Mecha (芽茶, bud tea) is made from the the buds of the tea plant.
These buds are separated during gyokuro and high-grade sencha processing.
Although mecha is cheaper than both gyokuro and sencha, it is nevertheless of comparable quality.
If you buy mecha you can drink a high-quality tea for a lower price, so it’s definitely a good deal in my opinion.
Mecha has another advantage: it can be resteeped many times without losing its flavor, while sencha can only be resteeped 2 or 3 times.
What does mecha taste like?
Mecha has a strong aroma and flavor. Be careful when brewing because when oversteeped it may become too bitter.
Perhaps this is the reason why the Japanese don’t value mecha as highly as gyokuro or high-quality sencha, even though the cultivation method is the same.
Mecha loose-leaves are small and rolled into lumps, unlike the needle-shape of other Japanese green teas.
The buds are softer because of their higher water content, so they naturally adopt this shape after the rolling process.
Where does the “concentrated” flavor of mecha come from?
The buds have high levels of catechin (source of astringency and some bitterness) and caffeine (source of bitterness), more than any other part of the tea plant.
If the mecha is made from gyokuro, sometimes called gyokuro mecha (玉露芽茶), also expect a good L-theanine content.
How to brew mecha
The important thing when brewing mecha is to keep the brewing time low, so that not too much caffeine is extracted. Otherwise it becomes too bitter.
Boil water and pour it into each cup (120 ml = 4 oz). Measure 3 grams (3/4 tsp) of mecha per person and add it into the kyusu (急須, Japanese tea pot).
Now pour the water, which should be about 80 °C (176 ºF). Let steep for 40 seconds, and serve by alternating from cup to cup so as to have an even mixture.