When CBS News ran a package on matcha in April, it marked a transition of sorts. No longer was the green tea called matcha, which as been popular for centuries in Japan, the domain of chichi coffee and tea shops in artsy neighborhoods like East Austin, Little Five Points, The North Loop and the Alberta Arts District. The CBS package meant matcha had officially “made it” in the United States.
Within days, a headline in the popular daily Food Navigator blazed: “Matcha green tea market on fire, says report: This is not a passing fad, but a major trend.” The only thing missing in the headline were multiple exclamation points punctuating its palpable excitement.
The article proclaimed that sales of matcha green tea powder surged 54.9% in 2014, while sales of ready-to-drink products jumped an astounding 253%. The data was from SPINS, for the natural channel, excluding Whole Foods and covering the specialty gourmet channel and the conventional multi-outlet.
Although most of that demand is from the ready-to-drink market, matcha has been finding its way onto coffee shop, bakery, restaurant and smoothie shop menus at a rapid pace in recent months. It seems like matcha teas, matcha smoothies and matcha lattes are everywhere these days, and their distinctive green hue is being documented all over Instagram and Pinterest including art_maha’s Bibble & Sip and Chef Sylvie’s Matcha board.
And even during Stockton Graham & Co.’s Taste Kitchen in April, the Kamikaze Matcha-Frapp recipe we featured was hot. (Okay, literally, as the matcha drink included a half ounce of Torani Sweet Heat.) But when a simple matcha drink rocks the world of guests to a Raleigh, NC coffee roaster, you know it’s about to take off.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a stone ground Japanese style green tea. It’s a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. The green tea plants for matcha are shade grown for about 3 weeks before harvest, and the stems and veins are removed during processing. It’s got a very unique look – a vibrantly green color.
Matcha has been consumed in Japan for centuries. Sometime during the end of the 12th century, a tea called “tencha” was introduced by Eisai, a Japanese monk returning from China. Tencha is tea preparation in which powdered tea is placed in a bowl, hot water poured into the bowl, and the tea and hot water whipped together. This powdered green tea was first used in religious ceremonies in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, Samurai fighters had begun preparing and drinking matcha as they embraced Zen Buddhism.
Why Drink Matcha, Anyway?
The green color comes from the chlorophyll, which is known for its health and detoxifying effects. It’s also an excellent source of polyphenols, antioxidants that may play a role in treating and preventing a variety of health conditions. One of the most potent of these antioxidant compounds is epigallocatechin gallate, also called EGCG.
According to a study published in the Journal of Chromatography, matcha tea has three times more EGCG than regular green tea. EGCG is a catechin, or a phytochemical compound that acts as an antioxidant to fight cancer, viruses and heart disease.
Unlike regular green tea that is steeped, the leaves are dried then ground into a fine powder. So you are actually consuming the leaves. One cup of matcha has 70 milligrams of caffeine per eight-ounce cup. Coffee has 96 milligrams for the same portion, but matcha drinkers say that their energy is more consistent, with less of a dive after the caffeine effect wears off. Matcha also has high levels of amino acids like L-theanine, which has a relaxing effect. Some report that drinking matcha gives them a feeling of “calm alertness” and kept their energy levels up for three to six hours without the jitters and crashes that came with drinking coffee.
Types of Matcha
Matcha can be a confusing category of tea. That’s because, there is no strict classification of match in the United States. In Japan, however, “matcha” enjoys a strict definition, and it refers to a particular variety of finely ground green tea that is part of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
True Japanese matcha – or, “tencha” as it is called specifically – is made from the delicate shade-grown tea leaves used to make Gyokuro tea. This high-grade tencha has an intense sweetness and round richness that is unparalleled. Tencha is the only tea that qualifies as true matcha in Japan, despite the fact that most “matcha” sold in the United States is not tencha.
Because of the extremely high cost of producing tencha, many tea suppliers and retailers have been marketing ground sencha as matcha. Sencha, in its own right, is a beautiful and delicious Japanese green tea that is bright, vegetal and grassy. A very high-quality tea, it deserves a coveted place in any serious tea store.
Whether tencha or sencha, matcha’s vibrant green powder is one of the newest health trends touted by everyone from celebrated chefs to self-absorbed celebrities. If you’re interested in exploring matcha in your store, we’ve done the heavy lifting and have a helpful list of options can help you get in on this trend.
Mighty Leaf Tea was born for the sole purpose of infusing life into an ancient indulgence by creating tea products that reach new heights of quality and innovation. Their passion is creating the most incredible handcrafted tea blends found anywhere, and globally sourcing the finest ingredients available. Paralleling the highest standards of quality at Mighty Leaf Tea is an ongoing creative innovation.
- Matcha Powdered Tea
- Matcha Green Tea Frappe & Latte Mix
Two Leaves and a Bud’s mission is to bring the experience of the gardens back to their customers. From providing tea that tastes as if it’s been plucked and steeped directly from the gardens, to education to help their customers discover new teas and appreciate them for everything they have to offer, Two leaves invites customers to “go there” with them and experience every step of the way how deeply and passionately they care about your cuppa’ tea.
- Organic Sencha Loose Leaf Tea
- Organic Orange Sencha Whole Leaf Sachet
- Paisley Brand Organic Sencha Green Tea
Cafe Essentials is Dr. Smoothie’s gourmet specialty beverage line. Creating a stir in the specialty beverage industry, Cafe Essentials has developed multitudes of flavors that are sure to please any palate. These taste profiles are unique and exciting and that is what sets Cafe Essentials apart from the competition.
- Matcha Green Tea Latte
- Matcha Mint Chip drink mix
MoCafe has been offering high quality specialty beverage products including Original Mocafe Mocha, Caffe Latte, Tahitian Vanilla Latte and Wild Tribe Moka frappe powders since 1996. They also offer a Vanilla Smoothie mix, that’s a great binder to add with fruit. Mocafe uses select exotic ingredients for maximum flavor and quality, making them one of the top sellers of powdered base mixes.
- Matcha Green Tea base mix
How to Prepare Matcha
Preparing matcha is a little more involved then traditional tea. You need a tea ladle (can use the handle side of a coffee scoop), a sieve, a bamboo whisk (a traditional whisk will work too), and a ceramic bowl. Use the tea ladle to press the matcha through the sieve. Add two ounces of steaming water (176°F) into the bowl. Hold the bowl tightly with one hand as you quickly mix the matcha for one or two minutes using the bamboo whisk. Use a back and forth motion to really whip the matcha until it becomes frothy. Once the layer of emerald-green foam emerges, stop whisking, and enjoy!
For more information on matcha options and preparations, contact a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.