Everybody makes choices about what to eat and drink based on different things. Whether something is good for you or not, if it is inexpensive or convenient, and of course, if it tastes good.
Matcha green tea is becoming more and more popular, but you may be wondering, what does this bright green frothy matcha taste like?
To start defining how matcha taste like, it is important to know how Matcha green tea is made.
Why is Matcha Different?
Matcha is made from dried green tea leaves that have been ground up into a fine powder. Tea plants meant for matcha are selected about a month before the main harvest and covered, limiting the amount of light that can get to the plants. This increases the level of chlorophyll giving matcha tea its distinctive bright green color.
While standard green tea is made by steeping tea leaves and then removing them, matcha green tea powder is combined with water and the combination is whisked to create a frothy beverage. Because you are consuming the full ground-up leaf instead of just infusing with its essence, the levels of health benefits, nutrients, antioxidants, and even caffeine are higher in matcha green tea vs. steeped green tea.
When preparing good matcha, remember to not use boiling water – optimum brewing temperature is between 165F – 175F (74C – 80C). Any hotter than that and the result will be bitter. To lower the temperature easily, pour boiling water from your kettle into a heat-resistant pitcher and let sit for a minute or two before brewing.
Grade and Quality of Matcha
There are different grades of matcha, generally separated by the quality of the plant and the amount of bitterness. There are different classifications, but in general, they have the same health benefits and they fall into two grades – Ceremonial Grade and Culinary Grade.
Ceremonial grade matcha is meant to be served, prepared in the classic manner where the matcha tea powder and water and whisked together with a bamboo whisk called a Chasen. The taste of matcha with ceremonial grade should be very smooth with little to no astringency unless that particular brand of ceremonial grade matcha was developed that way on purpose.
Matcha powder made from worse plants, normally used for baking, have a stronger flavor and an increased level of bitterness. These factors are important when there are more ingredients to consider in the baking or cooking process. This level of matcha, known as “cafe matcha” or “culinary grade,” is also a good choice when mixing matcha with smoothies.
While you can taste different matcha brands and sources with different flavors when you’re drinking, there are a few consistent matcha taste notes that stretch across all types.
The first thing that you will notice when you taste is that the liquid is thicker than green tea. This is from powder merging and thickening up in the whisking process. Whisking also introduces air into the mixture providing a slight frothy texture.
The taste of matcha can be intense, and it normally has a strong vegetal taste overtone. After drinking matcha, there is a slight sweetness that is left on the tongue. Matcha made with hot water emphasizes any astringency that may be present in the plants, while the taste of matcha cold seems sweeter.
“Usucha,” or “thin tea,” is the most common way to prepare hot matcha. A small amount of matcha powder is placed in a cup and whisked briskly, creating a light and delicate drink.
The best leaves whisked by someone who is skilled in the art of the Japanese tea ceremony will create a rich, creamy liquor that will have an earthy matcha taste and no bitterness. “Koicha” (thick tea) is created by using twice as much matcha powder and half as much water as the usucha method. The resulting drink is a thick liquid, similar to the thickness of melted chocolate.
Only the highest grade and high-quality matcha powder should be used for koicha. Because of the amount of powder used, any bitterness or flavor inconsistencies will be magnified.
Other Matcha Preparations
While the classic methods of preparing matcha are also the easiest, they emphasize the flavor of taste over everything else. Just like coffee, some people will just enjoy the taste better if it is combined with other flavors.
Milk or non-dairy creamer mixes very well with matcha, creating a smoother, more creamy consistency and adding additional fat to help the flavors bind to your tongue. Mixing with steamed milk, called a “matcha latte,” is a popular method of smoothing out the taste and texture of matcha.
What to do if Matcha is too Bitter
If you find the taste too bitter, stir agave nectar, sugar, or honey into the mixture. We would strongly suggest you find a less bitter brand of matcha instead of adding sweeteners, as they can add empty calories and mask matcha’s natural flavor instead of highlighting it.
What to do if Matcha is too Sweet
If the matcha you are brewing is too sweet for your taste, a simple squeeze of lemon will take care of that.
Cold brewing matcha is another answer for those who like matcha and their drinks to emphasize sweetness without masking matcha’s more complex flavors and taste. Since the tea is in powdered form, it is much easier to cold brew than tea leaves.
To make matcha as a cold brew, simply mix cold water, ice, and matcha powder in a container that has a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. A cocktail shaker is a perfect tool for this, but a mason jar with a lid works very well and can also be used for travel.
Coconut water can also be used when making cold-brew tea.
Unless your first matcha taste is made from excellent leaves and prepared by someone who really knows what they’re doing, it is highly unlikely that it will immediately be your tea of choice. There are many different ways that unwanted flavors can be brought out in a cup of matcha, the primary being using water that is too hot.
While the matcha taste is not for everyone, there are options of different preparation methods and additions that can please most people. We always recommend you taste the highest quality matcha tea first, that way you will know for certain if you like the matcha taste and if it is a style of tea that belongs in your daily routine.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.