7 Myths You Should Know About Matcha Before You Purchase
 

 

1. “Matcha is the best natural source of green tea antioxidants.”

 

Matcha is a form of green tea–it’s a shade-grown tea leaf ground into a fine powder. Compared to a traditional steeped green tea, matcha offers more nutritional values since you are ingesting the whole leaf rather than drinking substances steeped out from the tea leaf. 

However, you need to know two things: 1) Make sure your matcha doesn’t contain lead. When you steep tea leaf, 70% of lead retains in the leaf. When you ingest a whole leaf, 100% of lead is ingested. 2) The higher quality matcha tends to contain higher amount of caffeine. When you choose sencha powder, which is consumed in the same way as matcha, caffeine amount is naturally lower than matcha.

 

2. “Certified organic matcha is clean and safe.”

 

Unfortunately, organic certification conducted by USDA does not take heavy metals into consideration. Certified organic matcha could be contaminated with a high level of lead if the soil is contaminated with lead. Generally speaking, the lead amount in Japanese green tea is very low or not detected by tests conducted by third party labs. However, you should make sure green tea your clients consume has been tested for lead and lead contamination is very low or not detected.

 

3. “Decaffeinated green tea is not as potent as regular, period.”

 

Are you sensitive to caffeine but still want to get green tea benefits? It is true that the decaf process decreases the amount of some of the valuable nutrients from green tea leaves. You need to be sure the decaf process used is safe and clean so the process is not adding toxins to the leaf.

What is a better option than decaffeinated green tea? “Decaffeinated green tea powder” is the answer. When a water process is used, tea leaf retains 95% of the natural Catechin antioxidants. In powder form, you ingest a whole leaf in the same way as matcha. 

 

4. “Quality matcha offers more antioxidants.”

 

When it comes to matcha, “qualities” you want to look for are: 1) Eye-opening bright green color, 2) Savory rich Umami, and 3) Creamy texture. Using the language of chemical substance, they are: 1) More Chlorophyll, 2) More L-theanine, and 3) Not only fine but also uniformly round particles. These are indeed important to create a pleasant culinary experience; however, they have nothing to do with the amount of Catechins, prominent antioxidants you would like to get from green tea.

Matcha is covered with a shade 2-4 weeks before harvest. During the shading period, the chemical content of the tea leaf changes. The longer the shading period is, the higher contents of three things: Caffeine, L-theanine, and Chlorophyll.

Where do Catechins come into this picture? Catechins are created from L-theanine when they are exposed to sunlight. Thus, shade grown tea offers less Catechins than green tea grown in full sun. In other words, the amount of Catechins is related to the amount of sun exposure and brightness of the color is reversely related to the amount of sun exposure. 

“A good medicine tastes bitter” can be applied to green tea as well. As we know, Polyphenols are associated with tartness, bitterness, or astringency. Catechins are not an exception. Astringency of green tea flavor is associated with Catechins, and Umami is associated with L-theanine. 

 

5. “The brighter the color is, the better.”

 

As you now know, the shading period increases the amount of Chlorophyll in the tea leaf, as it needs to become more efficient for photosynthesis. When you compare the same product, the color can be an indication of freshness of the powder. In this case, the brighter, the better. If you are comparing the different types of tea powder, the brighter green may mean less Catechins due to the reason we explained above. Simply put, the type of green tea powder with more yellowish green color may offer more Catechin antioxidants than the bright neon green powder.

Color and taste of tea leaves can be manipulated with fertilizers and agent used for post-harvest-steaming process. With pesticide residues and chemical fertilizers, we all know non-organic matcha is not an option for true health. You need to be careful because some brands are clever to advertise their products are healthy even though they are not organically grown and the powder is contaminated with pesticides and herbicides.

 

6. “Making a cup of green tea with boiling temperature kills antioxidants.”

 

“Make a cup of green tea, including matcha, with a lower temperature.” Brewing temperature is connected to flavor, not antioxidants. Steeping with boiling temperature of water for a few minutes does not destroy all the nutrients in the leaf; in the same way as we enjoy abundant nutrients from cooked vegetables. 

When a tea leaf is steeped, you can use a different temperature to create a different tasting tea by controlling the amount of substance you would like to elute from tea leaf–hotter water and longer steeping time will make a stronger, bitter, and more caffeinated tea. Using lower temperature (or, even room temperature) water and steeping more slowly (30 minutes if room temperature water is used) makes more mellow and sweeter green tea. You can increase the temperature of water to brew the second and the third cups, if you wish.

To make the best tasting experience with green tea powder, lower temperature water (as low as 140 degrees F) works better. The harshness of the boiling hot temperature counteracts and ruins the creamy round feel of green tea powder. When the tea leaf is ground into a fine particle, pectines coat the particle. These pectines are contributing to the round flavor of the tea you make with green tea powder.

 

7. “Matcha is powder; Sencha is steeped tea.”

 

Sencha is one of the signature green tea products from Japan. The sencha method uses steaming rather than frying so most of the nutrients remain in the tea leaf. This steaming method was invented by a Japanese tea merchant, Nagatani Soen, in the 18th century. Until then, Japanese tea used the pan-fry method they imported from China. Before Nagatani introduced sencha to the market, people were boiling the pan-fried brown tea leaf to make a brown colored tea. Sencha offers a fresher scent and brighter green color, and it became popular instantly.

Historically, sencha is known as steeped tea. The change happened during the 90’s, when more and more scientists started to discover the antioxidants’ power from green tea. Japanese scientists discovered the relationship between Catechins and sun exposure amount the tea leaf receive. The more sun exposure, the more Catechin antioxidants. Sencha powder was born when scientists discovered this fact. Science also discovered sun exposure also decreases the amount of caffeine. Sencha is naturally less caffeinated and offers more Catechin antioxidants than shade-grown matcha; making sencha powder a better option than matcha for people with certain medical conditions or those who do not metabolize caffeine effectively. 

See Sencha powder products. 

Learn about the differences between matcha and sencha powder.