- Matcha and green tea both come from the Camellia sinensis plant but differ in cultivation, processing, and benefits.
- Matcha is shade-grown and stone-ground, resulting in a vibrant green powder rich in antioxidants and caffeine.
- Green tea is usually not shade-grown and comes in various forms like loose leaves or tea bags, offering a lighter flavour and less caffeine.
- Green tea powder exists as a separate category, less expensive but also less rich in nutrients compared to matcha.
- Both matcha and green tea offer health benefits like antioxidant properties, potential cardiovascular protection, and cognitive enhancement.
- Flavour profiles vary: matcha is earthy and strong, while green tea is lighter and can be sweet or grassy.
- The choice between matcha, green tea, or green tea powder depends on personal preferences for flavour, nutritional content, and preparation style.
Matcha powder and green tea have been staples in some human cultures for close to a millennia now - and modern times have seen them both surge in popularity again around the globe.
Even though they both come from the same plant, matcha and green tea are very different beverages with completely unique flavour profiles, textures, health benefits and uses.
So, how do matcha and green tea stack up against each other? And which one might be best for you? Read on!
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a form of stone-ground green tea powder that comes from young green tea leaves.
The word ‘matcha’ literally means ‘powdered tea’ and has been consumed in Asia for around 900 years.
The plants that are used to make matcha are grown in the shade for three to four weeks. When harvested, both the veins and stems are removed before processing begins.
So, when you drink matcha, you’re simply drinking the powdered leaves with no other plant components.
Matcha is often served ‘ceremonially’ by mixing a teaspoon of powder with a cup of hot water; it’s then whisked together (usually with a bamboo whisk) until it starts to froth.
Many modern users prefer to drink the infamous ‘matcha latte’; a teaspoon of the powder is whisked together with hot water and topped with a cup of whisked milk of your choice. You can also add matcha powder to foods and desserts, such as puddings and cake.
Matcha is often a required taste, though. It’s often described as having an earthy, grassy and somewhat spinach-like flavour.
This is why many people choose to sweeten their matcha with flavoured milk, sugars, sweeteners, or cupboard spices.
What Is Green Tea?
Green tea is made from the leaves and buds of the tea plant - Camellia Sinensis.
These leaves and buds have not gone through the same oxidation and withering process that’s used to make other teas, such as black tea and oolong tea.
These unoxidized and minimally processed leaves make green tea one of the most popular drinks in China.
When green tea is made, the leaves and buds are harvested from the plant and heated up shortly after (usually with steaming or pan-firing).
They’re then dried to minimize oxidation. When regular green tea is brewed, it can be either yellow, green, or light brown and has a varied flavour profile.
Some types of green tea can taste earthy and grassy, while others can taste sweeter, like seaweed. The resulting flavour depends on the process used to dry the tea and the amount of time the tea is steeped for when made.
What Is the Difference Between Matcha and Green Tea?
Although both of these beverages come from the Camellia sinensis plant, they’re cultivated, processed and consumed quite differently.
Let’s explore some of the most significant differences between matcha and green tea below.
1.) Matcha Is Specifically ‘Shade-Grown’
Matcha is grown differently from other teas, including green tea. It’s often grown in the shade to prevent oxidation - this isn’t the case with green tea. Depending on the type of green tea you’re drinking, it may have also been heated, dried, or rolled after harvest.
2.) Matcha Has A Distinctly Different Flavour Profile To Green Tea
Due to the differences in cultivation and processing, matcha and green tea have a noticeably different flavour. For example, matcha tends to be stronger and tastes more grass-like, whereas green tea often takes on a lighter, more refreshing flavour profile.
3.) Both Are Prepared Very Differently
Traditional matcha is whisked and frothed with hot water (or now with milk as a matcha latte) to create a matcha tea whereas green tea is classically just mixed with hot water. Green tea may come as a tea bag or as loose tea leaves, whereas matcha is almost always found in powder form.
4.) Matcha Has More Caffeine Than Green Tea
Although both drinks contain caffeine, matcha has a higher caffeine content than green tea. The average cup of matcha contains between 38-176mg of caffeine, whereas a cup of green tea can contain between 20-90mg. Stone-grinding tea leaves to make matcha powder concentrate many compounds of the tea leaf - including caffeine.
How about Green Tea Powder vs Matcha?
When discussing green tea and matcha, we should also consider green tea powder as a separate entity. While both green tea powder and matcha originate from the Camellia sinensis plant, their similarities often end there, diverging in terms of cultivation, processing, and nutritional profile.
1.) Cultivation and Processing
Green tea powder is typically made from green tea leaves that have been dried and then pulverized into fine powder. Unlike matcha, these leaves are not shade-grown, nor are the stems and veins removed. This results in a powder that contains more components of the tea leaf compared to matcha, which is purely the leaf's flesh. The absence of the shade-growing process also means that green tea powder lacks the bright green hue and the higher chlorophyll content that matcha boasts.
2.) Flavor and Versatility
Powdered green tea tends to have a more bitter and astringent taste compared to matcha's smoother, creamier profile. While matcha is versatile enough to be used in lattes, smoothies, and even cooking, green tea powder is often less forgiving when it comes to culinary applications due to its stronger flavor.
3.) Nutritional Differences
Although both are rich in antioxidants, the concentration in matcha is generally higher due to the specialized growing conditions. Green tea powder, however, still offers a robust antioxidant profile and shares many of the health benefits associated with traditional green tea.
4.) Caffeine Content
While matcha is known for its higher caffeine content, green tea powder also contains a significant amount, albeit less than matcha. If you're looking to reduce your caffeine intake but still want the convenience of a powdered form, green tea powder might be a suitable alternative.
Health Benefits of Matcha
Both matcha and green tea have an abundance of purported health benefits, but are these benefits the same - and which drink is better for you?
Let’s take a look at the benefits of consuming matcha below.
High Antioxidant Profile
Matcha contains an abundance of inflammation-reducing catechins which are a group of plant compounds that are rich in antioxidants. Studies indicate that a certain group of antioxidants belonging to this family are generally much more concentrated in matcha than they are in green tea.
One animal study discovered that when mice were given matcha supplements, the effects of free radical damage were diminished, and enhanced antioxidant activity was observed.
Increased Brain Function
There’s some limited (yet exciting) evidence to suggest that matcha may improve our brain function.
For example, in a study of 23 people, researchers found that participants taking a 4g matcha supplement (either tea or a bar) experienced notable improvements in their memory, reaction time, and attention span when compared to the placebo group.
May Aid In Fighting Cancer
We already know that matcha contains plenty of healthy compounds, and some of these are indicated to potentially help interfere with cancer cells.
A series of test tube studies discovered that the levels of EGCG in matcha were able to kill off prostate cancer cells. Other studies have found that the EGCG in matcha may also be effective at fighting against lung, skin, and liver cancer.
It’s important to note that test tube studies and animal studies are limited in their scope for how this may work in the human body and many more clinical studies are needed before anything definitive can be said.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
So, how do the health benefits of green tea compare to matcha? Let’s find out.
May Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Evidence suggests that green tea may have some strong preventative effects when it comes to combating cardiovascular disease.
This study indicated that the catechins present in green tea may help to protect LDL particles from oxidizing, which is one risk factor for heart disease. as we know from earlier, matcha is also extremely rich in a variety of catechins so it isn’t unreasonable to think that it may possess some of the same benefits here.
May Reduce Overall Mortality
Green tea contains compounds that may help fight against heart disease and even cancer, so it’s no surprise that drinking green tea may also reduce overall mortality.
One large and long-term study examined 40,530 Japanese adults over 11 years. The study found that the adults drinking five or more cups of green tea a day were less likely to die from almost all highlighted mortality causes during the course of the study.
It’s important to note that this is a very ambitious study with lots of complex factors to consider so these kinds of results can only be indicative at best.
May Improve Skin Health
The benefits of green tea for skin health are quite numerous and have been a big reason for its consumption and topical use on the skin for many years.
With many different compounds that have the potential to help with acne, inflammation, oily skin and ageing effects - green tea is a favourite for many different skin issues.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: Is matcha just powdered green tea?
No, matcha isn't simply powdered green tea. While both originate from the Camellia sinensis plant, the key difference lies in the farming techniques. Matcha plants are covered from direct sunlight for about 20–30 days before harvest, boosting amino acid levels and giving the plant a darker green hue. This process is unique to matcha production and contributes to its distinct flavour and nutritional profile.
Q2: Is it okay to drink Matcha green tea every day?
Yes, it's generally safe to consume matcha daily, but it's essential to be mindful of the quantity. Matcha is rich in polyphenols and amino acids, which can be beneficial for health when consumed in moderation. However, due to its higher caffeine content compared to regular green tea, overconsumption could lead to restlessness or sleep issues.
Q3: Is matcha better than green tea for weight loss?
While both may be able to support weight loss efforts due to their metabolic-boosting properties, matcha has a slight edge because it is more concentrated in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a catechin known to boost metabolism. However, it's important to note that drinking either beverage alone won't result in significant weight loss; it should be part of a balanced diet and exercise regimen.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re drinking matcha or green tea, there’s no doubt about it - you’ll be doing something good for your body (just don’t drink too much!)
In fact, most of the benefits we discussed above that apply to green tea actually apply to matcha too - and vice versa. For all of their differences, they do come from the same leaf and share many of the same properties and benefits.
If you’re still wondering which one is best for you - the only advice at this point is to try them both and see which one you like best! They’re both loaded with flavour, antioxidants and other benefits that could improve your health and keep you feeling alert - go with the one you enjoy most.
Finally - this video below will give you an excellent visual breakdown of some of the key points that we’ve discussed in this article!