Sencha, Matcha and the joy of Umami

Sencha, Matcha and the joy of Umami

Our green tea whey protein uses a high-quality Sencha, but what is Sencha? How is it different from most commonly known Matcha? How are they good for your health and how to prepare a green tea that will unleash Umami? 

We have asked our partner Okada-san, who runs a lovely tea shop, Kaorisabo, in the heart of Hong Kong and is the sole distributor of a delightful Sencha that has been made by generations of farmers for more than 100 years in the region of Shizuoka, near Mt Fuji. He supplies the Peninsula and Shangri-la hotels among others. He also organizes workshops to help us better understand the complexity of green tea.

Both Matcha and Sencha come from green tea leaves. “Sencha leaves are grown under the sunshine while Matcha’s are grown in the shade for one month before harvest”, says Okada-san.  After they are harvested, the whole leaves will be ground for Sencha, with stems and veins, which are both removed for Matcha.  “The exposure to sunshine makes the tea leaves produce a bitter taste. However, this bitter taste is from the catechins, the potent polyphenols that give its antioxidant powers to green tea!”. Therefore Sencha is even better for health than Matcha! We have all heard about the magic of green tea, it is cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anti-obesity, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-artherogenic, liver protective and beneficial for blood vessel health (see reference below)!  And that is where it is from, the catechins!

According to Okada-san, “a good quality green tea has Umami and some sweetness.” Now how to recognize Umami, the now official fifth sense after salty, sweet, sour and bitter…?  "It is a strong body sweetness, or taste of soup stock", adds Okada-san. “A good quality green tea also has to be fresh”, as “green tea is not fermented and thus it is easily oxidized, so it is better to store green tea in a cool and dark place”. 

Is there caffeine in green tea? The answer is Yes. “In one cup of Sencha, says Okada-san, there is about 1/3 of the amount of caffeine found in drip coffee per cup.” One cup of green tea uses about 1g of Sencha, which means that in one scoop of our Sencha whey there is a little less than 2/3 of the amount of caffeine in a cup of drip coffee.  However, the amount of caffeine can vary a lot depending on different teas and coffees, so it is difficult to just compare green tea with coffee… For example, even among green teas, Matcha has more caffeine than Sencha, and Hoji tea will have much less caffeine, but Hoji tea is roasted and loses a lot of the nutritional properties of green tea, says Okada-san. 

Do you experience a difference in the effect coffee and green tea has on you? Despite its caffeine contents, green tea is said to be more relaxing, thanks to a specific amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine not only contributes to the flavor of green tea, it also activates alpha-brain wave activity which induces relaxation! 

What is the best way to prepare green tea? “In powder form, it is better to melt green tea with a small amount of cold water first.  With leaves, Sencha should brew at around 70-80C degrees and you should wait 1 minute, in order for the Umami and the sweetness to come out from the leaves.” If the water is too hot or if you wait for too long, the tea will have a bitter taste, the one that discourages us sometimes from enjoying that lovely cup of green tea! When making green tea, it is not the time to check your whatsapp or social media!    

Thank you Okada-san!

Other references:

https://examine.com/supplements/green-tea-catechins/

http://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/l-theanine

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/apr/09/umami-fifth-taste

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