Not all green tea powders are created equal. Matcha earns its name because of the way it is grown, processed and ground. Matcha is a powdered green tea, but not all powdered green teas can be matcha.
Green tea powder is not always matcha
The term green tea powder or powdered tea just means that it is any kind of tea ground into a powder. It could come from any part of the plant, not always leaves, and grown and processed in a number of ways. Its quality and origin can be questionable.
The quality of leaves and the grinding process for powdered teas usually produces a darker moss green color. This is because the leaves used are from less expensive green teas. These powdered teas are usually used to make desserts and are often referred to as cooking tea powder in Japan.
Sencha is the most common tea in Japan and is often used for cooking green tea powder because it is less expensive. The taste of ground Sencha leaves tends to be much more bitter, making it suitable for cooking rather than drinking.
This is matcha
Matcha green tea powder comes from the tencha leaves, and undergoes a very strict growing process. When the newest leaves start to bud, they are covered from sunlight. This gives them a very different taste than sencha leaves, which grow in 100% sunlight.
Blocking 90% of sunlight slows the growth of the leaves and increases the production of the amino acids that give matcha its unique taste. The buds are hand picked and ground by certified tea artisans in a stone mortar. The end product is an extremely fine powder that can be dissolved in warm water.
The color of matcha is a vibrant, almost neon, green. It has a wide range of tastes, from slightly bitter to slightly sweet. The newest leaves are the sweetest and are used for the highest grades of matcha. The older leaves are a bit more bitter and are used in lower grade matcha and for cooking.
My two cents
If you want to drink matcha straight, you will want to buy a middle to high grade tea. If you are looking to make a matcha latte, smoothie or ice cream, I would recommend going for a middle to low grade tea.
If you are not an expert in the subtleties of matcha green tea powder, I recommend a middle grade tea. It is much more affordable and you can drink it straight or use it as an ingredient.
Interested in buying some matcha green tea? You can find our favorite brand in our tea shop. We are proud to offer the finest green teas delivered straight from Japan to your front door.