If you love green tea but are unsure of the differences between matcha and sencha, then this article tells you all you need to know: discover their variances in taste and texture and understand their weight loss properties and numerous health benefits. In this article, you will also learn which one has more antioxidants, more caffeine and which one is healthier.
What is sencha tea?
Sencha is harvested from the stem and shoot of a green tea plant, which has been grown in direct sunlight. The stems and shoots are then steamed, kneaded and dried to produce its distinctive green loose-leaf texture. Sencha is also available in a powdered form, although this is less commonly available.
Sencha originates in Japan֫—and is the most popular variety of tea in the country—making up almost 60% of tea production in Japan.1
To brew the perfect cup of sencha green tea, add a teaspoon (per cup) of leaves to the teapot and cover with near-boiling water and leave for two minutes. Never use water that is boiling hot or leave for longer than two minutes as the tea can become very bitter (ideal temperature for steeping is 80℃). Make sure you serve every drop, as the Japanese believe that the last drop of tea holds the best flavour!
Sencha has a mild grassy flavour with a slight sweetness and astringency afterwards.
What is matcha tea?
Matcha tea is made from the leaves at the tip of the shoot, which form the youngest, most tender part of the plant. After carefully picked, the leaves are dried before being ground into a fine powder.
Unlike sencha, matcha tea is grown in the shade to increase the chlorophyll in the leaves which creates bright green colour matcha is known for.
There are three grades of matcha tea: Ceremonial, Premium and Culinary. The highest grade matcha tea is grown in near darkness to maximise the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves.
- Ceremonial grade: This is the highest-quality matcha tea available and is the most nutritionally rich, with a delicate, yet sweet, flavour. During a Japanese Tea Ceremony, only the highest grade matcha will be used.
- Premium grade: Less sweet than the highest grade matcha, this grade is a versatile tea which offers value for money. However, the slightly bitter flavour means drinkers often add honey or flavoured syrups, which makes it less healthy and adds empty calories to the drink.
- Culinary grade: Often known as ‘cooking grade’ matcha, this type of tea is best used when mixed with other ingredients in baking. The strong, bitter flavour is more suited to the Western palate and is more popular here than in Japan.
Matcha is easy to prepare and drink. The powder can be added to the cup, topped with hot water (70℃) and is ready to enjoy once whisked well. For an authentic experience, the tea should be frothed with a bamboo whisk before consuming and a special bowl should be used during this process. For even better results, sieve matcha powder first before making the tea.
Sencha vs matcha: Which is higher is antioxidants?
In general, green tea is considered to be one of the healthiest beverages to consume. Both matcha and sencha are rich in the following antioxidants:
- Polyphenols: Micro-nutrients that are believed to aid digestion issues, help with weight management and help to improve conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Catechins: These are a type of polyphenols and are the strongest antioxidants found in green tea that can help to prevent cell damage. Some studies have reported that catechins have anti-cancer properties.3
- L-theanine: An amino-acid which promotes relaxation. One study has also shown that L-theanine can help to decrease levels of anxiety.2
Matcha tea contains more antioxidants than sencha, as instead of boiling the leaves and straining them from the drink, the powdered form of matcha means you’re consuming the entire leaf to gain the most nutrients. Drinking sencha in a powdered form would also give you more nutrients that the loose-leaf form.
The caffeine content of matcha and sencha green tea
Because the growing methods of each tea differ, they contain different levels of caffeine. Matcha tea, grown in shady conditions, retains more of its caffeine content.
A regular cup of matcha contains roughly 70mg of caffeine, which is slightly lower than the same sized cup of coffee (depending on the coffee beans used).
Sencha contains between 20-30mg of caffeine per cup, depending on the quality of the tea leaves and the length of time it’s allowed to brew.
Matcha vs sencha benefits
Green tea is considered a healthy beverage. Aside from containing antioxidants which help to fight free radicals and reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancers and dementia, there are many other benefits to drinking green tea regularly:
- Sufferers of diabetes should consume green tea as studies have revealed that it may reduce blood sugar levels in some individuals. One Japanese study revealed that that regular green tea drinkers had a 42% lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes. 7
- The antioxidants in matcha and green tea, in general, can also keep your bones and skin in good health and gives your immune system a boost too.
- A lesser-known benefit of green tea is that the catechins can suppress the growth of oral bacteria to combat bad breath. It’s a great reason to enjoy a therapeutic cup of green tea before a date night! 5
Since matcha contains higher levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, it’s more beneficial for your health so if you are trying to decide between the two based on their health benefits, go for matcha.
Sencha vs matcha: Which is better for weight loss?
Green tea can also contribute to weight loss. Evidence-based research shows that green tea can increase fat-burning and boost your metabolic rate. 4
As well as hydrating your body, the weight loss benefits of green tea can be seen in those who drink at least 2.5 cups a day, as part of a balanced calorie-controlled diet.
If you are looking to lose weight, we suggest choosing matcha tea as the leaves are consumed fully, rather than steeped and removed, meaning you’ll benefit from more of the antioxidants and compounds that contribute to weight loss.
If you combine drinking matcha green tea with regular bouts of brisk walking, a study has shown that it can enhance exercise-induced fat oxidation in females. 6
Sencha powder vs matcha powder
Although the powered varieties of matcha and sencha may seem similar, the main difference is in the way they are cultivated. The direct sunlight in which sencha is grown prohibits the preservation of the amino acids found in Matcha, which is grown in darker conditions.
Consequently, matcha powder retains its bright green colour and is a sweeter tea to consume than sencha, which has a more bitter taste and a dark green or brown in hue.
Is sencha or matcha healthier?
Matcha tea provides more nutrients and antioxidants than loose-leaf sencha, due to way it’s consumed in powdered form, making it a healthier choice.
However, if you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake then sencha would be better a choice as it contains approximately 40mg less caffeine per cup than matcha.
One thing is certain, green tea remains one of the most popular beverages in the world – and including it in your diet can help to keep your body and mind healthy. We definitely recommend trying green tea if you haven’t already.