Choosing the right matcha depends on what you want from the tea.
If you just want the health benefits, then culinary grade matcha is the best option. Culinary grade matcha is significantly cheaper than ceremonial grade matcha but it can taste unpleasantly bitter when consumed by itself with hot water. By adding it to smoothies, juices or desserts, you can neutralize the bitterness of the tea while still retaining all the health benefits.
On the other hand, if you want to savor the flavor of the matcha, then you should only buy ceremonial grade matcha. In our view, ceremonial grade matcha offers the best of both worlds — sensational taste coupled with extraordinary health benefits. To experience this for yourself, you should buy ceremonial grade matcha from a reputable source and mix the matcha with hot water (between 160-175℉ / 70-80℃) and nothing else. This allows you to taste the matcha in its purest form without other ingredients interfering with its flavor.
“Ceremonial grade” is a mark of distinction that is applied to matcha which is supposed to be of the highest quality and worthy of the Japanese tea ceremony. The tea leaves used to make ceremonial grade matcha should be picked by hand, come from the first flush of the spring harvest and only the newest and most tender two or three leaves from the top of the plant should be used. The plants should also be shaded for a few weeks to increase the chlorophyll content and amino acids in the leaves which give the tea its distinctive umami flavor. All of these factors combine to make a good quality ceremonial grade matcha expensive to purchase but a joy to drink.
Unfortunately, as matcha has gained in popularity, the market has been flooded with poor quality matcha which is sold as ceremonial grade but is actually culinary grade. So how can you be sure you are choosing a ceremonial grade of matcha which is actually top-quality? Here are our six key tips on what you should look out for:
Ceremonial grade matcha green tea powder should have a bright, vivid green color. Unlike regular green tea, the leaves used to make matcha are shaded in the last few weeks before they are picked. In doing so, the farmers gradually reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the leaves which causes the leaves to produce increasing amounts of chlorophyll. It is this higher concentration of chlorophyll that gives the best matcha its beautiful, emerald-green color.
By contrast, poor quality matcha will be dull in appearance with a light green or even (in the worst cases) a yellowish-green color. It will have none of the vibrancy of a matcha that is rich in chlorophyll, usually because the tea leaves have not been shaded properly or because older leaves or leaves from later harvests have been used.
Ceremonial grade matcha should smell fresh, inviting and vegetal. As the matcha reacts with hot water, it should release an enticing brothy aroma which hints at the rich umami flavor to come.
Poor quality matcha will smell a little stale and dusty. It may be fine when added to a juice or a smoothie but it should not be consumed on its own with hot water.
Ceremonial grade matcha should be naturally sweet. The natural sweetness should shine through without requiring sugar, honey, agave or other additives to mask any bitterness. If the tea has an unpleasantly bitter taste, it is not ceremonial grade. A good quality matcha tea should also have plenty of umami which gives it a nutty, brothy flavor. The umami comes from the abundance of amino acids in the leaves which increase in number while the tea leaves are shaded.
Good quality culinary grade matcha will taste lovely as a cold brew poured over ice, since the temperature of the ice numbs any bitterness and the matcha itself will have a pleasant green tea flavor. However, inferior quality matcha mixed with either hot or cold water will be very bitter, have no discernible flavor or otherwise taste watery and unpleasant, and may even have a fishy undertone. If your matcha tastes like this, you have unfortunately been sold a very poor quality culinary grade matcha.
A good quality matcha should be silky smooth and creamy with a velvety mouthfeel. The smoothness of the texture is determined by how carefully the matcha is produced. Once the tea leaves for a ceremonial grade matcha are picked, they are steamed to preserve the color and nutrients, dried in large containers equipped with heaters and then destemmed and deveined to remove the roughest material. The leaves (called “tencha” at this point) are then ground into an ultra-fine powder between granite stones which produce around 1oz / 30g of matcha an hour.
If the matcha is of a lower quality, it will typically retain many of the stems and veins which should have been removed and the leaves will have been blasted inside a machine to reduce them to a powder. The resulting matcha has a coarser texture and rougher mouthfeel which is less appealing.
Ceremonial grade matcha should have a long, pleasant finish. The flavor profile of the tea should sing on long after the last mouthful. An inferior matcha may leave a bad taste in your mouth or any flavor that was present may disappear in an instant.
At Saihōji, we collaborate with family-owned farms and artisanal producers to source rare, specialist matcha of the highest quality. With creamy textures, enticing aromas and complex flavors, our matchas captivate the senses while calming the mind and promoting an overall feeling of contentment.
We maintain the quality of our matcha by sourcing our tea leaves from farmers and producers in Uji and Nishio who take the utmost care to nurture the tea plants. At the beginning of May each year, the youngest and most tender leaves from the first spring harvest are picked by hand, gently steamed, dried and then ground by granite stone mills into an ultra-fine powder. We have worked hard to develop strong and trusting relationships with our farmers to ensure our matcha is the very best.
Browse our full collection of ceremonial-grade matches today and find the perfect one for you.
WHICH MATCHA IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
R A K U: Mellow and soft with hints of roasted hazelnuts.
H A G I: Naturally sweet and beautifully smooth.
T S U T S U I: Deep, complex and umami-rich.