What is Matcha Tea?

Hey y’all, happy Tuesday! Hope everybody’s doing alright. I just finished my first ever grad class: family law! Although it was something I wouldn’t have chosen to learn about on my own, it turned out to be really interesting. Today, however I wanted to share about something a little more trendy to most people: matcha. Matcha tea has been popular in the US for about five years now, but I thought it would be interesting to look a little more at the food in the context of its history.

Matcha Tea Basics

If you’ve never seen matcha in its basic form before, here’s what it looks like:

matcha powder

In Japanese, matcha literally means “powdered tea,” specifically green tea. It originally came from China and was actually the main way to consume tea back in the Tang Dynasty (600s-900s). Japan adopted a lot of Chinese culture during that time. At some point around the 1100s, that meant Buddhist monks introduced matcha to Japan.

Matcha comes from Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant also used to make green and black teas. A matcha tea plant, however, receives shade at certain points in the production process, which affects the leaves’ chemical structure, affecting the taste. This whole process is really quite interesting, and I’ll talk more about it in a more science-y follow-up post.

How is Matcha Tea Used Today?

matcha, matcha, matcha!

Just in that scroll alone, you could see matcha ice cream, waffles, overnight oats, cakes, brownies, donuts, and of course, the matcha latte. Matcha has become very popular as a flavoring for homemade and store-bought treats alike. I would say this is due in part to two things. First, matcha has a unique umami flavor that some people really seem to enjoy. Second, matcha adds a splash of color to otherwise ordinary drinks and desserts. This easily fits into our visual-heavy social media consumption we rely on today.

The second point makes me think of how matcha is part of a larger group of “new” foods we’ve seen over the years. Other cultures have used foods like matcha for centuries. However, those foods can often be suddenly swept up and repackaged as the next trendy key to health and wellness. Are those claims really true, at least in the case of matcha? I guess that’s a question for my part two to answer.

How to Determine Good Matcha Tea

Let’s focus just on matcha for a minute though. Not all matcha is made alike! Here are some ways to choose the best.

1. Color

The greener and bolder the matcha’s color, the more flavor it holds. Think of when you’re looking for fresh green produce, like celery. If you were looking for the freshest stalks, you would pick a greener bunch. A yellow color, both in matcha and in celery, tells you that the flavor won’t be as full.

2. Froth

Matcha tea made the traditional way should have some froth from whisking. If the bubbles are small and consistent, this is good matcha. If the bubbles are small to large and irregular, the tea is of a lower quality and has a coarser powder.

3. Flavor

Of course if matcha tea is well made, then this will show through in its flavor. The more umami flavor the tea has, the higher its quality is. There is so much science behind it that I wish I could get into, but I’m out of time. I’ll link to the part 2 here when I publish it.


People take matcha and tea in general, very, very seriously. Compared to some of the amazing writers and researchers I found, my post is a brief overview. If you want to learn more, here’s some of the blog posts I’d highly recommend:

Until next time,

One thought on “What is Matcha Tea?

  1. Future RDD says:

    Fun post! I’m looking forward to hearing if it’s just another expensive trend or something worthwhile.

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