The powdered Japanese green tea called matcha has taken the world by storm, with green-tinged baked goods and claims of health benefits thrusting it into the public consciousness all over the world. However, high quality matcha teas are difficult to find internationally, as they use only the best leaves, are labor intensive to grow and craft, and are typically reserved in Japan for ceremonial uses. More common “cooking-grade” matcha is easier to find, but rarely tastes good without sweeteners, since it is intended to be used among other flavors in culinary dishes.
The inherent rarity of high quality matcha means prices are usually high, and while the suspension of powdered leaves delivers all the caffeine and health benefits of the tea in one concentrated shot, it also means a fresh serving of dry leaf is required for each new cup. In addition, matcha teas go stale quickly and must be consumed while fresh, given the large amount of surface area exposed when the leaves are ground to a fine powder. By contrast, whole leaf teas that are properly dried and finished can last at least a year before going stale, and deliver flavor through at least three infusions of the same leaves.
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Finally, matcha is difficult to prepare, since it must be vigorously whisked in order to suspend the tea powder fully in hot water. Low quality examples can yield a matcha tea that is grainy or bitter, and the cumulative cost of drinking good matcha on a daily basis would be astronomical. Most Japanese tea drinkers choose more affordable options like sencha or genmaicha teas for their daily brew, but these four whole leaf Chinese green teas offer flavor comparable to matcha along with the opportunity for multiple infusions, a longer shelf life, and simpler brewing methods.
1. Cloud & Mist
Our most consistently popular green tea, the gentle drum roasting process of this tea creates a flavor profile close to the bold vegetal flavors of steamed Japanese green teas. Perfect for everyday drinking and forgiving to brew through several infusions, this tea is ideal for those just beginning to explore the world of green teas.
From the northerly province of Anhui, the leaves of this tea are carefully shaped to resemble melon seeds during the process of pan-frying. The rich and umami-like flavor of this unique tea is reminiscent of a good Japanese gyokuro, with a thick and creamy texture in the mouth and a complex finish in the back of the throat.
At high elevations in the southern part of Zhejiang province, this tea was grown under organic conditions that left it plenty of time to develop a complex flavor and finish as it slowly grew and sprouted these young spring leaves. Clean, bright flavor is backed up by our typical third-party testing for over 300 different common agricultural chemicals.
Though Dragonwell is a characteristically Chinese style of tea, pressed into a hot wok to develop a distinct toasted flavor, these first leaf buds of spring are similar to the ones that would be used to craft high quality matcha. However, like any good whole leaf tea, they will also stay fresh longer than matcha on the shelf, and will retain flavor for multiple infusions.
All of these green teas are made with the same Camellia sinensis leaves as matcha, and will therefore deliver similar health benefits. To consume the whole leaf and all the nutrients in it, try incorporating the brewed leaves into recipes like our Dragonwell Pesto or Tea Leaf Chicken Salad!
Do you prefer matcha or whole leaf teas? Tell us why in the comments below!
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