Hey There Teacups! Happy Matcha Monday.. I’m finally back today with the next instalment of my Matcha Monday Masterclasses series and this time around we are going to be taking a deep dive into the world of matcha grading, what it indicates in terms of the quality of your matcha and why it deffinelty need to be regulated. A few weeks ago I asked about what you wanted to see next in this series and I had quite a few people ask me to do a post about grading and what the different names/ grades people give to matcha actually mean, because things really can get quite confusing when it comes to grading because matcha comes in a such wide range of quality, which can be measured by a number a different things including (but not limited to) flavour, particle size, colour, and amino acid content.
But because if little regulation in the Western world on grading terms, tea companies are completely free to label matcha as whatever grade they think will sell, which often results in people buying low quality matcha that has been branded as ceremonial grade but its actually incredibly low quality and not an enjoyable tea to drink at all. So how do you make sure you are getting the best quality matcha for what you are paying?
As you can see from the image above one of the easiest ways to check the quality of the matcha you are drinking or buying is the colour. In the image above the matcha on the left is the highest quality matcha I currently own it’s a Heritage Grade Yame Matcha (Saemidori), the matcha on the right was marketed by a company as premium quality ceremonial grade matcha and as you can tell from the image above the differences in the colour and texture between the two is night as day. The matcha on the right is clearly a much lower grade and should not have been marketed and sold in the way it was but it’s a perfect example of what companies these days try and get away with, they see that matcha sells well want to jump on the heath fad band wagon and lie about their low quality product to push more of it to customers (with edited pictures on their website to make it look greener and high quality).
The colour and texture of a higher grade matcha will be vibrant jade green in colour, with a consistent texture and would never have hints of yellow or brown to it. Lower quality matcha will be a murky green brown colour with hints of yellow and often doesn’t have a consistent texture to it as it has likely not been produced properly. My biggest tip when it comes to buying matcha is to make sure you are buying it from a company that specialises in tea (especially Japanese tea) and can provide lost of information on the matcha they are selling. Even though matcha did originate in china the Japanese have perfected the production and have much stricter rules with it comes to farming unlike chins so you’ll want to make sure that the matcha you are buying specifies that it is from japan. The person or company you are buying the matcha from should be able to answer any questions you have on their matcha and if they can’t and do not provide any in depth info on their online listings (ie farm, picking date, grinding date and so on) then I would not personally recommend purchasing it.
When it comes to grading those most common descriptors you will see used are ceremonial and culinary grade (which can sometimes be divided into 5 sub grades: premium, café, ingredient, kitchen and classic). But outside of buying your own matcha if you are being served matcha at café, hotel, smoothie bar or a coffee shop that has umped on the the fad of matcha to make a quick buck chances are you probably aren’t be served a matcha that is anything other than culinary grade because the person sourcing the matcha either doesn’t care what grade that serve, hasn’t put enough research into providing the best quality matcha for their customers. Which is why the majority of people who have tried matcha or something with matcha in it will tell you that they don’t like it becuase it was bitter and tasted like horrible grass because they aren’t been served matcha that is of a high quality or been prepared the right way.
I grantee that a lot of people out there that say they don’t like matcha would be blown away by a high quality matcha prepared traditionally because they difference would be noticeable to instantly. Long strong sort when it comes to matcha grading is not to always trust when may be on the label or the menu because it’s almost always a lie and a quick trick to make cash of a popular trend or health fad (which is what most of the world sees matcha as). The only way to trust you are getting the highest quality matcha is to make sure you are buying from a tea company that can answer all of the questions you have or to make sure you are in a tea shop or tea house that serves other high quality teas and will have put time and effort into sourcing a high quality matcha for their paying customers. Don’t waist your time or money buying matcha or green tea powder (which isn’t matcha) from somewhere that doesn’t sell other teas of high quality, a heath store or a supermarket.
Personally if you are looking for a great selection of matchas from japan I highly recommend Yunomi, They stock different matchas from all over japan on their website and can not only provide you with all the in depth information on you could ever need on each of the matchas they stock and will be able to tell you about the people who have created each matcha and I love that they enable farms and companies from so many different areas to have a platform through which they can garner attention for all of the incredible hard work they do. They also have a fantastic grading system that has 10 different levels and pay so much care and attention to each tea they source to make sure it goes into the current grade and the customer is getting the best for what they are willing to pay. You can find more information about their grading system here: https://yunomi.life/blogs/japanese-tea-guide/yunomi-matcha-grades
Also just in case you do want to try the previously mentioned Kuma Tea Gardens Heritage Grade Yame Matcha Saemidori you can purchase it here and it’s currently at a reduced price you now is the perfect time to get your hands on it I can’t recommend it highly enough and it perfect for both koicha and usucha however you prefer to drink your matcha. They also do great matcha teaware over there on Yunomi so it’s everything you need on one place really.
I really hope todays posts clears up a few things when it comes to grading and quality when it comes to matcha, I apologise that it was a bit of a long winded post but I didn’t want to skimp on details and wanted to make sure I addressed a few things surrounding matcha that really grind my gears. If you have ant questions at all about anything I mentioned in todays post please either leave them in the comment or send them to me on Instagram @teaisawishblog I’ll happily answer anything you want to ask on this subject. If you think there are some things I missed in this post go ahead and stick them in the comments so readers can see them along with all of the information in this post.