When it comes to buying matcha, it’s worth learning the real differences between a quality matcha and one that just isn’t up to scratch. Explore these 5 simple tips to help you to distinguish between the two, and to enjoy this Japanese favourite the way nature intended!
You may think that simply looking for matcha described as “Ceremonial Grade,” versus “Premium Grade” or “Culinary Grade” ensures you are buying good tasting, descent quality matcha, right? Wrong. Not all matcha is created equal. So what’s the difference? Simply, taste. Higher quality grades deliver a smoother taste, a better mouth feel, and are generally less bitter. Conversely, lower grade matcha delivers a coarse and gritty taste. So before preparing a cup of matcha, take the time to find the best quality, and here’s how.
The origin of a tea might not seem so important, but if you can't find where your matcha comes from, it is probably because they don't want you to know. Matcha may have originated in China, but today the best matcha green tea comes from Japan - specifically the Nishio city in Aichi prefecture and Uji city in Kyoto prefecture. These two areas are considered the best growing areas for tea in the world.
One of the most attractive aspects of matcha is its vibrant green colouring. As the matcha-producing green tea plant is grown in the shade, it produces higher amounts of chlorophyll. Matcha that is not the beautiful bright green, but instead has a dull or yellowish-brown colour is always considered lower quality. The leaves were likely not properly shaded or harvested from lower on the stalk. Both practices affect the taste in a big way.
Just like good food, you enjoy matcha with your nose. Does it entice your nose with a fresh and vegetal smell or does it smell dusty and dull like flour you found in the back of your cupboard? High quality matcha can draw you in with smell alone.
When a good quality matcha is rubbed between your fingers, it feels smooth and silky similar to eye shadow or powder foundation. However, lower quality matcha feels much rougher and will definitely not produce a smooth, frothy tea.
Finally, taste is considered the most important aspect of matcha. While the tea's feel or origin may not matter so much to you, it will usually affect the matcha's taste. The naturally sweet flavour of matcha green tea is ultimately determined by the L-Theanine, an amino acid produced from the shade-growing process. If not grown properly in the shade, lower quality matcha has a more bitter taste. A good cup of ceremonial grade matcha should be smooth, soothing, and have a pleasantly sweet aftertaste.