Matcha is definitely trending right now in Australia and with good reason. It’s a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, it’s versatile, and it turns everything green. With increased awareness and popularity comes an increased selection and it can be tough to choose the right Matcha for you.
A quick browse on the net opens you up to an overwhelming number of different matcha brands to choose from, each offering their own version of ceremonial grade, premium grade, super premium matcha, culinary matcha, everyday matcha, cooking matcha… and the list goes on.
Matcha blending is an incredibly complex process performed by skilled tea sommeliers. There are countless grades and flavour profiles available and each matcha blend is even given its own unique name.
While this can get a bit confusing, it’s important to remember that the majority of the matcha supplied to the Australian market can be split into two main categories: ceremonial grade and culinary grade, regardless of how it’s labeled. We’ve previously blogged about the differences between the two grades here, but remember that the different grades shouldn’t mean different qualities, just different intended uses.
So, what should you look out for when you’re hovering your mouse over the checkout button?
We know green tea powder originated in China back in the 8th Century (read this article), but nowadays it is widely agreed that the best quality matcha hails from Japan. There are two top performing areas for matcha production in Japan; Nishio region in the Aichi prefecture and Uji city in the Kyoto prefecture. These two areas account for around 80% of all the matcha produced in Japan today. Mista Matcha is sourced from a boutique plantation in the Nishio region, Aichi prefecture. This area is renowned for its matcha production due to the fertile soil, fresh water and favourable climate.
Green, of course. Well, yes, but the real question is, how green is it? Top quality ceremonial grade matcha should be strikingly green and beautiful to look at. The green tea leaves are covered with a giant shade cloth around 4 weeks prior to harvest, which forces the plants to over-produce Chlorophyll and gives matcha its bright green hue.
Cooking matcha may not always be as bright in colour, but this doesn’t mean it is of inferior quality, rather a variety of leaves have been specifically blended for culinary purposes, giving the matcha a stronger flavour and helping it stand out when mixed with other ingredients.
Dull looking, olive or yellowish colour matcha powder indicates the leaves were not properly shaded, were harvested from a much lower part of the plant, or were simply past their prime. Either way, you’ll want to stay away from this type of powder.
The Tencha leaves (raw plant material) are ground to a fine powder using granite grinders, which have been used to make matcha for hundreds of years. The granite wheels allow the leaves to be ground down to an incredibly fine powder, about 5 microns (talcum powder consistency), while minimizing heat from friction which would damage the matcha. It’s a slow process, with 30g grams of matcha taking about an hour to grind.
The first whiff of your matcha will instantly tell you whether you’ve bought a good quality product. Matcha should have a sweet vegetal smell that is fresh and inviting. If it smells like dirty hay, you may want to pass. Its taste can be described as ‘umami’, or a pleasant savoury taste. It shouldn’t be bitter and should have a hint of sweetness from high levels of amino acids (L-Theanine).
Compared to regular tea, high quality matcha is definitely on the more expensive side, and with good reason. The whole process from seed to scoop is incredibly time and labour intensive. The leaves are shaded, handpicked, steamed, air dried, de-stemmed, graded and stone ground to the beautifully fine powder that is matcha. If you stumble upon a price that seems too good to be true, it most probably is.
The good news is, per serve, a delicious bowl of matcha actually works out cheaper than your daily coffee, tastes better, doesn’t leave you with that horrible coffee aftertaste and gives you a clean sustained energy boost for up to 6 hours with no coffee crash.
So, you’re now armed with the knowledge of what to look for when picking a quality matcha. Why not head to our collections page and try some Mista Matcha, you won't be disappointed.