If like a lot of people in Australia, you are trying matcha for the first time, you might not quite "get" the flavour. It doesn't taste like the green tea you are more familiar with that is brewed with tea leaves, but since matcha tea powder is bright green and mixed with water, it must be green tea too, right?
Yes, matcha is green tea, but the way it is cultivated is what makes it unique. It is made from tea leaves that are shade-grown; the finest of these are de-veined, their stems taken off, and then the pure leaf is ground into a fine powder. Green tea that is used for brewing on the other hand, contains stems and veins, imparting a different taste to the overall brew.
What gives matcha its sweet-savoury taste? According to Japanese research in The Science of Tea (Cha no Kagaku), Keiichiro Muramatsu (ed.), green tea leaves contain two types of amino acids, theanine and glutamate. Theanine is responsible for what the Japanese call umami, the fifth taste identified after salt, sweet, sour and bitter. It is a mellow sweetness or a moreish savoury flavour. There are higher levels of theanine in shade grown tea - such as matcha - than in teas that are not grown in the shade. Theanine has calming and relaxing properties, while helping you to focus at the same time. No wonder the Japanese have been reaching for a cup of matcha for centuries.
This umami taste lends a combination of sweet and savoury which makes matcha an easy match to use in cooking as well, allowing you to enjoy the benefits and taste of this fine tea in different ways. If you would like to learn even more about the flavours of our different matcha teas, be sure to contact us.