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4 January 2019

Beginners Guide to Buying Matcha

Published by Masuta Matcha Team

Not all matcha is created equal and many are surprised to find that not all matcha comes from Japan. China is also a large producer, but the processing techniques are different.

 

So how do you know what you are buying is the good stuff?

Here are four key things every beginner should look for.

Colour

Matcha should be vibrant green - it indicates that it has been correctly shade grown to increase the chlorophyll, which gives plants it's beautiful green colour. Due to the limited exposure to sunlight, the plants react by producing more chlorophyll, which turns the leaves to a beautiful shade of green.

The colour is also an indicator or the type of leaves the matcha is made from. The youngest leaves that sit higher up on the tea plant are the first to be harvested, These leaves are more tender and will have a much more vibrant green colour than leaves further down the plant.

Generally, you'll find matcha categorised into three main grades; ceremonial, premium & culinary grades. For ceremonial and premium grade matcha you will want to look for a vibrant green colour, while other grades will have a duller shade of green.

Culinary grade matcha will have a brown or yellow hue to it and will tend to be more bitter. This is a result of more mature leaves being used that are harvested later and therefore have more exposure to the sun, resulting in lower levels of amino acids and chlorophyll.

If you are wanting to incorporate matcha into your diet for health reasons, it's best to stick with the ceremonial or premium grades, which will have more nutritional content and have a more delicate flavour with no bitterness.

Country

The main producers of matcha are Japan and China. Green tea originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the 12th Century. However, the cultivation of powdered tea was stopped in China until about 20 years ago, while the Japanese continued to refine the art of growing and processing matcha for over 800 years. In Japan, the green tea leaves are grown in the shade for 20 to 30 days before harvesting. This is one of the key differences between regular green tea and matcha. The shade growing technique intensifies the plants nutrients, the tea leaves are then picked, steamed and quickly air dried to prevent oxidation.

Practices in China are different; the tea plants are generally not shade grown and are not air dried after steaming, resulting in a much duller colour and gritty texture.

For the good stuff, you will want to look for matcha that is from the Uji or Nishio regions of Japan.

Taste

If you get the chance to try before you buy, you'll want to ensure that there isn't any bitterness, particularly if you want to buy high grade matcha such as ceremonial or premium. It should be smooth and have a vegetal taste with a hint of sweetness. Lower grade matcha has less l-theanine content causing it to be bitter.

Price

Producing matcha is a labour intensive process from beginning to end, requiring meticulous attention to detail to ensure a quality product. It also takes 1 hour to stone grind just 40 grams of matcha. This is to ensure that the friction of the turning granite stones don't produce too much heat that burn the tea leaves and degrade the final product. Many producers turn to modern machinery to increase production rates, however this method fails to produce an ultra fine powder, resulting in a more gritty texture.

If matcha is being sold at a low price, it is highly likely that the tea hasn't been grown, processed or packaged properly and you'll definitely taste and see the difference. If you are thinking of buying matcha, it's likely you are buying it for the health benefits, so you'll want to ensure it's high quality matcha that has been processed with extreme care so all of it's health compounds remain intact.

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