If we had a dollar for everytime someone asked what does matcha taste like we wouldn’t need to write articles anymore! 😄
The reason so many people are curious about the taste of matcha is because the matcha flavor is so unique and therefore it is really difficult to compare and describe.
In this article and in the video, we’re going to try to do the impossible and explain what does matcha taste like.
Without further ado, let's get started! 🍃🍵
What does matcha taste like
Before we answer what does matcha taste like, it’s important to point out that not all matcha flavor is the same.
Certain matcha teas will be a little bit sweeter, others will be quite bitter and everything in between.
That being said, there are a few tasting notes that come up time and time again with a lot of matcha teas.
You may hear tasting notes like edamame, baby spinach and even seaweed be ascribed to the matcha flavor.
These may seem off-putting, but they really can create a unique and enjoyable tasting experience.
These tasting notes can actually complement a lot of flavors in Japanese cuisine.
Matcha taste not chart
Parallels in Japanese Cuisine
As we have said before, to understand the unique flavor of Japanese green tea, it helps to have an understanding of Japanese cuisine.
There are a few flavors that are sought after in Japanese food that you will not find in American food.
Mushrooms are one example of this.
They are commonly used in broths like miso soup and ramen, and while they may not be thought of as “flavorful” in the traditional sense, they add a savory thickness to the food.
This savory or “umami” flavor is a theme in not only Japanese dishes, but also Japanese teas, as we will explore later.
Another ingredient you will find in Japanese cuisine that you may not recognize is seaweed or kelp.
This is not only used for consistency but also for flavor. In general, you will find a lot more steamed green vegetables like edamame, seaweed, etc.
These flavors are also recreated in the matcha flavor, through a process we will discuss next.
Where does the matcha flavor come from
Now that we’ve covered the basics on what does matcha taste like, let’s talk a bit about how the matcha gets it’s flavor.
In the last section, we identified 2 major categories of flavor and why it is desirable. Here we are going to tackle how the tea gets these flavors.
Savory Matcha Flavor
The savory matcha flavor is actually accomplished by altering the chemical composition of the tea leaf.
The savory flavors of green tea come from the amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.
The most prevalent amino acid in green tea is called theanine, a compound isolated as recently as 1950 by a team of researchers in Kyoto that were studying green tea leaves.
The tea plant produces theanine naturally, but actually converts it into the antioxidant catechins as a protection against sunlight.
These catechins can actually produce a bitter flavor in the tea. In order to maximize the savory theanine content, the farmer will shade the tea plants used to produce matcha for 3 weeks before the harvest.
This labor intensive shading process is worth it to maximize the savory matcha flavor.
Steamed Vegetable Matcha Flavor
Another flavor in matcha is this steamed vegetable or “vegetal” flavor profile. This is produced after the tea leaves are harvested.
Once tea leaves are picked, they begin to oxidize naturally and eventually they will turn into a black tea.
To produce an unoxidized green tea, heat needs to be applied to the tea leaves immediately after harvest.
In China, it is more common to heat the tea leaves in a large hot pan, but in Japan it is more common to steam the tea leaves.
This steaming process not only locks in the natural green and grassy flavors of the tea leaves, but it can even accentuate them.
This is why Japanese green teas have such a vibrant green color, and a steamed vegetable, almost “seaweedy” taste profile.
Creamy Matcha Flavor
Finally, there is a bonus and that is the creamy matcha flavor profile, which is actually accomplished by how the tea is prepared.
While most teas are infused into water, matcha is actually mixed directly into water. This means that you are consuming the entire leaf, and therefore the mouthfeel of the tea is thicker and richer.
To prepare the best bowl of matcha tea, you need to use the bamboo tea whisk or chasen and whisk the tea powder into the water using rapid wrist motions. This injects air into the tea and gives it a lighter and creamier texture.
A lot of work goes into producing this smooth flavor of the matcha, and when combined with expert-level whisking, a good matcha can taste almost like a glass of milk!
Now that we’ve covered what does matcha taste like and why does it taste a certain way, let’s discuss a few matcha flavor pairings.
Because matcha has such a strong flavor profile that is heavy on these steamed vegetable notes, it tends to clash with a lot of different desserts and foods.
Dark chocolate doesn’t work well, but white chocolate does. Why is this?
When you pair matcha, you want to go for something that is neutral and sweet. White chocolate doesn’t taste like much but it is sweet so it pairs perfectly. This is also why matcha lattes work so well.
Other matcha flavor pairings include ice cream, mochi and other types of Japanese sweets (wagashi) that are much more subtle than desserts you may be used to.
If you're really interested in the topic, we have a dedicated article about what flavors go well with matcha. Make sure to read the article 👉 What flavors are good with matcha?
The taste of matcha is all wonderful, but many of you are probably asking, what are matcha benefits? There are many different health benefits of matcha tea, and they all come down to the presence of caffeine, theanine, antioxidants and more. Let’s get started and go through the list of what is matcha green tea good for.
- Immune Support
- Stress and Anxiety
- Slowing aging
- Weight loss
- Improved Heart Health
- 10 times the antioxidants as a regumar green tea
- Additional nutrients
11 tips that will significantly improve the taste
How to make matcha taste good is a question we are often asked. Because there are so many different strategies you can use to make a better tasting bowl of matcha, we decided we would put them all together in one big list.
Here are 11 tips to make your matcha taste great:
- Start with Ceremonial Matcha, not Cooking grade Matcha
- Always sift and break the clumps
- Use less water
- Lower water temperature
- Use the proper whisk
- Use the proper bowl
- Whisk in a M and W shape but don't stir
- Be cautious while flavoring matcha
- Be careful with sweetening matcha
- Buy from reputable farmers
Matcha is a luxury product
Why is it so expensive?
This is a question we get asked all the time and because so much goes into producing matcha tea, we find it difficult to answer in a sentence or two so we decided to write a whole article about it.
The article is called 👉 Why is matcha so expensive? Explanation by Experts.
But we can sum up this article with the 11 main reasons:
- Matcha only grows in specific geographic locations
- It has to come from the first harvest
- Extra man to shade the plants
- Shading process and why do you need to shade the plants?
- The plant has to survive 3 weeks without sunlight
- Hand plucking process
- Careful Leaf Selection
- Stems and veins of the tea leaves are removed
- Tea is ground with very expensive equipment
- The precious powder has to be perfectly packed
- The demand is higher than the supply
Final verdict on what does matcha taste like
So finally, what does matcha taste like?
The flavor can be described as strong on these grassy or steamed vegetable flavors, with a strong umami flavor, light subtle sweetness and finally a smooth consistency.
The best way to truly understand what does matcha taste like is to try some for yourself, and we have the perfect thing for you!
With our matcha samplers, you get to try different types of matcha teas from all over Japan and see which flavors you like the most.
And if you're more interested in single packs, we made a list of the best 20 matcha powders of this year!
All of these matcha teas taste slightly different, which all has to do with the tea plant variety, growing region and production style.
Try them out for yourself and become a matcha flavor connoisseur.