What Is a Matcha Latte and Is It a Substitute for Coffee?

By now, you’ve probably heard of and seen matcha lattes. In truth, they’re hard to miss with their distinctive green color. So, what exactly are they, and why are some people trading in their morning cup of joe for them?

A matcha latte is not a coffee; it’s a ground tea (matcha) that is prepared with steamed milk similar to a traditional espresso latte.  We’ve reviewed the finer differences and similarities between matcha and coffee to explain the difference and whether the drinks are substitutes.

Let’s take a closer look at the findings about matcha lattes and how it compares to coffee. That way, you can decide whether it’s worth trying and even consider making the switch yourself.


What Is A Matcha Latte?

Let’s clear one thing up right now: matcha is not coffee but a type of tea. Even though it includes the word latte, a matcha latte is not your traditional latte. Coffee and espresso are both made from beans in the same family. Meanwhile, matcha is made from a specific type of Japanese green tea leaves ground into a powder.

When you drink matcha, you dissolve this fine tea powder in hot water, unlike coffee, which is steeped. Even when prepared in water, matcha has a frothy and almost creamy texture.

A matcha latte adds steamed milk to a dissolved matcha drink, similar to adding steamed milk to an espresso drink. This latte preparation is very between the two drinks, although the base of the drink is very different.


How Does Matcha Latte Taste?

The flavor profiles of coffee and matcha are very different. The typical coffee has a bitter, rich, and slightly nutty flavor with a huge variety of flavor notes depending on the roaster. Meanwhile, matcha tastes much as it looks, earthy and even grassy, and also bitter.

The earthiness of matcha tends to make it more of an acquired taste.  Matcha lacks the varying flavor notes that come from roasting specialty coffee. 

Different coffee can have different levels of brightness, while matcha is more homogenous.  Fresh matcha will have more of a grassy taste and less bitterness, but generally, the vast majority of matcha tastes similar.

Matcha has a thick, creamy texture that sets it apart from coffee. Because matcha is solid ground tea leaves, the drink has a full body.  It’s important to fully dissolve the matcha to remove grittiness in the drink.

Preparing a matcha latte smooths out much of matcha’s original flavor.  The steamed milk blends well with matcha’s full-body texture, and the milk flavor also dulls the earthiness of matcha. The flavor is why we recommend making a matcha latte, and partly why the drink has gotten so popular.

There are other essential differences between matcha and coffee, which we’ll detail next.


Matcha Latte vs. Coffee: Are They Substitutes?

We’ve broken down our side-by-side comparison into five easy categories. In some important ways, these two beverages are just as similar as different.

Caffeine

Caffeine content is one area in which coffee and matcha are similar. Your average cup (8 ounces) of coffee has just under 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. A cup of green tea has 28 mg of caffeine.  Matcha can have an equivalent amount of caffeine as coffee, though it can have considerably less or more.

The amount of caffeine in matcha can vary because you can use different amounts of powder to make it. Even the amount of caffeine in the powder can vary depending on if there are additives like sweeteners or flavor powder.

That being said, if you order a matcha latte from your favorite barista, you should get somewhat less caffeine as from your typical coffee beverage.

Calories, Carbs, and More

When it comes to nutrition facts, coffee and matcha are pretty similar. Coffee has around two calories, while matcha has about five. Both are negligible amounts.

Neither beverage has any sugar or fiber, and although matcha has 1 gram of carbohydrates (coffee has none), that’s also not enough to be noticeable.

It’s the same with fat (coffee has half a gram and matcha has none) and protein (matcha has 1 gram and coffee has slightly less). None of it is enough to matter.

Remember that these facts and figures are for plain matcha and black coffee. These figures change drastically when you add anything, such as:

  • Types of milk
  • Creams
  • Sugar
  • Sweeteners
  • Flavoring

Health Benefits

Both coffee and matcha have health benefits when consumed in moderation (yes, you can have too much of a good thing).

When it comes to coffee, some of the benefits are its nutrients. Coffee contains significant amounts of vitamins B2, B3, and B5 and potassium and magnesium. It can also help burn fat, boost your metabolic rate, and lower your risk of certain diseases.  Finally, coffee also contains antioxidants.

A lot of the advantages of matcha are similar to those of coffee. Matcha also boosts your metabolism and helps fight the accumulation of fat.

Matcha does have more antioxidants than coffee.  This brings a lot of health benefits, as protects against cancer, fights heart disease, and like all types of green tea, can help your liver. Matcha also contains L-Theanine and EGCG, which both have mood-boosting properties.

History

It would be remiss not to mention that coffee and matcha have long, storied histories. Matcha comes from Japan, where they used it in ceremonies, religious rituals, and meditation practices.

Similarly, coffee hails from Central and South America, where it, too, was used by ancient peoples in cultural traditions. When you enjoy either beverage, acknowledge that you’re part of a long tradition.


Why Do Some People Choose Matcha Over Coffee?

For some people, the choice between coffee and matcha comes down to personal taste preferences. Matcha can be an excellent alternative for people who just don’t like coffee but need a healthy caffeine fix, especially in comparison to energy drinks or sugary sodas.

Some people laud the health benefits of matcha over coffee. In truth, many of that might be hype since their advantages are somewhat similar (see above). Matcha is the next big thing, and it may fade in popularity in the coming years.

Another reason that some people prefer matcha over coffee is the acidity of coffee. It’s a well-known fact that coffee is pretty acidic, which can be hard on your stomach and digestive system, especially if you’re sensitive to acid.

On the other hand, Matcha is alkaline (the opposite of acidic).


Make a Delicious Matcha Latte at Home

If you’ve discovered that you love matcha, you can make a perfect matcha latte at home; no trip to the coffeehouse is necessary.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 teaspoons matcha powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ¾ cup hot milk: cow’s, oat, soy, or whatever type you prefer

Now, you’re ready to make your matcha. Here’s how:

  1. Sift the matcha powder into a cup.
  2. Add the water to the cup and stir or whisk vigorously until the matcha powder is fully incorporated and there are no lumps.
  3. Stir in the honey. You can use more or less to taste.
  4. Add the milk. Use a milk frother to crated steamed milk for a proper latte.

Now, your latte is ready. Serve and enjoy!

About the Author

Marko Lazarevic is the founder of Craft Coffee Spot. He has been drinking craft coffee since stumbling upon a Kalita Wave during his first job. Since then, he has been trying new single-origin blends and different ways to brew coffee, and sharing the learnings through various brewing guides. His favorite brewing device is a French press.

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