Thursday, April 11, 2013

Korean Powdered Tea Vs. Japanese Matcha

One has been told the following about Korean "matcha" by no other than Korean tea masters...

"The Japanese have been making traditional matcha for hundreds of years, they have perfected it, and it tastes the best. If I want matcha I buy only Japanese matcha.
We Koreans have been making traditional green tea for hundreds of years, we have perfected it, and it tastes the best. If I want green tea I buy only Korean green tea."

I have also heard the following:

"If a Korean teamaster is drinking Korean matcha, he is not a Korean tea master."

"If a Korean teamaster believes Korean matcha is better than Japanese matcha, his taste in tea is questionable."

Interestingly, one recalls a story by a fellow tea friend. It involves the teamaster of Woomong Tea. He asked the friend which matcha he preferred, Japanese or Korean. He head of Woomong Tea seemed surprised when he said Japanese. This story shows how some Koreans, simply only drink, and are quite passionate, about Korean tea.

It should be noted that Korean matcha (Korean powdered tea) has some notable differences than Japanese matcha. Japanese matcha is shade grown for a few weeks to months before it is picked. Korean powdered tea is usually shade grown on purpose but rather is naturally shaded such by mountains, bamboo, or ocean fog. If it is deliberately shade grown it is usually done for just a few days or weeks. The other big difference between Japanese matcha and Korean powdered tea is that Japanese matcha is usually fertilized with nitrogen to increase the depth of colour and flavour. Conversely, Korean powdered tea is usually organic.

In the end both of these factors impact the taste of the matcha. Longer shade means a sweeter taste and more caffine as the sun is unable to convert theanine to bitter tannins.  More amino acids and chlorophyll is produced in the shade lending itself to a deeper green colour. Nitrogen fertilizer means faster leaf growth resulting in less sunlight as well. As a result Korean matcha tends to be noticeably more bitter and less rich, smooth, and sweet compared to Japanese matcha. The qi of Korean powdered tea is also very light compared to that of Japanese matcha.

It should also be noted that often Korean powered tea is referred to as "powdered tea" as opposed to "matcha" (Kor: malcha). Many believe that if the tea is not shade grown and properly processed in a manner that removes the leaves stems and veins (heavier parts) then it is not matcha. This is because all true matcha is shade grown and its leaf stems and veins are removed. Most Korean "matcha" is not shade grown nor is it produced in a way that removes the heavier parts of the ground leaf, so is instead referred to as "powdered tea".

A review of three Korean powered teas will follow next post.

Until then...



  1. More Qi? It's leaves from a plant. They have drugs in them. You drink drugs. This nothing to do metaphysical concepts about spirits or baloney theories about immeasurable energy.

    If you ever become an audiophile I have some shakti stones to sell you. For example:

  2. Anonymous,

    Don't know if you are mocking or spamming (maybe both)?

    Don't get lost in the language, qi is simply the experience that someone derives from the tea- that's it.

    It seems more complex than what can currently be explained by science.


  3. Matt, this is an exciting post, thank you. On a short tour I only met Korean potters using matcha or traditional tea-makers making ipcha. I'm looking forward to what more you have to say. You haven't scooped my forthcoming article on Bologna -- "The Canals of Romagna, Local Trade Fairs: Silk and Tea in Renaissance Bologna," have you? :) Meanwhile, appreciation as always for the gift of your experience and observations, including on qi.

  4. "Immeasurable"? Some Shakti stones go up to 11.

  5. Matt,

    A fine explanation of the differences between Korean and Japanese powdered teas. I look forward to your further comments and insights.

  6. Rebekah,

    Hahaha... have never heard of those Shakti stones before, so amusing eh?


    This is a true fact: This was my first time buying Korean powdered tea.

    Thanks for your interest.


  7. "They have drugs in them"
    "You drink drugs"

    Amazon is selling perfect tea for Anonymous.

    It is cheaper and doesn't require any preparation.

    I feel sorry for him.

  8. Hi,
    Im not sure if you would have any recomendations but I thought i'd ask anyway.
    Do you know a good place to buy macha tea/powder in Japan? Or the best places to visit to taste some? I am here now and and attempting (and failing) to hunt some good stuff down...

  9. laura.77,

    You can try Ippodo



    They are the most famous.

    Let us know what you find.


  10. I have never tasted a Korean malcha that was even remotely palatable. I will not say that I have tried all of them, but my tea master does not even offer a Korean malcha in her shop and I have been exporting Ippodo tea to her for over 5 years.

    I have never met a dain (tea person) in Korea who ever expressed interest in Korean-made malcha.

    Anonymous, the energy that one gets from anything can be expressed a Chi, Qi or however you want to phonetically write it out. And everything that you consume contains a drug or activates one in your body, which also produces drugs.

    Greg Demmons

  11. Greg,

    So true. hahaha

    You will find it quite hard to find a Korean tea master that sells Korean powdered tea.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Greg.