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What does matcha taste like? Why is it so popular, what are the benefits of drinking matcha, and how do you best enjoy it? These are common questions, and we explore them all below and provide the answers you’re looking for about matcha.
What is Matcha?
Before answering “what does matcha taste like,” what is it exactly?
Matcha is a bright green drink with a number of health benefits. Matcha comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is the same plant green tea is derived from. Matcha is unique from green tea, however, in the way that it’s grown and also the nutrients it contains.
When farmers are growing matcha, the tea is carefully covered 20 to 30 days before it’s due to be harvested. This avoids direct sunlight.
Because of the covering and the unique way matcha is grown, it means there are more amino acids and chlorophyll in the plant. The increased chlorophyll gives matcha its deep, rich color and boosts its nutrient profile.
After the farmers harvest the tea leaves, the stems and veins are taken out. The leaves themselves are ground into the very fine matcha powder you may be familiar with. The nutrients in matcha come from the entire tea leaf, so there are more antioxidants than what you would find in green tea, and also more caffeine.
What Does Matcha Taste Like?
So what does matcha taste like? Some people say that it tastes “green,” whatever that might mean to you.
Matcha tends to have a rich and sometimes earthy flavor. There’s a bit of grassiness in the flavor of matcha and also some sweetness. In high-quality matcha, you shouldn’t get any dirt flavors. There may be a mild bit of earthiness.
When asking what does matcha taste like, some people will compare the experience of the first sip to having a bite of dark chocolate.
To answer the question of what does matcha taste like, we also have to say that it’s going to depend quite a bit on the brand, the quality, and how it’s prepared.
The aftertaste of matcha tends to be a bit nutty but can also vary to be bittersweet or even floral. The aftertaste can stick around for a while, and it’s what a lot of people enjoy most about the experience of having matcha.
The varied aftertaste of matcha depends on how the farmer cultivates it and what their shading process is before harvesting. The blending process used after harvesting is also a key part of answering what does matcha taste like.
When you have good matcha, you’ll notice there’s a real sense of balance in the flavors, with a pleasant, smooth aftertaste. No one flavor should overpower all the others and any bitterness should be subtle and nuanced.
Bad matcha will not have those characteristics. What does matcha taste like when it’s bad or low-quality?
For one, the bitterness may be the dominant flavor. The texture may also be difficult to deal with.
A lot of how matcha tastes and the texture, along with the quality of the tea, is also dependent on how you prepare it.
Culinary vs. Ceremonial Grade Matcha
If you buy matcha and prepare it and then notice it tastes bad, you might check whether you bought ceremonial grade or culinary grade matcha.
Ceremonial grade matcha is what you want to drink, while culinary grade matcha is used for cooking and baking.
If you can find ceremonial grade matcha, that’s going to have the best flavor and it’s going to be refined and work well in things like lattes when lightly sweetened.
Culinary grade matcha will tend to be more bitter, and the color won’t be as vibrant.
Preparation Factors That Affect Flavor
As mentioned, when answering “what does matcha taste like” above, some of what it is going to ultimately taste like will depend on how you prepare it.
First, you have to mix the right amount of water. If you mix too little water with your matcha powder, you’re going to get a very strong and potentially overpowering flavor. Most of the time, you’ll need around two ounces of water for a perfect matcha.
You’ll also want the right amount of powder, and you have to understand that matcha can’t dissolve in water. It’s a suspension, and so the best way to mix the particles thoroughly in the water is with a bamboo whisk. You can also use a blender bottle.
Once you open matcha, it has a shelf life of around two months for the best flavor and color. You might want to buy smaller quantities as a result and store them in the refrigerator.
When you’re making matcha, if you want to alleviate some of the grassy or earthy flavors, you can sweeten it with something like honey or maple syrup.
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
You may be wondering, in addition to how does matcha taste, why it’s such a craze right now. Matcha is an incredibly healthy beverage.
Matcha is full of something called catechins. Catechins are plant compounds that are natural antioxidants, which stabilize free radicals. Free radicals damage our cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
Matcha is unique even compared to green tea because you’re getting the nutrients for the entire leaf.
There is research showing that some of the components of matcha can improve brain function. For example, in one study, participants who drank matcha tea had improvements in reaction time, memory and attention compared to the group that had a placebo.
There was also a study that found two grams of green tea powder taken every day for two months improved older people’s cognitive function.
Matcha has something called L-theanine. When you combine L-theanine with caffeine, which is naturally present in matcha, it increases your sense of alertness, without the crash that occurs when you have caffeine alone.
L-theanine may increase your brain’s alpha wave activity, helping reduce your stress levels naturally.
Matcha has compounds that may help prevent cancer, at least based on what we currently know from various animal and test-tube studies.
For example, matcha has a high EGCG content, and that’s a catechin that’s been shown to have anti-cancer properties. In a test tube study, matcha killed prostate cancer cells. In separate test-tube studies, matcha combated lung, liver, and skin cancer cells.
Heart disease remains the leading killer across the world. It’s responsible for one-third of all deaths in people over the age of 35.
Drinking green tea, which can include matcha, may help protect you against heart disease risk factors.
Our liver is one of the most important organs we have. The liver removes toxins, metabolizes substances we take, and it processes nutrients so they can benefit the rest of our body. Matcha may promote liver health. For example, in a study in rats with diabetes, matcha taken over 16 weeks prevented liver and kidney damage.
There was also a study of people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The group given green tea extract daily had significantly reduced liver enzyme levels. High liver enzymes are an indicator of liver damage.
Green tea is well-known as a supplement that aids in weight loss. There’s evidence green tea can boost your metabolism and fat burning. If you take green tea during moderate-intensity exercise, it can further boost your fat-burning.
Matcha comes from the same plant, so researchers believe it has similar benefits in terms of weight loss, fat burning, and boosting your metabolism.
How Do You Drink Matcha?
When you make matcha, rather than trying to mask or overpower its earthy flavor, you might want to stay true to its origins. Yes, a little sweetener is okay, but if you ever order matcha at cafes, you might notice it’s packed with sugar. This is especially true if you order a matcha latte, which also includes steamed milk.
The flavors of matcha, traditionally, are meant to be enjoyed and sipped. That’s also going to give you the most health benefits, without detracting from those through the addition of sugar and dairy.
When you prepare matcha, to do it the traditional way, you will sift anywhere from one to two teaspoons of powder into your cub. Add around two ounces of hot water, and stir with a bamboo whisk. When you’re whisking, wait for a foamy layer to form on the top of the tea.
If you have a preference as far as the consistency of your matcha, you can adjust the water-to-powder ratio.
If you want a thinner tea, you might, for example, have a half teaspoon of matcha powder with anywhere from three to four ounces of hot water. This will give you a milder flavor, as well as a more delicate consistency.
If you are going to sweeten your matcha, just use a few drops of something natural like honey.
Don’t overdo it with matcha either. Moderation is important with anything. For the health benefits of matcha, aim to have no more than one to two cups a day. Any more than that and you might start to experience side effects.
Final Thoughts—What Does Matcha Taste Like?
So, to sum it all up, what does matcha taste like? If you’re used to café matcha lattes, you may not realize this, but true matcha should have an earthy and even slightly bitter taste. At the same time, no one flavor should be too overwhelming. There should be a delicate balance in the taste, which may taste a bit grassy at times.