Japanese Versus Chinese Matcha

Japanese Versus Chinese Matcha

16. 06. 2024
Matcha Tea is a synonym for Japanese tea culture which has its roots in 12th century, when was the milled tea introduced for the first time in the Japanese archipelago.

The original matcha is always Japanese

From the moment the powdered green tea matcha has started to be shipped West, other countries, mainly China, started to grow and produce a form of powdered green tea that has become popular on tea market because of its low price and great accessibility.
Long before we started selling Matcha Tea, we decided to do some research on the Chinese green powdered tea to find out if it can really compete with the original Japanese matcha. What follows are the results of our research in Japanese and Chinese green tea and what you should know as well.

China is the cradle of tea, but…

All green and black teas come from one and the same plant Camellia sinensis, tea plant, which was discovered in the misty mountains of southwest China and became a real sensation in Tang dynasty. Soon, it became an irreplaceable part of everyday life in entire China and it still holds its position today.
In 1191, the Japanese zen Buddhist monk Eisai came back to Japan from his travels around China and brought a new type of tea, tencha, that was milled to a fine powder. Although it was used exclusively by Buddhist monks as a meditation aid, green tea powder has soon become a favourite beverage of shoguns and the warrior social class.

In 16th century, green tea powder became the star of the tea ceremony (chadō or chanoyu) ‒ a very complex ritual od tea drinking that celebrates simplicity, peace and mutual respect.


What is the difference between Japanese and Chinese green tea

While the powdered green tea lost its appeal in China, in Japan it was still getting more popular: for more than 800 years the Japanese were improving and optimising the methods of matcha production with the intention to create a perfect emerald green powder with the fine taste of sweet umami.

Meanwhile in China, Korea, and other parts of Asia developed their own methods of tea production precisely to fit their culture and taste. The Chinese green tea is still one of the rarest in the world ‒ it has its own incredibly complex history and culture, but in the end is very different from the Japanese green tea.
The green powdered tea started to be produced in Chin about 15 years ago when the worldwide demand for matcha infused food skyrocketed. Mass produced food, such as ready-to-drink ice teas, do not require a very high quality tea.

But when matcha started to be exported from Japan, the tea farmers realized they can GET CLOSE ENOUGH to the techniques of growing and processing of the Japanese green tea matcha which include shading and tea milling well enough so they could become a competition to the Japanese market.

Get close enough is the key formulation here, as the similarity between Chinese powdered tea and Japanese matcha tea ends with the word powder. Terroir, that is the properties of the soil, are completely different in southwest China and in south Japan, so the soil produces a completely different tea.


Production methods

When the tea leaves are harvested, they need to be quickly dried so that their oxidation is stopped as soon as possible because it can blunt the taste of the tea and its colour. Chinese and Japanese producers have different techniques to grow and process their matcha teas:

  • In China, green tea is usually not grown in shade and to stop the oxidation, it is usually „fried on a pan“. This process makes the process of tea fermentation easier and alters its colour and taste. If the powdered green tea is made in China, this traditional Chinese process is often repeated which results in duller colour and taste compared to Japanese matcha.
  • On the other hand in Japan is the tea steamed and then dried by air so it maintains its vibrant green colour of the young tea leaves and sweet taste of the plant.

Concern about Chinese toxic teas

In March 2011 the central Japan has been hit by and earthquake and a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima electric plant. While the earthquake in Tohoku area had enormous emotional impact on the entire Japan, the regions in central Japan ‒ Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Tochigi and Tokyo ‒ recorded dangerously high concentrations of radiation later after the disaster. But in the Japanese tea growing areas, such as in Nishio or Uji, where Matcha Tea is grown, were not recorded any significant levels of radiation before or after 2011.
This is important because Japan has one of the strictest limits on radiation worldwide: 100 Bq per kilogram in comparison with 1200 Bq per kilogram in the USA!

In 2006 was China criticised by the European Union, USA and Canada when it was found out that 32 % of samples of Chinese green teas exceeded the limit of 2 micrograms of toxins per teaspoon. Neither of the tested Japanese teas exceeded this limit. In 2013, Green peace organisation randomly tested 18 random samples of various Chinese teas and discovered that 12 of them contained pesticides ‒ including methomyl and endosulfan ‒ which are strictly banned by the Stockholm treaty.

Strict norms of our Matcha Tea brand

When we were starting with Matcha Tea, we carefully went through dozens and dozens of samples from the entire Japan and China ‒ from the real „mud“ of the tea that smelled like milled hay, to some really exceptional types of tea, aggressively green powders with almost mystical aura (and price). With no exception, we never found a powdered green tea from China that would fit our strict standards and that we would dare to call matcha.
Of course, don’t want to say we disrespect all Chinese teas and that a regional product cannot be reproduced in an innovative way. What we are trying to say is that the traditional know-how, hundreds of years of trials and errors and honest love to one’s occupation talks for itself.

Interested in wholesale Matcha purchase?

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