Matcha buying guide
If you are deciding to buy matcha, here is a simple guide which you can follow to know the real difference between quality matcha and ordinary. Our easy to follow 5 tips will help you differentiate between the two, after which you can enjoy Japan’s favourite!
The confusion starts with nomenclatures like “Ceremonial Grade”, “Food Grade” or “Ingredient Grade”, is it right to follow these, does this ensure you are buying the right matcha? Wrong. Now all matcha is created equal. So what is it that you need to see which makes a difference, it is taste. High-quality matcha has a smoother taste and better mouth feel and is generally less bitter. Low-grade matcha delivers a coarse and gritty taste. So before you start preparing your cup of matcha tea take time to find the best quality, here are 5 simple steps.
Matcha is native to Japan and the best quality matcha tea is made in Japan. The country has 47 provinces, Shizuoka which is located between Mt. Fuji and the Pacific coast west of Tokyo, it accounts for 40% of Japan’s commercial tea production. Kagoshima in southern Kyushu produces over 20% of Japan’s tea. Third is Mie in central Japan which has a long history of tea cultivation, the other regions are Nara and Kyoto.
The matcha tea from Shizuoka is widely accepted as the gold standard and is probably the best that is ever made. Today, China, Taiwan, Nepal and India have started making matcha tea and they are not a patch over the matcha tea from Shizuoka.
Watch out for the really vibrant green colour because greener is the best. Tea is grown under shade so that they the tea leaves are forced to overproduce chlorophyll, this is what gives the bright green colour to matcha. Lower quality matcha, by comparison, is usually made up of leaves that have not been shaded properly, or that may be older and/or harvested from lower on the stalk of the plant; and therefore the colour will be yellowish/brownish.
Like all good things in life comes at a price, so does good quality matcha. What you pay is what you get. The price of quality matcha tea will vary, typically a 30 grams tin of good ceremonial grade ranges from US$ 20 to US$ 35. You will be able to get 100 grams at US$15, you will be able to make out a noticeable difference right away, taste it and you will know the difference immediately.
Good matcha has a sweet, vegetal smell to it, this can be attributed to the amino acid call L-Theanine which is produced when the tea is grown in the shade. The L-Theanine gives matcha the nice, clean drinking, green tea taste. Low-grade matcha lacks L Theanine which results in a strong bitter and astringent flavour and is not tasty or sweet.
Have a look at the picture above. Matcha is fine green tea powder, the feel and texture of the powder can reveal the true quality of the matcha. The high-quality grade is very fine and silky similar to the feel of eye shadow because the particle size is 5 -10 microns which are comparable to baby powder. Lower-grade matcha powder means bigger particle size and it will feel coarse when you rub it between your fingers.
Finally – Brew your Matcha Right!
When you start preparing your matcha tea, all you need to do is add hot water to the powder and whisk it with a bamboo Chasen, you can also use a hand whisker/blender. Proper whisking will add to the smoothness of the drink, ensure that there are no lumps on the side of the bowl.
Remember – No teas are the same, nor is the case with matcha. The best way is to experiment and to compare a few sides by side.
Don't forget our 5 easy tips: Origin – Color- Price– Taste & Feel.
Enjoy your matcha green tea …