The health benefits of green tea have been widely reported. Yet, matcha—a specific type of green tea that comes in powder form—remains a mystery to many Westerners, despite the fact that it’s popping up on cafe menus in lattes and baked goods alike. Fear not: we have all the information you need on both types of tea (taste, health benefits and more) so you can pick a side in the matcha vs. green tea debate and sip a hot beverage that best suits your preferences.
Matcha vs. Green Tea: What’s the Difference?
Matcha vs. Green Tea: What’s the Difference?
1. How They’re Made
Both matcha and green tea come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but there are key differences between how the two are manufactured. Green tea leaves typically undergo a simpler growing and manufacturing process that involves harvesting the leaves, quickly heating the leaves to prevent browning (i.e. oxidation) and then rolling and drying them. Then, the green tea leaves are ready to be brewed in hot water.
When it comes to matcha, Camellia sinensis plants are moved to a shaded area before harvest in order to slow their growth and achieve a distinct flavor profile (more on that later). Once harvested, the leaves are quick-dried, the stems and veins are removed and what remains is ground into a fine powder that can be completely dissolved into hot water. In other words, you end up consuming the actual leaves.
2. How They Taste
The differences in growing and manufacturing processes result in distinct flavor characteristics. Green tea has a grassy, vegetal taste that’s generally light, mild and refreshing, but it can turn bitter when steeped for too long. Matcha has a similarly grassy flavor profile, but it’s rich, bold and far more concentrated. (Makes sense, right?)
3. How Much Caffeine They Have
The caffeine content of matcha depends on how much powder you use, so in that way it’s a bit more customizable than green tea. That said, matcha does have more caffeine per gram than green tea. A 2020 study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that the caffeine content of matcha ranges from 19 to 44 mg per gram for matcha, while a 2008 study published in the Czech Journal of Food Sciences determined regular green tea to have between 11 and 25 mg of caffeine per gram. It’s also worth noting that both beverages have less caffeine than coffee. So if you’re looking for a stronger buzz than what you get from green tea, but nothing as jittery as a cup of joe, matcha fits the bill.
Matcha vs. Green Tea: Which is Healthier?
Both matcha and green tea contain a number of health-boosting antioxidants, so either beverage will do your body good. Still, between the two, matcha is the clear winner in terms of health benefits. An extensive 2021 review of matcha green tea published in Molecules reports that “shading of the plants during the growth period enhances the processes of synthesis and accumulation of biologically active compounds, including theanine, caffeine, chlorophyll and various types of [health-promoting] catechins.” The same study notes that those catechins are also found in regular green tea, but that “matcha is their best condensed source.” The takeaway? If you want to reap the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea in a big way, matcha is the better choice.
So Should You Drink Matcha or Green Tea?
There’s no clear-cut answer to this question, because it really depends on what you’re looking for. Matcha is decidedly better for you, but green tea is good for you, too. Then again, if you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, regular green tea is what you should drink. Same goes for flavor preferences, since the concentrated taste of matcha is not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak.
Our suggestion? Try them both and see which one floats your boat (and if you find matcha a tad too bold for your taste, try mellowing it out with milk and honey before you write it off).
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