Good Matcha X Bad Matcha

So, you’ve seen that bright green in cheesecake, lattes, chocolate, smoothies and healthy slices on Instagram and now you want to try matcha.

Matcha has become one of the trendiest new superfoods and, as a good and sometimes not so good consequence, the market has become inundated with lots of Matcha companies. Some Matcha that you buy is very cheap whilst some is surprisingly expensive. WHY? For someone who’s new to matcha, it can be tricky to choose the right one.

To start with…If you want to truly enjoy that famous umami taste and all the health benefits of matcha you need to buy good quality matcha. If you buy low grade bad quality matcha, you will probably experience a strong bitter taste and will have to add sugar and other fillers to make it taste good. Other than that you may not be getting all the good stuff that matcha has in it!

The question is: How to tell good and bad matcha apart?


Here are 6 ways you can tell:


1.     Origin 

Think of matcha as champagne or good wine – the location where the leaves are grown does make all the difference in the quality as matcha is very sensitive to the soil it is planted in and its taste will vary depending on its harvested location.

Although Matcha originated in China, the quality of Japanese matcha is higher than the quality of Chinese Matcha. And we are not only talking about the taste. Matcha grown in China has a higher concentration of lead due to the soil composition, which, as you imagine, is not good for anyone. Also, Chinese quality control standards are nowhere as high as Japanese standards. In Japan the food safety standards are defined by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to the JAS Standard. For organic food products (like ours), a third-party organisation inspects the produce to ensure that its production meets the “Organic JAS Standard”.

As you can see, matcha is taken very seriously in Japan. The location and the process are extremely important to produce good matcha. Our matcha comes from Uji, Kyoto, a region renowned for producing the highest grade of green tea in Japan due to its mild misty climate, mineral-rich soil and near-perfect balance of sunshine and rainfall. The process to make matcha is equally important as the location; from shading (can’t be called matcha without this) to gridding the tea leaves. It’s a very delicate and complex process that has a huge impact on the final product.


2.     Colour

Good matcha has a vibrant green colour. It is ground using a stone mill, which allows minimum friction and high levels of chlorophyll retained. The more vibrant green it is, the higher the grade. Matcha that has been exposed to air for an extended period of time can lose its vibrancy of green as well.

Low quality matcha will have a dull green colour; even worse - some are yellowish.

There has been stories of some suppliers trying to pass of greeny/yellow ground green tea as matcha!


3.     Taste

If you think matcha has a bitter flavour you should probably blame the grade of tea you’ve tried.

The best ceremonial matcha should have a smooth, almost sweet and non-bitter taste. You should be looking for a nice balance between natural sweetness and a slightly vegetal tea flavour with just a hint of astringency. This is the so famous umami flavour. You won’t get this with low grade matcha!


4.     Finish

Ceremonial grade matcha should have a long and smooth pleasant finish that lasts for about 30 seconds. It shouldn’t leave you with a bitter after-taste.


5.     Feel

High quality matcha should have a very fine and silky feel. The particle size is only 5-10 microns, which is finer than baby powder and eyeshadow. This is an excellent indicator of quality. Matcha with larger particle size will give a coarser feel.


6.     Price

Well, when it comes to matcha you get what you pay for (most of the time!). If you googled “buy matcha”, you saw that there’s really cheap matcha out there. Here is where you have to think: “Is it really worth saving a few bucks and get low quality matcha”?

Have you ever tried to find a good bottle of proper champagne and realised there is generally none for under $35? (Talking Australia prices here), that’s because there is a floor to the price when it comes to good quality, origin specific product. It’s the same with matcha.

The price can vary for many reasons. Japanese matcha will come at a higher price-point than Chinese matcha, but the quality is also higher. Being organic adds to the price as well.

Lastly, following the traditional process such as stone grinding, hand picking tea leaves, picking the leaves from the top of the plant during the first harvest will add to the cost. However, it is definitely worth it. Both for the flavour and for the health benefits. We have information on each of our grades about the process they go through, which harvest they are from, and the method of grinding and picking.  


So … now that you know how to find good matcha, want to try some of the best and fair priced premium organic Japanese matcha going around and plant some trees while you’re at it?

Sabs & Johh