What is Tea?
Various teas from many countries are deeply entrenched in our lives. But few would know that all teas are made from Camellia sinnensis. Beverages made using plants other than Camellia sinnensis are referred to as “infusion” or “tisane”, which means “a drink made by soaking the leaves of a plant or a herb in liquid”. Therefore, in order to use the term “tea” accurately, it must be made from Camelliasinnensis, such as green tea or black tea.
What is Green Tea?
For green tea, the leaves are heated and dried after harvesting from the Camellia sinnensis plant. A brewed green tea is typically green, yellow, or light brown in color; and its flavor is moderately bitter and features a refreshing aroma. There are many kinds of green tea, and they each have distinctive features.
Varieties of Green Tea
Matcha: Matcha is made from Ten-cha leaves, which are basically Gyokuro leaves that have not been rolled into needles. Matcha is tea leaves that have been ground into a fine powder and is a unique way to consume tea leaves wholly.
Gyokuro: Gyokuro tea leaves are shade-grown, rather than in full sun, for approximately 3 weeks before harvesting. This gourmet tea brews an emerald green color with a strong flavor and aroma.
Sen-cha: Sen-cha is a tea made by picking and steaming tea leaves, then rolling them as it is dried with hot air.
Kuki-cha: Kuki-cha is made from a blend of the stems, stalks, and twigs of tea plants.
Genmai-cha: Genmai-cha consists of sen-cha (green tea) mixed with roasted rice.
Hoji-cha: Hoji-cha is made from stems and leaves gathered, and roasted at high temperature between 320-360°F. This roasting process reduces its caffeine content.
Kona-cha: Kona-cha is made from coarse particles of tea leaves. This tea pairs well with Sushi and will refresh your pallet.
Shin-cha: Shin-cha is the tea leaves that are picked from the very first tea harvest, usually taking place in April or early May every year and provides the freshest fragrance with the greenest color.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is made from Ten-cha leaves, which are Gyokuro leaves that have not been rolled into needles. After harvesting leaves cultivated from the shade growing process; Matcha is made by steaming, drying, and then grinding the tea leaves into a fine powder. This nutrient-rich green tea powder contains vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, and fiber. Matcha has a vibrant green color and its flavor is richer than other green teas.
Types of Matcha Grades
Ceremonial Grade: Ceremonial grade is a very high quality Matcha. This premium grade Matcha exhibits a vibrant green color with a smooth, grassy taste and extremely fine texture due to the extra care taken during processing, which is ideal for use in the tea ceremony.
Universal (Shiki) Grade: Universal grade has a nice green color with a slightly astringent taste. It can be enjoyed by drinking straight or can be used to make lattes and blended into smoothies.
Culinary Grade: Culinary grade is the perfect ingredient for enhancing flavor of a wide range of recipes. It can be mixed in a drink such as milk or added to desserts or savory dishes. Culinary grade Matcha is light green in color with a more astringent taste than the Universal grade.
How to identify good quality Green Tea and Matcha
Green Tea: There are many different kinds of green tea, and each of them have different features. However, high quality teas do share similar characteristics. In general, high quality tea leaves are handled delicately in order to sustain firmness and are almost uniform in size. High quality tea leaves also have a crisp scent and fresh taste with little to no astringency.
Matcha: High quality Matcha has a vibrant green color due to the shade growing process, which stimulates the production of chlorophyll. Its fine and silky texture contributes to the smooth, mellow taste with a hint of sweetness.
Caffeine in Sen-cha Green Tea and Matcha
Sen-cha Green Tea: In about 150ml or 6oz of brewed Sen-cha green tea, there is generally 26-30mg of caffeine. The caffeine amount will vary depending on the volume of Sen-cha leaves brewed, water temperature, and brewing time. The higher the water temperature and the longer the brewing time, the more caffeine will be present.
Matcha: For ½ teaspoon or 1gram of Matcha, there is about 34mg of caffeine.
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*The effects of caffeine in tea and coffee is different. For example, caffeine in green tea can take as little as 20 minutes to appear and about 1 hour to their full effectiveness, and L-Theanine in green tea counteracts caffeine jitters and high antioxidant levels slow absorption of caffeine, resulting in a gentler energy increase with no crash.
*According to USDA, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day can be part of a healthy diet for adults.