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Matcha – the iconic green powder originating from Japan – has taken the US by storm. Nowadays, you can find matcha green tea, matcha lattes, and even matcha milkshakes. People love this stuff, in no small part due to its flavor (although they also appreciate matcha’s health benefits, caffeine boost, and more).
If you’ve ever sipped matcha before, you already know that it wonderfully blends bitterness, sweetness, and the savory “umami” flavors. But let’s take a closer look at what exactly matcha tastes like. If you’ve never tried matcha before, this guide will help you determine whether you’ll likely appreciate it if you try a cup of matcha green tea in the future!
The Core Matcha Flavor
Let’s start with matcha’s “core” flavor. It’s a unique blend of bitterness, sweetness, and “umami” flavors. Umami, if you aren’t aware, is the same core flavor note you get from eating meat products like beef or lamb.
Matcha’s core flavor is probably so noteworthy since the flavor notes all belong to the main flavor types your tongue has evolved to detect. The five primary flavors are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. All that’s missing from matcha is sour and salt!
However, anyone who drinks matcha will also taste a “bright” or veggie-like flavor as well. Furthermore, matcha drinks can differ depending on whether you drink ceremonial grade matcha, which is used in tea ceremonies, or culinary grade matcha, which is most often found in lattes, smoothies, and other commercial beverages.
Distinct Notes You’ll Taste in Good Matcha
The above answer is accurate, but it’s a little too general. You might still not know what to expect before sipping your first cup of matcha green tea. Let’s explore the individual notes you might taste when you sip matcha for the first time.
For starters, matcha powder provides a grassy or vegetal flavor profile. After all, matcha is harvested from green tea leaves, which are used in all kinds of tea like chai tea and more.
However, matcha green tea leaves are steamed and ground with stone into a very fine powder. Because the steaming process is common for Japanese green teas, matcha usually has a stronger vegetal flavor note compared to Chinese or other Asian green teas.
This may or may not be up your alley depending on your flavor preferences. But many people appreciate matcha specifically because it concentrates the “green” flavor in many types of green tea.
As mentioned, matcha also provides an umami flavor note. This rich and savory flavor can be found in miso soup, bone broth, and a variety of other dishes. However, this isn’t to say that matcha beverages taste like meat!
Instead, the umami flavor notes you’ll encounter are closer to those of seaweed. This savory flavor note is sometimes described as watery or oceanic. This might be because of the shading process that matcha tea plants undergo before they are harvested.
Matcha tea certainly provides a few bitter notes in conjunction with its other flavor profiles. This helps to balance out its sweetness and make any beverages with matcha complex and interesting to drink. The bitterness you’ll encounter will taste slightly earthy and will not overwhelm your tongue.
That said, if matcha is prepared improperly, it could be unpleasantly bitter and overwhelm the other flavor notes.
Many people enjoy matcha in lattes and other beverages because it has a subtle yet very long-lasting sweetness to it. Pure matcha isn’t as sweet as the commercial matcha you might consume in a latte from Starbucks, but all matcha products contain a little bit of sweetness to counteract the bitterness and umami flavor notes mentioned earlier.
In fact, this sweetness is so important to the matcha-drinking experience that Japanese tea ceremonies with matcha tea traditionally include small sweets to accentuate these notes.
Lastly, you may also detect that your matcha beverage has a good amount of smoothness to it. Smoothness is more prevalent in ceremonial grade matcha, and it gives your beverage a buttery and rich texture that allows the aftertaste to linger pleasantly.
If you want to prepare your own matcha, you can make sure that you get the smooth flavor profile by using a special matcha sifter and whisking the powder using a specialized matcha whisk. This will ensure that your matcha powder turns frothy and smooth rather than clothing together.
Do Different Matcha Types Taste Different?
Yes. There are two different types of matcha powders you are likely to encounter: ceremonial grade and culinary grade matcha.
Ceremonial grade matcha is exactly what it sounds like; it’s meant to be prepared through traditional Japanese tea-making processes and was mostly used for tea ceremonies in the past. Compared to culinary grade matcha, ceremonial grade matcha has a more subtle and complex flavor profile.
On the other hand, culinary grade matcha is a little bolder in terms of its bitter and sweet flavors and is meant to be added to smoothies, lattes, and other beverages. Many Americans have only experienced culinary grade matcha as part of other drinks.
Neither type of matcha is better than the other or necessarily tastes better or worse. In our opinion, you should try both to determine which type of matcha you prefer, then use that type of matcha powder in your own beverages at home!
As you can see, matcha powder is a delicious and very flavorful ingredient that more than deserves its place in teas, lattes, and smoothies. There’s a reason why people around the world are discovering the joys of matcha.
If you haven’t yet tried this ingredient, we recommend you do so ASAP. You might love matcha and make it one of your favorite beverages you drink every week (or even every day – there’s lots of evidence that matcha green tea is good for you!).
Want to know more about interesting ingredients? Or want to discover new recipes you can enjoy at home? Check out our cooking resources right here on Cook Gem.