Malcha vs. Powdered Green Tea

What is Malcha?

Malcha is the Korean pronunciation of the Hanja characters 抹茶 (matcha in Japanese, muocha in Chinese), directly translating to “powdered/ground down tea”.

How is “Malcha” different from “powdered green tea”?
The two are essentially the same – green tea leaves ground down to powder form.
All malcha is powdered green tea, BUT not all powdered green tea is malcha.

So what’s the difference?
Any type of green tea that is ground up can be qualified as “powdered green tea”. The green tea can be sun-grown, shade-grown, steamed, pan-fired, etc. As long as it is ground up into powder form, it can be called “powdered green tea”.

In order to qualify as “Malcha”, it MUST follow these rules:
(1) The green tea must be “연차” (yeoncha 碾茶 – “tencha” in Japanese). Yeoncha is made of tea leaves that are shade-grown (partially or fully), steamed and dried (some may roll or chop the leaves to make it easier to grind).
(2) The yeoncha must be ground to a fine powder with a stone mill.

Malcha will also foam well upon whisking. In Korean, we call this process of whisking and foaming malcha “격불” (khyuk-bool). In the photo above, one can see whisked malcha in the bowl on the top right (right of the bowl with the tin canister).

In order to produce such fine foam, two things are necessary: fine powder and technique. The latter is a skill that must be honed over time, through practice and experience.

The finest powder comes from tea leaves that are ground down slowly using a stone mill. While other methods (ceramic-ball milled, machine ground, etc.) are used to produce powdered green tea, the stone mill is what gets Malcha to this ultra-fine state, without destroying the essence or health benefits of the leaves. This is also the factor that limits the quantity that can be produced in a certain amount of time, making fine malcha such a high-priced commodity.

Like a great cup of latte, the smoothness and fineness of the foam at top can make all the difference.

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Myung-In

“전통식품 명인 서양원인”
(Jeon-tohng-shik-poom Myung-in Seo-Yang-Won-een)

전통 (jeon-tohng) = traditional
식품 (shik-poom) = food products
명인 (myung-in) = master (person with excellent skills)
서양원 = Seo, Yang Won ((Founder & CEO of Hankook Tea)
인 (een) = mark/seal

Grand Master of Traditional Korean Foods

(명인 myung-in) is a distinguished title given to individuals in recognition of their extraordinary contributions in protecting and preserving the nation’s traditional agricultural methods, manufacturing processes and unique tastes of Korean culture. Since 1994, in effort to protect and preserve Korean food traditions, the South Korea Ministry of Agriculture has recognized individuals.

In 2008, Yang Won Seo (picture above and below), Founder and CEO of Hankook Tea Company, has been recognized as the 34th Grand Master of Traditional Korean Foods by the government for being a “master” at his craft, for his skillful technique in developing and crafting the artisan Hwang Cha (partially oxidized tea) and superior production of Matcha (powdered green tea).

Haenam Tea Plantation

Location: Yeon-dong-ri, Haenam-eup, Haenam-gun, Jeolla-namdo
Size: 17 acres

Haenam Tea Plantation was established in 1981.

Like its nickname “ddang kkeut maeul“(땅끝마을 – directly translating into “village at the end of the earth (land)”), Haenam is located at the southern most tip of South Korea’s mainland.

Our tea fields are located in idyllic surrounding near the coast. The cool ocean breeze and abundant rainfall create the perfect climate for tea shrubs.

One of the greatest factors in choosing a tea field is the balance of “yin and yang”. In the case of growing tea, this is the balance of sun exposure and natural shading. This ensures the best, natural taste of the tea leaves.

The natural “shading” at Haenam is provided in part by surrounding hills as well as the sea breeze (being near a large body of water, there is slight fog in the morning, blocking the sun’s rays from directly hitting the fields until later in the day).

The tea from all three fields of the Honam Tea Estates are combined to ensure consistency in aroma and flavor, year after year.

Youngam Tea Plantation

Location: Unam-ri, Deokjin-myeon, Youngam-gun, Jeolla-namdo
Size: 41 acres


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Youngam Tea Plantation was established in 1979 on the foothills of Wolchul (pronounced “wuhl-chool) Mountains.

This region was chosen for its ideal locality, rich soil conditions and natural beauty.

One of the greatest factors in choosing a tea field is the balance of “yin and yang”. In the case of growing tea, this is the balance of sun exposure and natural shading (provided by Wolchul mountain), which ensures the best, natural taste of the tea leaves.
Youngam Tea Plantation is Honam Tea Estate’s largest and most productive tea estate. The pristine lines of this estate’s tea shrubs are recognized as one of Korea’s finest, possessing the most desirable flavors. 

Youngam is also the location of our second factory. Our first, in the city of Gwangju, processes all the tea leaves picked from our Jangsung Tea Plantation. The factory in Youngam takes care of all the tea leaves harvested from both our tea plantations in Youngam and Haenam.

Both factories have received the ISO 22000 certification, which is one of the highest certifications that can be earned when it comes to factories dealing with food products.

The tea from all three fields of the Honam Tea Estates are combined to ensure consistency in aroma and flavor, year after year.

Jangsung Tea Plantation

Location: Nokjin-ri, Nam-myeon, Jangsung-gun, Jeolla-namdo
Size: 13 acres

Jangsung Tea Plantation was established in 1965, being the first tea field our Honam Tea Estates. Jangsung has 35-year, 24-year and 10-year tea trees, meaning the tea trees (camellia sinensis) have been strongly rooted into the foundation and simple weather changes will not affect them. The best example would be the harsh, cold winter that struck Korea a few winters back – many tea fields and plants in South Korea area were destroyed and uprooted by all the snow, strong winds and below freezing temperature. Our fields and tea trees were of the few that survived. The main reason for this was the deep rooting and firm foundation.

Jangsung Tea Plantation is located in the nothernmost point of the province of Jeolla-namdo (the northernmost point in South Korea tha produces tea). This field produces teas of the highest quality and of the best taste. The cooler climate makes this tea estate ideal for tea shrubs reserved for matcha (powdered green tea). Tea leaves reserved for matcha are partially shade-grown (photo below) for a certain amount of time before harvest. This allows for a more vibrant “green” color and sweeter aroma and flavor.

Jangsung Tea Plantation has been officially certified as organic by both South Korea (2009) and the USDA (2010). Hankook Tea’s organic line comes exclusively from this field. All other Hankook Tea’s teas come from a combination of all the different fields within the Honam Tea Estates to ensure consistency in aroma and taste year after year.

Honam Tea Estates

Elegant Masterpieces of Natural Purity

Hankook Tea directly manages the operations and productions of Honam Tea Estates, creating a taste of integrity within each steep.

The location for our Honam Tea Estates have been carefully chosen for their ideal localities for producing the best teas grown in Korea. Before planting, each location had been examined for ideal temperatures, abundant rainfall, rich soil conditions and natural beauty. To ensure taste consistency in our teas, year after year, the tea estates are strategically distanced from each other throughout the province of Jeolla-namdo – Jangsung, Youngam and Haenam.

Upholding strict standards, Honam Tea Estates uses eco-friendly agricultural methods that are harmonious with its surrounding environment. Each tender leaf is allowed to grow at its natural pace, free from pesticides.