As the Matcha craze continues to grow there are a few things you should know before spending your hard earned money. Matcha is the poster child for "you get what you pay for " and not all Matcha is the same. Matcha is (or should be) a premium quality Japanese green tea that is shade grown, de-stemed, de-veined and stone ground into a fine powder.
Matcha or Green Tea Powder?
Is it really matcha or is it green tea powder? Many products marketed as matcha are small amounts of matcha combined with fillers such as rice flour, sugar, or green tea powder. Here is the difference. Price will be your first clue as green tea powder in much cheaper. Green tea powder is derived from the same Camellia Sinenis tea plant but is, simply put, a traditionally grown green tea leaf (Sencha) that is ground into a powder. Matcha, on the other hand, is grown in a controlled environment of shade that produces Tencha leaves. These leaves are younger, more tender and thinner containing much higher levels of chlorophyll and amino acids. Pure matcha is extremely high in antioxidants and amino acid such as EGCG and L-theanine. EGCG helps protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals to help prevent disease and L-theanine stimulates your mind without stimulating your nervous system. Bottom line: Check the ingredients.
Where (and when) Is Your Matcha Sourced?
Now don't get me wrong! China produces some amazing teas and we source many of ours from there, but matcha is not one of them. Most of their matcha is not shade grown and the soil there is not conducive to producing the quality of matcha you are going to get from ceremonial grade Japanese matcha. Because Chinese matcha is produced in mass quantities and under less than ideal growing and harvesting conditions, quality and health benefits suffer greatly. Obvious indications that your matcha may be sourced from China: Color is more gold than vibrant green, more sandy texture than fine powder, does not froth quickly when whipped, much more inexpensive. Also your ceremonial matcha should have a strong umami (fishy) smell.
Is Your Matcha Fresh?
We go to great lengths and expense here at The Tea Spout Tea Co to ensure that our matcha is fresh by sourcing directly from the tea farms in Japan where the leaves are not ground until ship time. A good rule of thumb for matcha freshness is one month on the counter and three months in the fridge once it has been opened. Now, matcha does not expire per se, but it is a plant and its medicinal value will diminish over time. I recommend that you purchase your matcha from a smaller, reputable business that specializes in tea. Be careful about ordering matcha from somewhere where it may be sitting in a hot warehouse for months or even years.
Matcha is a premium product and expensive (and should be) because quality matcha is only harvested once a year in the spring, stone grinding is a very slow process, and shade growing is a three step process that takes constant care and attention.
Many people ask me about the difference between our ceremonial grade matcha and our flavored matcha. They are sourced from the same farms however the flavored ones (still a high quality product) are combined with natural flavor from the blueberry, raspberry, vanilla bean, and coconut.
We take pride in our matcha and it is the same one that I drink every single day!