Not all matcha is created equal. How well do you know your matcha? How can you ensure that you’re drinking only the finest quality? Here are questions to ask yourself when purchasing matcha.
1. Where does it come from?
Although Japanese and Chinese green tea share the same roots, Japanese farmers are known to use different farming and production processes for producing matcha, and have perfected their processes over 800 years around the rich culture and traditions of the Japanese tea ceremony. Their artisanal approach has brought about a significant difference to the quality of matcha from Japan.
Chinese matcha, on the other hand, can be cheaper but often low quality. Green tea grown in China can be subject to unsafe levels of pollution and a higher concentration of lead in the soil. Low grade matcha can be identified by a coarse and/or inconsistent powder texture, dull colour, a bitter or unpleasant flavour, and will be difficult to form any froth when whisked.
2. How vibrant is the powder?
The colour of matcha is a telltale sign of its quality. If you want high quality matcha, choose a powder with a jade green colour and fine, soft powder consistency. Bright green indicates the tea leaves were harvested at the optimal time in spring—around 3 weeks after shade growing—and stoneground using the youngest leaves. Green tea leaves harvested later in the season produce lower quality matcha, typically with a dull brown-green colour, intended for using in food or commercial products only and not for drinking, due its texture and bitterness.
3. What grade of matcha is it?
Matcha has two main grades which determine its quality based on the time of harvest, the age of the tea leaves, and its appearance, flavour and aroma. The finest quality is known as ceremonial grade matcha. It’s known for its vibrant green colour, very fine texture, and delicate flavours. If you want a silky smooth, frothy matcha with a pleasant umami-sweet taste to drink, or to create beautifully green desserts, ceremonial grade is the best option.
The other grade is culinary grade matcha, sometimes labelled premium grade. This matcha is often best used for baked goods and smoothies. The bitterness of this matcha can be masked by other flavours in food or can be used for lattes if you prefer a more astringent taste.
Often, matcha labelled as 'ceremonial grade' can actually be in fact premium or culinary grade. Be sure to judge the powder for yourself to see whether it ticks all the boxes.
4. Is it certified organic?
When shopping for quality superfoods, it's important to look for sustainable, organically grown produce. Green tea is no different. Organic matcha is derived from green tea leaves that are farmed without the use of harmful pesticides or synthetic fertilisers. Not only is this safer for our health, organic farming has been found to yield higher levels of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.
5. Are there any other ingredients or additives?
For the finest matcha experience, be sure to check the back label for any added sugar or artificial sweeteners, colourings, preservatives, and other additional ingredients. While there are many matcha blends now available, matcha enjoyed on its own is the best way to unlock an enriching and grounding experience.