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Matcha vs Sencha Green Tea: What is the difference between them?

Match vs sencha

What is the difference between matcha and sencha green tea?

Matcha is a finely powder green tea traditionally used for the Japanese tea ceremony, while sencha green tea is the most common grade of Japanese tea.

Kevin Gayscone, Francois Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais & Hugo Americi. Tea History Terroirs Varieties

If like me you think you can replace matcha with a green tea like sencha to recreate a luxurious, thick, foamy matcha latte, keep reading to understand why is not the best idea.

Why?

While matcha and sencha are both green teas and come from the same plant, their differences in taste, harvest time, processing & brewing methods, drastically outnumber their similarities. 

Let’s dive into it!

What is Matcha?

Did you know that in ancient China, there was a time when tea was prepared without teapots?

Since tea leaves were difficult to strain, Zen Buddhist Monks ground the green tea leaves into a super fine powder that could then be whisked into hot water rather than steeped.

The tradition later traveled to Japan in the 12th century, when the monk Eisai introduced tea to the Japanese people. It quickly became an essential part of Japanese culture and eventually developed into the matcha we are familiar with today.

Matcha is a high-quality powdered green tea. This is not to be confused with the dust of green tea leaves, which is technically a by-product and you can typically find it at your grocery stores.

Types of Matcha Tea

Not only does matcha have a complex flavor profile, it also has two totally different types!

Usucha

Usucha is the type of matcha that most people know. It is a thin version of matcha created with equal parts liquid and matcha powder.

When whisked correctly, it creates a very delicate layer of bubbles at the top. If you are a fan of matcha lattes or matcha boba teas, then you’ve most likely had matcha prepared as Usucha.

If you are looking for a dairy-free alternative for your lattes check out our recipe for how to make an iced matcha latte with almond milk.

Koicha

Koicha is a type of matcha typically enjoyed by more refined palettes.

It has a very thick, syrupy texture as it has a 2:1 ratio of matcha powder to liquid. This produces a very strong earthy umami flavor.

Each grade of Koicha has different tasting notes and underlying natural sweetness, so if you’re feeling adventurous it may be worth experimenting with different brands and varieties.

What is Sencha?

If you’ve had a tall, refreshing glass of green tea on a hot summer day, you’ve had sencha tea before! 

Sencha is a whole leaf green tea that produces a light, grassy liquor. Typically the leaves are steamed right after being picked to preserve their flavor before being rolled and set out to dry. 

Sencha tea is a versatile tea because it doesn’t have an overwhelming or bold flavor. It is also low in caffeine content so great if you are looking for a caffeine break.

It works well blended with other teas and fruits or can stand on its own as a delicious hot or iced tea. 

Much like matcha, sencha has its own unique varieties.

Types of Sencha Tea

Asamushi

Asamushi is a lighter traditional variety of sencha. The leaves are steamed for less than a minute, which leads to a soft yellow brew. The liquor of Asamushi sencha will offer a refreshing, naturally sweet flavor.

Fukamushi

Fukamushi is a newer style of sencha preparation and requires the leaves to be steamed much longer. This leads to a darker liquor with a more bold and earthy flavor than traditional Asamushi sencha teas.

Matcha vs Sencha: Top 10 Differences

Matcha vs Sencha Comparisson Chart

DifferenceMatchaSencha
Tasting notesBitter, nutty, earthy, sweet umami like artichoke.Grassy, vegetal-like green peas with some fruity accents and refreshing zestiness.
Processing methodGrown in shade, leaves are picked, dried, deveined, and ground.Grown in direct sun, the leaves are plucked, kept damped to avoid oxidation, and steamed.
Harvest timeApril to June.Early May.
Brewing methodWater can be heated to a maximum of 190 F degrees. Add water to the matcha powder & whisk it into vivid green color.Heat water between 158 and 178 F degrees. Pour the hot water over loose sencha leaves and left to steep. After a maximum of one minute, pull the leaves and strain the tea. 
Caffeine content29mg of caffeine.27mg of caffeine.
TeawareBamboo whisk (Chasen), tea bowl (Chawan), measuring ladle (Chashaku), & strainer.Teapot, tea kettle.
UsesMatcha powder can be used for baking, smoothies, ice cream, drinks, and much more.Primarily for drinking.
Price$100 dollars for 40g of powder. $20-30 for 3 ounces.
Health benefitsFull of antioxidants, filled with fiber, chlorophyll, and other vitamins that can help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes.Full of polyphenols, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and fiber.
Producing regionsKyoto & NagoyaShizuoka
Comparison table: Matcha vs Sencha Japanese Green Tea. Source: Teatasting.club

1. Matcha vs Sencha: The Taste

Matcha produces a notably creamier texture than sencha and boasts a bitter, earthy flavor. Sencha, however, offers light, aromatic grassy tones accompanied by a bold aftertaste.

 If you prefer a subtle flavor profile, then sencha is the tea for you. If you are more interested in a tea that is bold and frothy, then matcha is the best choice.

2. Matcha vs Sencha: The Processing Method

Matcha is unique in that it is grown in the shade. In fact, matcha connoisseurs believe that the best matcha comes from mild, elevated climates with fertile soil as it creates a very bright green color that is overflowing with nutrients.

The young tea leaves are harvested twice a year to be dried, deveined, and eventually ground slowly through granite wheels. The powder that is produced is what we know as matcha.

Sencha, however, is grown directly in the sun. They are picked quickly and kept damp to prevent any oxidation before they are steamed. Different steaming times lead to different colors, flavors, and textures.

Believe it or not, there are actually five different levels of steam. The lightest steaming creates a clear liquor with an equally clear taste, while the heaviest steaming creates a dark liquor with a pungent flavor. Afterward, the leaves are kneaded, rolled, dried, and sorted based on grading.

3. Matcha vs Sencha: The Harvest Time

Did you know Japan has seasons named specifically for tea harvesting? There are four seasons, and the first is known as Ichibancha. Ichibancha happens between April to early June depending on the area the tea was growing in and is considered to yield the highest grade of sencha and matcha teas.

Tea leaves intended to be made into matcha receive a special level of care in late March. Giant, black vinyl sheets are hung above the leaves to gradually stop the photosynthesis process before the leaves are harvested by hand in May.

Sencha leaves aren’t quite as time-sensitive and can be harvested during the first season of Ichibancha or the second harvesting season. Higher grade sencha teas are usually made of leaves plucked during the first season or a blend of first and second-season pickings.

4. Matcha vs Sencha: The Brewing Method

Matcha requires a very specific water temperature to create an ideal liquor. Water can be heated to a maximum of 190 degrees, or it can be brought to a boil before letting cool for a minute to reach the same temperature. The water is then added to the sifted matcha powder to be whisked into vivid green color.

Pro tip: achieve different textures of matcha by how you whisk it. If you whisk gently in a circle, you will yield a smooth tea. If you whisk more aggressively in a W-shape, you’ll find yourself with a foamy matcha tea. 

Similar to matcha, sencha teas do not fare well in overly hot water. Overly hot water can lead to a very bitter cup of sencha tea, so it’s important to note the temperature and brew time carefully. 

Furthermore, Sencha prefers water that has been tempered but isn’t boiling. If you are a person who prefers exact temperatures, hot water between 158 and 178 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water is poured over loose sencha leaves and left to steep. After a maximum of one minute, pull the leaves and strain the tea. 

Due to short brew times, you can make two or three pots of sencha tea with the same leaves. Just add the leaves to a fresh pot or cup and brew for another minute!

5. Matcha vs Sencha: The Caffeine Content

Matcha prepared by traditional methods creates a brew with roughly 29mg of caffeine. That’s less than a third of what you would find in an 8oz cup of brewed coffee. 

Brewing a cup of sencha for the recommended time of one minute produces around 27mg of caffeine. If you’re hoping for a cup of tea with more of a punch, you can brew the tea for a minute longer to double the caffeine content.  

6. Matcha vs Sencha: The Teaware

Preparing a traditional cup of matcha requires quite a bit more hardware than brewing a cup of sencha. Matcha requires a bamboo whisk (Chasen), a tea bowl (Chawan), a measuring ladle (Chashaku), and a strainer to achieve the highly desirable frothy texture.

Sencha, however, does not require a special variety of teaware. Most sencha enthusiasts believe that sencha should be brewed with nothing more than a container and water, as the leaves infuse better when they are not cramped together in an infuser.

Matcha teaware

7. Matcha vs Sencha: The Uses

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between matcha and sencha is the ways in which they are used. 

As a traditional whole leaf tea, sencha is used primarily for drinking. Sencha lends itself well to making tea infusions or punches, but can also be enjoyed as a hot tea in the morning. Due to its powdered state, matcha’s uses are much more versatile. Matcha powder can be used for baking, smoothies, ice cream, drinks, and much more.

8. Matcha vs Sencha: The Price

Matcha requires a very extensive growing process, so its price range is much higher than that of other teas. Quality matcha that has been grown in Japan as a ceremonial grade can cost as much as $100 dollars for 40g of powder. 

If you are looking to purchase matcha at your local grocery store, pay special attention to the label. Matcha that is rendered specifically for baking has a lower price tag but does not possess the flavor profile needed for drinking. Although it costs more, drinking matcha is worth the extra money.

Sencha prices are much more affordable depending on production area and grade. Some bagged sencha teas will only cost a few dollars a box while higher grade loose-leaf varieties may cost $20-30 for 3 ounces.

9. Matcha vs Sencha: The Health Benefits

Matcha tea flaunts a vast variety of health benefits due to the number of antioxidants present in the ground leaves. More specifically, matcha is full of an antioxidant known as EGCG which can have cancer-fighting effects. Matcha is also filled with fiber, chlorophyll, and other vitamins that can help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It may help promote weight loss while giving you a light caffeinated boost, too!

Sencha is packed full of polyphenols, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and fiber. While it doesn’t pack the same nutritional punch as matcha because the entire tea leaf isn’t consumed, sencha does seem to offer the same heart disease prevention benefits. Sencha also may give your immune system a much-needed boost due to its high Vitamin C levels, which in turn can promote radiant skin. As an added bonus, the fluorine that occurs naturally in sencha can help strengthen your teeth! 

10. Matcha vs Sencha: The Producing Regions

Japan has forty-seven prefectures, and all but three of them produce tea! In the case of sencha tea, a majority of it comes from the Shizuoka region in Japan. However, there are some unique varieties of sencha such as Kabuse Sencha that are grown in other prefectures and climates.

In contrast, Kyoto and Nagoya produce most matcha teas. Kyoto houses some of the highest grade matcha beloved by tea connoisseurs, while Nagoya is responsible for the more familiar mass-market products.

FAQs About Matcha & Sencha

Is Sencha better than Matcha?

Sencha and matcha are both great-tasting teas and are both equally great for you. Choosing whether you drink sencha or matcha will likely come down to the flavors and textures you prefer in your tea.

Why is matcha more expensive than sencha?

Matcha has a unique growing and harvesting process compared to Sencha. Since quality matcha needs shade and to be harvested in the earlier weeks of May, its prices are higher than sencha which does not require the same degree of specialized care.

How Are Sencha and Matcha Alike?

Sencha and matcha come from the same tea plant and both create a green liquor when properly brewed. Both types of tea host a variety of health benefits and a caffeine boost, as well.

Is there fake Matcha powder?

Unfortunately, yes! As matcha is becoming more popular worldwide, fake products are creeping onto store shelves. Many companies market the dust that falls from the machines during sencha processing as matcha, while others mix low-grade matcha with sugar to create “premium” matcha blends.

How do you know if matcha is real?

When purchasing matcha, know that true matcha is never labeled as a powdered tea, and it does not include added ingredients like sugar. More than that, keep an eye on the price tag. Authentic, high-quality matcha will cost you around $1 a gram, so lower prices may be indicative of a cheap product.

If you want to learn more about how to choose the best matcha powder check out our article to learn how to get the best matcha tea.

If you aren’t sure if the matcha you have already purchased is authentic, take a close look at the powder. Matcha should be very finely ground and vibrant green in color. It should also offer a fresh, grassy aroma. If any of those qualities are missing, you may have a lower quality product on your hands!

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to add a new tea to your routine the same way I was, whether it be for a caffeine boost or health benefits, both sencha and matcha teas are a good choice. I definitely recommend doing your research before you run to the kitchen and start brewing, though! There’s certainly an art to both types of tea that I wasn’t aware of when I was first getting started.

Perhaps you’re looking for a recommendation based on the type of tea drinker you are, the best piece of advice I can give you is this:

  • If you like mild teas that you can sip on throughout the day to supplement your water consumption, a nice sencha tea is the best choice for you. 
  • Maybe you prefer drinks with bolder flavors that make an impact, or if you’re looking for a way to add antioxidants to your daily smoothie, seek out a quality tin of matcha at your local grocery store. 

Either way, you are in for a truly luxurious (and green!) experience.

References

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