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Quality of Matcha 

Matcha Powder

Hello Matcha Friends

In this post, I go into more detail on how to tell bad Matcha from good Matcha.

Due to the complexity of the issue Quality of Matcha I split this topic into two articles.

Quality of Matcha

Matcha Grades
Matcha Grades

What Matcha separates from other Japanese green teas is the processing method. 

Matcha is powdered green tea, but not all powdered green tea is Matcha. - this statement summarizes the core of this post quite well.

Matcha is a special tea that requires extra care and specialized utensils.

There are many grades of Matcha, from food grade to ceremonial grades and everything in between.

Prices vary from low to high, depending usually on the quality, but not always.

Now we are looking deeper in ceremonial grade Matcha. Because kitchen grade Matcha is great for cooking and mixing drinks like Matcha Lattes but not for drinking pure with just water.

In general terms, it can be said that Koicha Matcha is always making a good Usucha, but making a good Koicha from Usucha Matcha is not possible. 

Koicha Matcha is always at least of high quality, but more often of superior quality. 

The problem which now arises is that

How can one recognize the quality of Matcha?

In general terms, it can be said that the quality depends on the 3 following factors:

  • Raw Material

This can be attributed to the fact that depending on which tea leaves were used. (Tencha, Sencha, Bancha …)

  • Grinding Process

Matcha is Tencha which is grounded into fine powder in special stone mills while cheap varieties are often only cut several times into finely shred.

  • Storing and Packaging

Moisture, sunlight, air, odors and temperature are the enemies of each Japanese green tea. That's why warehousing, storing and packaging are extremely delicate procedures to be maintaining the flavor of Matcha. 

But these factors are beyond customer's control and influence. 

So now the question that needs to be answered is:

How to choose a good quality Matcha over the internet?

It is not always easy to find trustworthy and honest online vendors. 

It is impossible to tell just by looking at the packaging if the vendor is trustworthy or not. The packaging can be deceptive. 

It is always good to be skeptical, in particular with the high price-high quality trend. And even thanks to Photoshop you can not trust images of the offered Matcha. The color could be manipulated.

It's best to start with online retailers that already got positive feedback of Matcha enthusiasts. Most of the online retailers which I have listed are based in Japan. But with these you can get started without worrying, because they ship internationally.

How to tell good Matcha from bad Matcha? 

That's very easy. 
To determine the quality of a truly superior Matcha there are 7 key characteristics:

Matcha powder of different grades
powder size and color as a quality criterion

  • Powder Appearance:

The powder appearance of high quality Matcha is very fine and smooth. 

The young tea leaves which are used for the higher grades of Matcha are thin and soft and can be ground into a more fine powder than older tea leaves which are thicker and slightly leathery.

  • Color Intensity

Fresh high quality Matcha should have a vibrant green color which is similar to Japanese jade green. However, Organic Matcha has a lighter green color.

The bright green color is characterized by the presence of chlorophyll.

When Matcha isn't stored properly the color turns into a dull olive green and most of its delicate flavor is gone. 

Low quality Matcha or Sencha/ Bancha powder has different color grades between army green and a dull brownish/ yellowish green.

The cause for that is that this Matcha is made with older tea leaves, stems and veins and the tea leaves were exposed to sunlight for more time than the fresh and fine tea leaves for high quality Matcha.

A dull brownish/ yellowish green color can also mean that the Matcha has clearly had its day.

  • Aroma

High quality Matcha should have an aromatic, strong, fresh, sweet vegetal smell which comes from the high amounts of theanine.

Lower grades of Matcha and Sencha/ Bancha powder have a weak smell that can be described best as stale, dusty and old hay.

  • Taste

The amount of high quality and especially premium Matcha can be increased without resulting in bitterness, only the umami taste will become stronger. 

High grades of Matcha are characterized by a delicate and multilayered flavor with the main components of mild, sweet and umami. 

Middle grades are pleasantly bitter with a mild body and lower grades are overwhelming bitter, often with a sourishly or soapy taste which is caused by an increased amount of catechins during the longer active growth in the open air.

  • Finish

High grades have a long and smooth finish while lower grades have little to no finish.

  • Froth (strongly whisked)

With high grades it's easy to create a frothy layer on top with plenty of foam which can only be described as crema.

Lower grades form weak froth. The frothy layer is thin with large air bubbles.

  • Terrior

I already purchased Matcha from other areas in Japan than the main Japanese areas of Matcha cultivation.

And some of these Matcha were of really good quality, therefore I rather regarded this sub-item as a matter of minor importance.

I would merely list the most important areas without commenting them:

Quality of Matcha

Read more about this topic in Relationship between Price and Quality.
Oca Ocani

My journey through the world of Japanese teas started after discovering Matcha. That was nearly eight years ago. And during this time Matcha became my favorite green tea.With this Blog I want to share this passion, inspire and show the versatility of Matcha.

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