A Matcha Comparison: Do You Know What You’re Buying/Drinking?

March 19, 2015 in Learn / Matcha 101: Learn About This Green Tea

It seems like the biggest “trend” for 2015 thus far but matcha has been around for centuries! I’m glad people are taking notice of the incredible beverage of course but there are many grades out there that you should be aware of before you make your purchase. Today, I’m going to talk about ceremonial and culinary grade. I am in no way a professional but matcha quality is something I am continually educating myself about.

Ceremonial is the highest grade. If you are wanting to prepare your matcha the traditional way this is the best grade that you will want to purchase to use.  Culinary is a lower grade and because of this it is usually less expensive. It’s best used as an ingredient in food and/or beverages such as smoothies. 

Unfortunately, you may sometimes find companies selling culinary grade as ceremonial and you still have to pay the more expensive price tag. When I first started drinking matcha I ran into this problem. A lot. I thought I was getting such a great deal when I found 80 grams of matcha for around $30. After a bunch of research and a lot of chats with people in the industry I began to learn that there wasn’t only one grade of matcha no matter how often a company may tell you “our matcha is best matcha out there.” So how do you know what matcha quality you are buying? Don’t be afraid to ask questions before hand. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that I find work best for me. Feel free to chime in if you have anything to add.

  • Where was the matcha grown and processed?
  • How does the colour look?
  • What part of the tea plant was used to produce the matcha?
  • Is it organic and/or are there any additives?  

I happen to have four different matcha brands in my tea stash that would be perfect for a fun matcha experiment. While it is more common to prepare matcha with a “foam” on the top layer, for this purpose of exposing the entire liquid, I did not attempt that during this experiment. I have also set aside each matcha in a smaller white cup so that it is hopefully better to see the colour. I will not be sharing the brands’ names in this post. This experiment is not intended to call out certain brands, rather help others decipher and understand different matcha qualities better. I am also not saying that a specific matcha is bad and you should only stick to a certain one. Everyone has their own palate. Depending on how you like your matcha and plan to consume it, you will make your own decision on what makes your taste buds sing.

Matcha #1

Matcha Quality
Name: Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder
Origin: Somewhere in China
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $29.00 for 80 grams
Tasting Notes: At first glance, this matcha powder is not as bright as the others compared. Although it doesn’t specify the grade, I would consider this one to be more of a culinary grade. One way I can gather that is that this matcha is a bit more stubborn when it comes to trying to froth it. A great rule to follow is the higher quality the more easier froth will appear. Also, the price–it seems really affordable. I do not think you can find ceremonial grade matcha for that price. This matcha is earthy and has a sweet taste. It is also a lot more grassier than the other three.

Matcha #2

Matcha Quality

 

Name: Japanese Matcha Supreme
Origin: Somewhere in Japan
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $34.00 for 50 grams
Tasting Notes: While the powder from this matcha is brighter green than the first it is still a bit dull. The froth accessibility is friendlier. For the taste, I found this matcha to be rather light. It is a shame that I could not find the exact region in Japan this matcha came from to get more information.

 

Matcha #3

Matcha Quality
 
Name: Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder
Origin: Aichi, Japan
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $29.00 for 30 grams
Tasting Notes: Aichi is more north Japan which results in colder climates. I was informed that this could cause the leaves to become harder creating a more bitter taste. I think this made for a unique taste. It’s quite vegetal and thankfully, stronger than the other two.

 

Matcha #4

Matcha Quality
 
 
Name: Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha
Origin: Uji, Japan
Harvest Date: May 2014
Price: $25.00 for 30 grams
Tasting Notes: This matcha is the brightest of them all. The very fine powder and the vibrant green just sings to me. With a full body, this matcha had a delicious creamy texture that made me want more. I was surprised to see that it is also price very well given the high quality.

 

Now let’s answer those questions we were asking ourselves earlier… 

  • Matcha that was grown and processed somewhere in Japan is going to be your best option for high quality because of the environment.
  • The greener and more vibrant the colour of the matcha, the higher the quality.
  • Learning what part of the Camellia Sinensis plant was used for the matcha may be harder to find out but I have been told the top leaves and bud are to be used. If your matcha has a harsher taste it could be because bigger leaves and stems were mixed into the powder. 
  • You are consuming the actual tea leaves with matcha and because of this I believe that organic should be the way to go. You do not want to be ingesting chemicals with your super drink. Also, sometimes you may find matcha that has other sugar or flavourings added to it. Stick to pure.

This experiment made me realize more how important it is to ask questions. Finding information about some of the matcha brands online was difficult. Instead of just ignoring the unanswered questions go out there and ask! It’s nice when a company has all the helpful details about it’s matcha outlined on it’s website so consumers can research before their purchase. Kudos to those that do!

Did you find this matcha comparison helpful? Do you have anything to add? Please let me know in the comments below!

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9 Comments

  • Reply Georgia | Notes on Tea March 20, 2015 at 1:18 am

    I'm a novice when it comes to matcha so I appreciate your comparative analysis.

  • Reply Lu Ann March 20, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    @Georgia | Notes on Tea I'm happy to hear that. Like any other tea, there is always something new to learn!

  • Reply Mr Matcha June 4, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Great article. I really appreciate people going deep into matcha.

  • Reply Cynthia February 8, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    This is fab. I’m keen to try Matcha but wasn’t sure which to purchase. Looking forward to giving it a go.x

  • Reply Grace & Green March 4, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Excellent article! I hope more and more people get to know about good quality Matcha not to be cheated by matcha second sellers!

  • Reply Brittany of Wight Tea Co October 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Love this! I was in the tea and coffee shop by my work yesterday and ordered a matcha latte to treat myself and when the guy pulled out the container it was such a pale green I had to stop him. He knows I mean tea business so he laughed at me and let me see the jar. I still got the latte because whatever, I’m not above it; but there is a definite difference in matcha quality and flavor. My company just got in some awesome high-grade cafe (not culinary) Japanese matcha. I’d love to share your post on our FB to educate our followers!

    • Reply Lu Ann Pannunzio October 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Hey Brittany,
      Thanks for sharing that matcha story. So relatable! I’m happy to hear your company is investing in great quality of matcha and know the difference. Please feel free to help me spread the matcha love 🙂

  • Reply Matt Reynolds November 17, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    One thing you forgot to mention about green teas is their ability to absorb toxins from their surroundings. Although the product is organically grown, if the surrounding area is environmentally polluted the teas will absorb all these toxins and then we drink those toxins, we don’t need more toxins our goal should be to eliminate these toxins because our society we are surrounded with extra toxins. So I would recommend a lab report on each batch of tea is mandatory as well as finding out exactly where the product is grown if the producer refuses to supply this information dont buy. One common toxic example is lead in green tea

  • Reply Grace & Green December 22, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Dear Matt,
    I agree with you. If you live in a county where green tea is not produced and have to import from other countries, this should be a huge concern to the green tea consumers. Because of affiliate program, many low quality (in taste and food safety) matcha have got so many good reviews and been sold a lot as a super food even though they might have much lead contamination.
    As the proverb goes, bad money drives out good.
    Thank you, Matt. We hope people are getting to know about it soon!

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