Descriptions like "Ceremonial Grade" are really just marketing terms, so how do you know when you're drinking the good stuff? We’ve compiled the ultimate matcha buying guide below. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy:
What color is it?
When buying traditional matcha for whisking, look for a super vibrant green color.* A bright green hue means it has been shade-grown with care for max chlorophyll content and picked from higher up on the plant. If the matcha has a browner hue, it's likely made of leaves that were not shaded properly or are from lower on the plant. The greener the matcha, the more health benefits you get from chlorophyll and amino acids.
*Instant Matcha isn't as bright green as pure Ceremonial Grade matcha, because its color changes when combined with the fiber that helps it dissolve immediately. PANATEA uses Ceremonial Grade matcha in our Instant Matcha, so you're still getting the same health benefits!
Where does it come from?
Japan and China are the primary sources for matcha. Although matcha originated in China, it became an integral part of Japanese culture over the past 800 years and was cultivated consistently in Japan since then. Matcha cultivation all but stopped in China until the last 15 years or so. Unlike Japanese cultivators, Chinese farmers don’t typically grow their tea plants in shade or air dry the leaves after steaming. This makes the Chinese powder duller in color and lacking in taste. For matcha purists, “Chinese matcha” is not actually matcha at all, but simply green tea powder. Because of this, Japan has become by far the largest and highest-quality producer of matcha. To make sure you’re getting the best stuff, look for matcha grown in Nishio (where PANATEA's farms are) or Uji.
How much does it cost?
The best matcha demands a complex cultivation and grinding process. Only the best, youngest leaves are de-veined, de-stemmed and then ground in granite grinders. This delicate, time-intensive process unfortunately means that quality matcha is expensive to produce. If you see a low price, it most likely means that the tea wasn't grown or processed in optimal conditions.
How does it taste?
Very high quality matcha, like our Ceremonial Grade, tends to have an earthy taste with a hint of natural sweetness that comes from the l-theanine in the leaves. Lower quality matcha lacks or has lower levels of l-theanine and tends to have a bitter taste. Plus, it doesn’t whisk in or blend as well, whereas high quality matcha is smooth and sweet.
How does it make you feel?
Besides tasting better, the best matcha should actually make you feel better. And that’s not just because of the sweet taste. The better the matcha, the more antioxidants, l-theanine, and chlorophyll it contains, maximizing the benefits you get from each cup!