Matcha doesn't disolve in water, so whether you're making usucha (thin tea) or koicha (thick tea), it's not enough to simply add water to matcha and and stir it a little bit with. Traditionally, in order to create a smooth drink, matcha should be first sieved and then mixed with water using a bamboo whisk called chasen. Electric whisks are becoming popular as well, though here at PekoeTea we prefer whisking matcha vigorously in "W" or zigzag movement using a bamboo whisk.
Some people love the process and turn matcha making into a ceremony using all the traditional accessories, taking time to prepare the drink they enjoy so much. Others still like matcha, but would like to find a shortcut that would make the preparation quicker.
Matcha tea bags... that might sound like a hassle free solution. But how is it possible that matcha, which usually turns into a clump when in contact with water, suddenly dissolves beautifully when inside a tea bag? And what about the price? Although matcha tea bags are more expensive than other green tea they're still a bargain when compared to matcha sold in pouches. Is this because big companies buy so much of it that the wholesale price drops to the point where matcha becomes much cheaper? Let the investigation begin.
Supermarkets and 'health stores' know very well that there is a great demand for products labelled 'organic', 'natural' etc. The green packaging also helps as it immediately makes us think of something natural, healthy and we feel good buying something that is meant to be packed with nutrients.All the brands that sell matcha tea bags opted for green coloured packaging and the word MATCHA is the first thing you see thanks to larger font and contrasting colours. While being very visible on the outside, finding matcha inside these tea bags is a real challenge.
A quick look at the ingredient list: Sencha Green Tea (34%), Pin Ho Wild Jade Green Tea (32%), Indian Green Tea (32%), Matcha (Jeju Island Emerald) (2%)
The content of these particular tea bags is very cosmopolitan but Japan has been overlooked when searching for the components of these tea bags. Matcha is not a geographically protected name so even though we tend to assume we're dealing with a tea made in Japan, that is not always the case. Jeju Matcha is Korean. In total, inside we find amix of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Korean teas.
This brand is not generous at all when it comes to matcha content (2%) but I have to admit they try their best to make it up to us by using creative descriptions. Reading the back of the packaging we find out that their product is 'the super hero green tea for when superpowers run low'. The matcha bit is their 'magical super-ingredient' and they finish off with a phrase 'welcome to a magical new world'.
This tea was refreshing. I've definitely had worse and there is no reason to say it was horrible. I didn't feel like entering a magical world, but it was good enough. Good enough for a blend of different green teas, but it's not what I expected. I wish the front of the packaging said '2% Matcha'.
It looks like there is a pattern: the word 'matcha' is meant attract your attention but after making the purchase, you need to use a magnifying glass to find matcha inside your tea bag.
Organic Matcha 3%, Organic Chinese Sencha, Organic South Indian green tea
What's really interesting here is that the producer describes matcha as 'naturally caffeine free' though we know that matcha is high in caffeine. Very strange.
Just when I thought I knew what to expect (2% matcha mixed with other green teas) this monstrosity landed in my hands. Flavouring? Matcha granules? I am left shocked and speechless.
Green Tea (90%), Flavouring (5%), Matcha Granules (5%)
Steamed Green Tea, Matcha Granulated (2%)
No flavouring added but again we see granulated matcha and some unidentified green tea. In what way is that similar to traditional matcha? Why advertising these teas as 'matcha'? It's very misleading.
Sencha Green Tea Leaves* (97.5%), Matcha Green Tea Powder* (2.5%)
Back to what we know from the first two brands, 2.5% matcha mixed with sencha.
Summary: matcha tea bags contain very little or no matcha (granules don't count). Some of them will taste just fine, but there's no point in buying them if you want to try matcha for the first time or you've tried it already and would like to have some in your cupboard. 'Matcha' is just a word written on the packaging to grab your attention. That's it. No winners here, all these teas dissapoint greatly if you're looking for matcha. And the losers? That's us, customers who only read the front of the packaging hoping it matches the inside. It doesn't, it's just marketing.
The difference between real matcha and the content of matcha tea bags: