What is tencha and why is it so healthy?

Tencha are the leaves used for matcha.

“Matcha” refers to the fine powder made by grinding tencha with a millstone or other tool. Matcha also refers to tea made by whisking that powder into water or hot water. At Cuzen, we frequently refer to tencha as “matcha leaf.”

  • A wooden saucer full of whole tencha leaves, next to three packets of Cuzen whole leaf matcha: Premium, Latte Blend and Signature.


  1. Comparing green tea and tencha
  2. Cultivation and brewing methods
  3. Health benefits of a uniquely processed tea

1. Comparing green tea and tencha

Tencha is a type of tea leaf that is ground into a powder and then used for matcha. During cultivation, tencha is shaded from sunlight before harvesting, then steamed and dried. Unlike other types of green tea, tencha does not undergo a kneading process.

All green tea leaves, including tencha, are produced without the typical fermentation process of raw tea leaves. In tea-growing terms, fermentation refers to oxidation. After being harvested, green tea leaves are promptly steamed to halt oxidation. This results in a tea with a vibrant green color, which is in contrast to the darker leaves of fermented black tea. 

The ceramic mill inside the Cuzen Matcha Maker grinds tencha– the shade-grown, unfermented leaves– and turns it into freshly-ground matcha, which falls gently from the machine’s funnel.

When tencha is ground using tools such as the stonemill, it becomes matcha. Green tea and matcha are often used interchangeably, but tencha is just one type of green tea. Matcha is set apart because it is the only green tea that is both shade-grown and then ground before drinking.

  • A teapot and a teacup of steeped green tea. Nearby is a saucerful of loose-leaf green tea leaves.
  • Frothy matcha is poured from a Cuzen Matcha Maker whisking cup. Nearby is a saucerful of tencha leaves.

2. Cultivation and brewing methods

Cultivation methods

In open-air cultivation, the method used for sencha, tea plants are grown without shading, exposing them to sunlight and aiding in the conversion of l-theanine into catechins. L-theanine contributes to tea's umami while catechins are the source of its bitterness.

In the covered cultivation method, which is used for tencha and gyokuro, farmers shade tea plants before harvest by placing covers over them. This results in vibrant green leaves with pronounced sweetness and umami.

Brewing methods

Gyokuro and sencha are steeped in a teapot, allowing some of the nutrients and flavors to infuse the hot water. After enjoying the tea, the drinker discards the leaves. 

In contrast, finely-ground matcha (from tencha leaves) is whisked into water or hot water to make matcha. Since the entire leaf is ground, all of the leaves’ nutrients and full flavors are consumed and enjoyed.

  • A view between the stretch of lush green tea plants and the black cover that shades the tencha leaves.
  • A chart delineating which green teas are shade-grown and which are not. (Tencha is shade-grown.)

3. Health benefits of a uniquely processed tea

In the unique shading cultivation method, tencha becomes packed with nutrients and health benefits. Tea leaves are grown with the use of a shade cover to block sunlight, as shown in the image below.

Thanks to the high levels of l-theanine and lower amounts of catechins, tencha contains approximately twice as much l-theanine as green teas that are not shade-grown. By consuming matcha, you can take in ample amounts of l-theanine from the whole tea leaves. L-theanine is known for all its benefits, including relaxation, improved concentration, better sleep and stress reduction.

One of the most celebrated health benefits of matcha is the simultaneous energy boost and focused calm that a person experiences after drinking it. 

Matcha contains caffeine, but when consumed alongside l-theanine, it offers a unique combination of alertness and a sense of calm. This results in a longer-lasting and smoother energy boost compared to caffeine alone.

Thanks to a unique cultivation process, matcha is packed with l-theanine. A cup of matcha is a healthy, delicious and peaceful way to start your day.

Read more about the health benefits of matcha.

  • A woman pours a packet of Cuzen's Signature Matcha Leaf into the Matcha Maker hopper.
  • A person enjoys sipping a cup of matcha made from freshly-ground tencha leaves.