Differentiate High Grade From Low Grade Matcha
*Our matcha are all pure high quality matcha. There are many green tea powder (made with low grade tea leaf) in the market labelled as matcha, only powder made from Tencha can be labelled as matcha. We recommend always buy from reputable seller if you are looking for real matcha.
From our Matcha Buying Guide, we understand that different grade of matcha is made from different quality of Tencha green tea leaves. For making matcha tea, we know only high grade matcha should be used. The question is, how to differentiate high grade matcha from low grade matcha?
There are few ways to know whether the matcha you bought is high grade ceremony matcha, or low grade matcha.
Tea buds hibernate during winter, and store plenty of nourishment for months waiting Spring season to arrive. The first harvest has all those nourishment, therefore first harvest matcha (Ichibancha) has unbeatable aroma and quality. Besides, first harvest tea leaves grow slower because of cold season, growing slower means it collect more "good stuff" from the nature. First harvest tea leaves contain 3 times more L-theanine (umami) than second harvest.
Even Japan has low grade matcha. Bear in mind that high grade matcha produced only from first flush (harvest) tea leaves (Ichibancha). Matcha from second or third harvest (nibancha or sanbancha) are low grade green tea powder. Matcha is considered a very fine beverage, therefore low grade tea leaves are not supposed to be used in producing matcha. However, in order to meet the market demand, many farmers in Japan start to produce matcha from second harvest or third harvest tea leaves. How to get these information? Normally if not mentioned in the product description, it's not from first harvest tea leaves.
The simplest way is to see the colour (but not always true, explain below). Matcha is made from shaded-grown tea leaf. Shaded-grown tea leaf is high in chlorophyll which give matcha the vibrant green colour. Older tea leaf has lower density of chlorophyll which give matcha yellowish colour. High grade matcha has a vibrant green colour, while low grade matcha has yellowish or brownish colour.
Our kitchen grade matcha is in "Good quality" range, Cafe grade is "High Quality" and Ceremonial grade is "Superior quality" range. Most of matcha from the marketplace are mainly from "Low quality" range, but sell at high price. It's very important for consumers to have the knowledge to differentiate good from bad matcha.
Most of the time, color is a good indicator whether the matcha we bought is a good or bad matcha. But this may not be always the case, some second or third flush matcha may have higher content of chlorophyll (therefore greener color) because it's produced with younger leaves, but the content of L-theanine is very low in second or third flush matcha, and they have very low umami. First flush matcha is always better than second flush because of high content of umami and low bitterness, even the color of second flush may be greener. This is the reason we sell only first flush matcha.
There are mainly 3 countries that produce matcha: Japan, China and Taiwan. Higher quality matcha produced in Japan.
Try take some matcha and rubbed between your fingers, high grade matcha is very fine and silky, just like baby powder. While low grade matcha has a coarser feel. High grade matcha has very fine particle size, normally more than 1000 mesh (< 10 microns), and lower grade matcha has larger particle size.
(This often become less reliable because many dishonest seller sell terrible low grade matcha at high grade price).
High grade Japanese ceremony matcha price range from RM50 to RM150 for 30g package size. Low grade Japanese kitchen grade matcha cost around RM10 for 30g package size. Matcha from China has even lower price.
There are many Sencha green tea powder sold as matcha powder in the market. Green tea powder or Sencha powder is made from low quality tea leaf, only powder made from high grade Tencha can be called matcha. Becareful when you purchase matcha powder, make sure you purchase only from credible source.
High grade matcha has high level of L-theanine which give matcha sweetness. A real good ceremony matcha has almost no bitterness even made in Koicha (thick tea) form. Low grade matcha has strong astringency and bitterness which make it suitable only for kitchen uses.
High grade matcha has a mellow and smooth aroma, lower grade tends to have refreshing astringent aroma.
Matcha comes in different grades and origins, know how to choose a good matcha is very critical in your matcha tasting journey.