What’s the difference between Arabikicha and Matcha?
We get asked this question frequently and so I thought I would try and explain it as in-depth and thoroughly as possible to clear up any questions you might have.
Most of you know about matcha and the health benefits that come with it, but what is arabikicha? Is it as healthy as matcha? Does it taste like matcha? Let’s answer those questions and more.
Arabikicha is a unique product produced by Wakoen.
Flavor and fragrance are such paramount characteristics of green tea. And because tea loses so much of its flavor and fragrance during the grinding process, we set out to make the perfect flavored tea that looks, smells and tastes as close to brewed loose-leaf green tea. After years of research, we came out with arabikicha. So, what makes arabikicha and matcha different?
Arabikicha is a kabuse sencha (shaded green tea) powder.
Matcha is a tencha (shaded leaves with the stems and veins removed) powder.
Matcha is a powdered tencha with higher grades referred to as “Ceremonial.” Lower-quality matcha is referred to as culinary-grade, but no standard industry definition or requirements exist for matcha. With arabikicha there is only 1 grade and that is the highest. We only use first flush kabuse sencha (shaded sencha) leaves of the highest quality.
Matcha is a bright green powder with very small particles. Arabikicha has a slightly pale color in comparison, but other than aesthetics, there is nothing inferior about this color. There are 3 main reasons for this color comparison. First and foremost is the fact that matcha is made from tencha leaves and arabikicha is made from sencha leaves. Second is that arabikicha has been roasted. And the final reason is that the particle size of arabikicha is larger than matcha.
While tencha leaves are covered for around 20 days and covered to block 70-90% of sunlight, arabikicha’s leaves are covered for about 1 week and block around 60% of sunlight. That gives the leaves the refreshing flavor that is found in Sencha while also having some of the sweetness found in matcha and gyokuro.
One other big difference that we mentioned was the roasting process. That plays a huge factor in achieving that perfect taste and aroma from a green tea powder. We wanted a tea that tastes like fresh brewed loose-leaf tea, but at the same time had the nutritional benefits, convenience, and versatility of a powdered tea. Time and time again we would not be satisfied with the loss of flavor and fragrance after the grinding stage. Then one day we got the idea to try roasting. Because we use a cultivar unique to Kagoshima called Yutakamidori which requires a special roasting method, we were aware that our powder would need a special roasting method as well. Through trial and error, we found the perfect method. This led to a tea that achieved the sweetness and umami flavors of matcha and gyokuro, while maintaining the refreshing, balanced, and traditional flavors that sencha offers. And the idea led to the birth of Arabikicha.
Yet another difference is the size of the particles that make up the two types of powders. While matcha is ground into particles that are 5-10 microns1 (There are 1,000 microns in one millimeter.) We found that with arabikicha we could create something different and that led to a different size in particle matter. Because of this difference, the use of a chasen is not needed to mix it. A simple spoon can be used to mix it. You can also add it to a water bottle and shake it. In less than 5 seconds of shaking you will have a perfectly mixed bottle of green tea!
What about the health benefits?
One of the great things about matcha is its health benefits. Lots of vitamins and essential minerals, anti-oxidizing catechins like EGCG and relaxing amino acids like L-Theanine. And the reason matcha is praised is that you consume the entire ground leaf (including the health benefits of the tea leaf that are not water-soluble.)
You will be happy to know that arabikicha has all those benefits as well! All green teas are packed with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals2. The problem is that some of the vitamins such as Vitamin E and Beta-carotene as well as most of the minerals are not water-soluble and you need to consume the whole leaf. That is why powdered teas like arabikicha and matcha are so sought after for their health benefits.
The anti-oxidizing catechins such as EGCG (and others) that constitute about 40% of the water-soluble solids in green tea leaves3 are more concentrated in the new top sprouts that we use in our arabikicha. But since the number of catechins in green tea can also be affected by where the tea is grown, the growth conditions, when it is harvested, how the leaves are processed, and the brewing temperature and length of time of brewing.3 the levels of EGCG in arabikicha are harder to compare to other types of green tea(including matcha.)
The benefits of L-Theanine have been making a splash in the news lately for its ability to increase alpha brain wave activity, which working with caffeine gives you calm alertness and increased concentration (without the associated anxiety and restlessness that you normally get with caffeine4.) L-Theanine is also rare in nature, and green tea is one of the few natural ways to get it! It is an amino acid that is responsible for the sweet and umami flavors found in high-grade green teas5. L-Theanine levels reduce with later harvests and increased levels of photosynthesis. Since arabikicha is shaded and exclusively first flush it contains a great amount of L-theanine. Much more than lower levels of Matcha which are harvested in later flushes. There is one other benefit arabikicha has in regards to L-Theanine. And that is because L-Theanine is produced in the roots of the tea tree and transferred through the stems and veins to the leaf which are removed from matcha, you receive more of it in arabikicha because the veins are contained in the powder.
Can we make green tea recipes with arabikicha?
You often hear about people using matcha in recipes. Oftentimes you get conflicting opinions on which type of matcha you should be using. Some people say that you should only use culinary grade and others say that other grades are better. We love adding arabikicha to recipes here, and have a page dedicated to them! And we encourage you to use it in your recipes as well! When making meals we always look for the freshest high-quality ingredients. So, if you are adding green tea powder then that should also be fresh and high quality!
So, in conclusion, Arabikicha is similar to matcha in its health benefits. Arabikicha’s flavor is closer to that of fresh-brewed sencha with hints of sweetness and umami. Arabikicha is more versatile in that you can mix it much easier. And arabikicha’s quality is like that of ceremonial grade matcha using the first flush only.
We love arabikicha and think you will love it too! Order some today and enjoy arabikicha yourself by visiting our shop.
1 Sawamura, S. et al. 2009
2 Cabrera, C. et al. 2006
3 Raygaert, W. 2018
4 Kobayashi, K. et al. 1998
5 Kanako, S. et al. 2006
6 Adhikary, R. et al. 2017