With matcha tea becoming super hot with both tea and non-tea drinkers alike, we wanted to give you a quick overview of the varieties offered to cut through the muddle on this subject.
You might go online or to your local health food stores and see tiny tins selling ‘Ceremonial’ 1oz tins for $30 plus or see big bags for the same price with the word ‘Café/Culinary’ on the label. What’s the difference and is it worth paying a huge premium for the good stuff so to speak?
The quick answer: Like wine, stay away from the super cheap or from the uber expensive, both will leave you disappointed (your palate or wallet will tell you so).
Ceremonial: Traditionally used in elaborate Japanese tea ceremonies, it is the premium tea and can cost 3 to 5 times the cost of premium (see below). Our take? If you’re not dressing in a Kimono to undertake a tea ceremony, it isn’t worth the cost. A premium grade will taste nearly as good and provide the same health benefits. It’s like a fine bottle of wine, only a very small percentage can tell the difference and most of the time, there is no real difference.
Premium: We think this is the perfect matcha for 99% to drink. It’s relatively inexpensive and provides vegetal notes with some slight bitterness and a nice green hue. If you find a ‘premium’ grade matcha that is more yellow than green… run for Mt. Fuji! Since there’s no legal definitions on how to grade matcha, a beginner can simply look at color and make sure the bitter notes aren’t overriding the vegetal notes. Also, the mesh should be more silky vs. clumpy. If you rub the matcha between your fingers, it shouldn’t feel coarse.
Culinary/Café: The misnomer is that this is the cheap matcha and therefore not as healthy or lower quality. Not the case! This grade is perfect for adding to your smoothies or mixing with foods since this grade has more bitter, astringent flavor notes that help the bold flavor compete with its food/drink counterpart. You can drink this grade, but the bitterness will probably be a turn-off for most.
Matcha is an amazing super-food that has the benefits of consuming the whole tea leaf (it’s ground up tea leaves) vs. just drinking an infusion of the leaf. If you’re not a tea drinker, start with the culinary and mix in your smoothie or drink of choice. If you love tea, buy a good premium grade (hint: quality seems more consistent with matcha sourced from Japan).
Next: To whisk or not to whisk (your matcha)… that is the question?