for 2 minutes until the temperature has dropped between 80°C – 90°C. Put a few grams matcha powder in a separate cup, and when the water is ready, pour it into it. Then whisk it with a traditional Japanese utensil called chasen. Good whisking contributes to the smoothness of the drink and helps the small lumps (if there are any) dissolve in water more easily.
If you need a circumstantial guide on how to make matcha tea, this video would help:
If you do this, then finally you would have a nice cup of premium matcha tea, and trust us when we tell you that once you take the first sip it will become one of your favorite teas ever!