Tips, Tricks & Tales from the SESA Beverage Lab
Matcha: An Introduction
Matcha is a super-fine powder made from green tea leaves. The tea leaves are picked right at their peak, dried, and stone-ground into a fine powder to be mixed with water, used ceremonially, or even in baking. Matcha has been used ceremonially in Japan for centuries, and only recently has reached peak popularity all over the world for it's delicious flavor, myriad applications, and amazing health benefits.
Health Benefits of Matcha
Part of Matcha's recent rise in popularity is because of the increasing research into its health benefits. Between being loaded with antioxidants and containing L-theanine, Matcha is a great stress-reducer and general detoxifier. It also contains some caffeine -- just enough to perk you up without the jitters.
Matcha + L-Theanine
Camelia sinensis (or the tea plant) is well-known as one of the best sources for the amino acid L-Theanine. While it's not an essential nutrient, research has found that L-Theanine can provide a number of health benefits. From reducing adrenal fatigue to improving sleep quality, it makes for a powerful addition to any healthy lifestyle.
Matcha, being made from ground tea leaves, contains a significant amount of L-Theanine. The combination of L-Theanine and caffeine helps produce a sustained focus and calm energy without the jitters a soda might cause. Research has shown that the combination of caffeine and L-Theanine in tea can help sustain focus when accomplishing a task (1).
It is thought L-Theanine affects brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate mood, sleep, emotions, and the stress hormone cortisol. L-Theanine has even been shown to correlate to higher levels of immunity and health (2). Moreover, L-Theanine has been associated with improved sleep satisfaction in certain adults (3). All-in-all, L-Theanine works as a powerful amino acid helping the system regulate a variety of functions and aiding in general health and well-being.
Ceremonial Grade Matcha vs. Culinary Grade Matcha
If you've done some preliminary research on Matcha, you may have noticed that a lot of sellers market the "grade" of matcha they're selling as either "culinary" or "ceremonial". The first thing to know is that there is NO standardized method for determining matcha grade. Ultimately, it is up to the purveyor to label their matcha, and the consumer to hope that they did so honestly. There are, however, genuine differences between the two grades of matcha. (There are even sub-grades of matcha, but we won't get into those here.)
Traditionally, matcha was used in intricate tea ceremonies in Japan. As such, only the finest matcha is labelled "ceremonial grade". Since it was designed for these formal events, ceremonial matcha is best enjoyed in the traditional fashion -- combined with hot water and whisked with a Chasen (bamboo whisk). Ceremonial grade matcha is produced from only the most tender tea leaves, with stems and stalks painstakingly removed. It also must be stone-ground. Ceremonial grade is typically significantly more expensive than culinary grade, and as such is often passed-over for cheaper options. There is something special about ceremonial grade matcha, however. It tends to have a much more dynamic flavor, without the bitter end notes of other matcha. It blends beautifully with water and creates an earthy, delicate beverage to be savored. That being said, between the price and the high quality, ceremonial matcha is not the best option for lattes or baking. That's where culinary grade comes in!
You may have noticed an increasing number of matcha infused baked goods, pastries, and lattes. Most of the commercially available matcha-flavored products are made with culinary grade matcha. A workhorse, culinary grade matcha is less expensive than its ceremonial grade sibling and makes a great general use matcha. While culinary matcha retains some of the dynamism and depth of flavor of ceremonial grade, it often has a bit of a bite or bitterness on the finish. This is part of what makes it less expensive, but it also doesn't matter if you're using it to bake or make lattes, because that bitterness is often masked. A high-quality culinary grade matcha is a great, less expensive option for general use.
Matcha Buying Tips
A Final Note About Matcha
So, there you have our guide to everything you need to know about matcha! As a super popular beverage, it can be easy to be hoodwinked, but with this guide we hope you have learned more about this special form of tea and ways to be sure you are only buying the finest quality product. We work tirelessly to source only the best matcha on the market, so when in doubt, try out Sesa Pure Matcha + know the source of your tea.
If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!