I have long had a love of matcha tea, but it was recently re-ignited on our trip to Thailand where it was as readily available as coffee at some places. I will gladly choose a good matcha latte over coffee any day!! You might be asking yourself what is matcha though, isn’t it just green tea? Matcha is a type of green tea, yes, but it is not like the green tea you will find in tea bags. Matcha is not steeped like most tea, it is actually dissolved because matcha is a very fine powder that should be bright green in color. Matcha powder is the ground up leaves of green tea from certain regions of Asia. Matcha leaves are grown in a number of places but, the best matcha comes from Japan and the most popular growing regions are in the southern half of the country: Uji, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Kyushu. Workers only pick the best buds and then the leaves are laid out to dry to become Tencha. Tencha is the leaf used for making matcha. Once the leaf is de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground it becomes the fine powder known as matcha. Because matcha powder is ground up green tea leaves, you are actually consuming the whole leaf making it extremely high in antioxidants, thus having amazing health benefits.
So when we came home from Thailand I wanted to order some matcha for myself so I could have it as often as I like, but really struggled with what brand to order, if it would taste good, if the quality would be on par with what I had in Asia, what grade to buy, etc. A quick search of Amazon proved that the simple task of ordering a good quality matcha for a reasonable price would be difficult. Then I found another blogger’s review of almost every brand of matcha readily available in the U.S. It was a super helpful article and was how I discovered Encha. Encha is a new San Francisco-based startup determined to contribute to the healthy food movement. Encha’s focus is to help create a healthy and all-natural beverage culture in America by directly engaging with organic farmers and engaging with the communities. The founder of Encha, Li Gong, has done extensive research and taste testing with local Organic Japanese farmers to source top quality green tea. Organic farming ensures food safety in matcha and is also more eco-friendly. All Encha’s organic matcha has no pesticide, no synthetic fertilizer, no preservatives and is non-GMO. Encha matcha is also shaded for a full 3 weeks to enhance the flavor, color and produce more theanine. Sounds pretty good right? I was SUPER excited to give Encha matcha a try and see how the taste lived up to these standards.
But first let’s talk about what grade of matcha to purchase and how to prepare it…You can typically find matcha in three grades – culinary, latte, and ceremonial. Culinary grade is a bit lower quality and best used for cooking or baking with matcha. Latte grade is a mid-grade quality and best used in shakes or blended with milk. Ceremonial grade is the finest quality with superior taste for drinking simply mixed with hot water.There are very specific instructions for how to prepare a cup of ceremonial grade matcha tea, including special matcha tools – to assist in creating the perfect cup by enhancing the flavor and perfecting the consistency. I found this slide show article from Bon Appetit incredibly helpful – I am a very visual person. Ideally, you will need a handmade bamboo whisk (called achasen), a tea bowl (matcha-chawan), a measuring ladle (chashaku), and a tea strainer. If you are like me, you can make do with a small bowl, a small whisk, a teaspoon, and a regular small strainer. BUT after making my first cup, I can see how the bamboo whisk in particular would be beneficial. You will first measure 1 1/2 teaspoon of matcha (per cup of water) into your strainer and then sift through the strainer into your tea bowl to ensure the matcha tea is smooth. Encha makes pre-packaged single serve sizes so you don’t even have to dirty up a measuring utensil! Meanwhile, heat up filtered water just to boiling. Pour about 2 ounces into a separate cup allowing it to cool to 180-190 degrees. Once cooled, pour it into your tea bowl with the matcha powder. Using your chasen, whisk to combine your tea. Relax your wrist, then whisk in a gentle circular motion for thin, smooth tea, and in a brisk “M” or “W”-shaped motion for foamy tea. Whisk for about 10–15 seconds until the tea is bright green. How you prepare it can also change the fragrance and flavor of the tea!Be sure to enjoy your tea quickly because the matcha powder will start to settle to the bottom. The Encha ceremonial grade was a beautiful spring green color, the taste was bright and fresh with a hint of bitterness expected from green tea. It had a GREAT flavor by itself or with a hint of sugar. However, after using and drinking matcha for a couple of weeks now, I prefer to drink it with milk (almond or coconut) or in my vegan protein shake in the morning. So what about the Latte grade? You can mix it with hot foamy milk just like a regular espresso latte or you can blend it up cold with milk and other ingredients in a blender or just by using a spoon and a tall glass. I decided to try both ways. Every morning for breakfast, we blend up a healthy vegan whey protein shake with a banana and maybe some powdered peanut butter or other fruit. The addition of matcha powder made total sense to me and it was delicious. It provided that kick of caffeine I need to get my day started and my shake had a wonderful green tea flavor! I love it! I have also learned that the caffeine from a serving of matcha was PLENTY for me for the day. If I also had a cup of coffee, I felt jittery and overly caffeinated. The matcha did not leave me feeling like that at all. The above shake was vanilla whey protein powder, unsweetened coconut milk, half a banana, chocolate PB2, and matcha. The hint of chocolate with the matcha was delicious!Alternatively, you can whip up a latte with the matcha powder – measure out a teaspoon of matcha into your teacup. Add about a teaspoon of hot water to the matcha powder to form a thick paste. Heat up 5 ounces of almond or coconut milk until hot but not boiling or froth/steam using a steam nozzle on an espresso machine. Slowly pour the milk over the matcha paste stirring to blend – if you want you can try your hand at espresso art with the steamed milk. I learned that I am no good at that – at least not yet. Ha! Alternative, if you just heat up your milk using a stove or microwave, you can add the powder directly to the top and blend together using your whisk or chasen. Also, if you are not afraid of making a mess, you can add the matcha powder to the milk BEFORE steaming and just steam it together to blend. I had a hard time getting my tea and milk well blended with the paste, so I ended up frothing everything together a bit to get it there. This latte is definitely my FAVORITE way to enjoy matcha tea! I feel like the almond or coconut milk and hint of sugar really brings out the bright flavors of the green tea. The Encha latte grade was just as good in my opinion as the ceremonial grade, but of course, I have not tried it alone with only water. It is definitely full of flavor and a high quality for everyday use! Seriously though, the Encha matcha tea powders truly lived up to my expectations – it tastes bright, grassy with a hint of bitterness – the flavors I have come to love and expect from matcha.
So why drink matcha?
1. The Amazing health benefits. What most distinguishes matcha from other green teas is that matcha bushes are covered for up to 20 days prior to harvest to shade the leaves from direct sunlight. This is done to boost the plants’ chlorophyll levels (which turns the leaves a darker, vibrant shade of green), and increase the production of L-Theanine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the tea plant and certain types of mushrooms. Theanine is known to increase mental calmness and focus over a long period of time. When combined with the caffeine present in matcha you will feel alert and calm at the same time. One serving also has 180mg of Catechins, a powerful antioxidant with studies showing it fights aging, prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol, stimulates metabolism and improves skin smoothness by reducing pimples and inflammation.
2. The Amazing historical significance of matcha to Asian culture. The development and cultivation of green tea is thought to have begun sometime in the Tang Dynasty (7-10th century) where the tea was harvested and formed into tea bricks. Later preparation and consumption of powdered tea was formed into a ritual by Zen Buddhists, who cultivated the green tea plant. They found that in drinking this tea before their afternoon meditations that it enabled them to be much more “centered”, “focused”, and maintain a level of sustained energy throughout the afternoon which they had never experienced before. This special green tea eventually became known as “Matcha, the Ceremonial tea of the temple high priests”. Even the warriors, the “Shogun,” saw the remarkable benefits of this “ceremonial” tea, for it gave them extra sustained energy and mental acuity. Whenever possible, this was their “ceremonial” drink prior to going into battle. Zen Buddhism and the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. Eisai is famously quoted as saying that Matcha green tea was the ‘elixir of the immortals’. Powdered tea was slowly forgotten in China, but in Japan it continued to be an important item at Zen monasteries. It became a central element to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, revered for it’s abundant qualities.
1. It is grown, cultivated and harvested in Japan where you find the finest quality of matcha available. Encha works directly with the farm in Uji, Kyoto, Japan to ensure quality.
2. It is USDA certified organic and radioactivity free, which has been a growing concern since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster after an earthquake in 2011.
3. It is shaded for 3 weeks to produce a bright spring green color – a trait in the highest quality matcha – and to produce more theanine in the tea – the amino acid known for mental calmness and clarity.
4. The price is very fair for matcha powder! You can imagine that the labor intensive process of producing matcha makes it much more expensive than typical tea, but you can purchase 50grams (the bag seen above – it will last for a month or longer if drinking daily) of latte grade for $26.95 and 30grams of ceremonial grade for only $24.95. It is very difficult to find quality ceremonial grade for anything less than $1 per gram.
Would I purchase Encha matcha again? Absolutely!
Where can you purchase Encha? Direct from their website. They will ship direct to your home and it will arrive very quickly!
This is a “sponsored post.” We received a 50g bag of latte grade matcha and a sample size of ceremonial grade and culinary grade from Encha for this review. As always, all opinions are our own and we aren’t afraid to be honest about products. If we don’t like it, we will tell you. Regardless, this blog only recommends products or services we use personally and believe will be good for our readers.