Matcha and sencha are both forms of green tea. Not only do they both consist of the Camellia sinensis leaves from which all green tea comes, but both are also Japanese forms of it. Matcha and sencha have long histories of use in Japan that continue to this day. Along with their similarities, these teas have differences that we will compare in this SPICEography Showdown.
How does sencha differ from matcha?
While both matcha and sencha are primarily consumed as beverages, the nature of those beverages is different. Matcha consists of stone ground tea leaves. The leaves get consumed as a part of the drink, unlike most teas. Sencha is usually consumed as a loose leaf tea, which means that you only drink the infusion with no leaves. The result is a difference in flavor and mouthfeel.
You may perceive matcha as being more concentrated and creamier than sencha. It also provides higher levels of the nutrients and other compounds that come from green tea since more of the leaf is gets consumed compared to sencha.
The effects that you can get from each form of green tea is another area where they differ. Green tea’s benefits come from the compounds it contains. For example, matcha tea is known for its high l-theanine content. L-theanine is the amino acid that produces the relaxing effects of green tea. Sencha does contain l-theanine but does not have as much of it as matcha.
Farmers cultivate matcha in the shade; farmers cover up the leaves to encourage the production of chlorophyll as the plants try to compensate for the reduced light. Sencha gets cultivated in full sunlight. The amount of light provided to tea plants dictates the flavor as well as the nutritional and medicinal benefits.
Matcha is made with only the youngest leaves of the tea plant; sencha may be made with any leaves as well as with the stem of the plant. The tea leaves have the veins removed before being powdered to make matcha; sencha comes from whole leaves.
While lower grades of matcha may have a slight astringency, matcha generally does not have as intense an aftertaste as that from sencha.
Can you use sencha in place in place of matcha and vice versa?
If your only reason for drinking matcha or sencha is to get the health benefits and you don’t care about flavor, you can substitute matcha for sencha. Matcha will give you everything you want from sencha in a more concentrated form so that you can drink much less tea without losing the positive effects on your health. Similarly, you can replace matcha with sencha but only if you are prepared to drink a lot more tea to get the same results.
If you do care about flavor and consistency, matcha and sencha are far from being interchangeable. When it is prepared traditionally, matcha will not give you the same taste as sencha nor will it give the appearance or mouthfeel. However, you may be able to get something similar if you pour matcha through a coffee filter. Of course, this would also remove the benefits of matcha.
Similarly, you might be able to make a passable matcha substitute with sencha by grinding the leaves. It would not be a perfect alternative because matcha leaves have their stems and veins removed before being ground, which significantly reduces the bitterness.
When should you use sencha and when should you use matcha?
The different grades of matcha are versatile and work well for pastries and lattes. Sencha’s use is limited to tea.