Matcha. A beautiful, rich and smooth drink that dissolves in water and is prized for its nutritional benefits. But why is matcha so expensive?
There is no doubt about it, matcha tea is a bit more expensive than your average loose leaf tea or your standard green tea bag costs. There is good reason for this and it isn’t just that matcha is packed with health benefits and is complimented by a calming effect.
Matcha is more expensive and superior to regular green tea due in part, to its unique growing process. The growing process involves an extra step where the camellia sinensis bush (green tea plant) is covered with a cloth canopy that allows minimal light to reach the plant for around 20 to 30 days before the harvesting of the leaves, only Tencha (whole leaf version of matcha) and Gyokuro teas are shade grown. This additional step of covering the plants changes the structure of the leaf, causing the entire plant to increase internal chlorophyll production by reducing the natural photosynthesis in the leaves, this in turn changes the caffeine content inside the leaves. The lack of photosynthesis also accounts for the stronger amino acid and antioxidant content which makes matcha so good for you.
Approximately 20 to 30 days after being covered by cloth, the leaves are ready to be harvested, which is a process that involves hand picking the leaves known as Tencha. Only the youngest and freshest leaves are picked by hand, becoming the quality green tea grades known as either Tencha, Sencha, or Gyokuro. The remaining leaves are harvested from the camellia sinensis bush with a machine and sold as standard cheap green tea.
Once harvested, the leaves are ready for processing, Matcha is processed in specialised tea factories that are designed to turn the shade grown and hand-picked matcha leaf into powdery magic! When the leaves enter the factory they are dried, then kneaded to break the leaf from its stem, once their stems and veins are removed, the remaining leaves are stored inside a refrigerated area. Every time we place an order, our matcha is then sent into granite stone mills, where a fresh batch is slowly turned into a powder. It takes approximately one hour to produce about 40 grams of matcha powder. This is to ensure that the powder is not burned and therefore does not lose its nutritional benefits and beautiful green colour.
In summary, matcha is more expensive than regular green tea because it requires significantly more work to get it from the farm, to you, the customer. It is because of this meticulous process that matcha retains 100 percent of its healthy nutrients, including vitamins A, E, beta-carotene, and an enhanced caffeinated calmness through the presence of L-Theanine. The result of this procedure is a vibrant green powder that mixes into hot water to create a delicious and nutrient dense drink.
Be careful when shopping for matcha, because a cheaper price tag may not mean that you are getting a good deal on authentic Japanese matcha. A lot of cheaper substitutes are Chinese matcha. The tea coming from China is not generally shade grown and is pan-fried with the veins still in the leaves instead of the traditional process described above. This results in a dull coloured tea that does not mix well into milk or water and is sandy in texture.
In addition, Chinese matcha has come under a lot of scrutiny for its use of banned pesticides, whereas Japan abides by much stricter use of pesticides. Another reason your matcha might be cheaper is if it contains fillers or additives such as sugar or milk powder. All of our matcha is proper Japanese matcha and contains pure green tea leaves and nothing else!
So, when shopping for your matcha, make sure that you avoid Chinese products or products that don’t state a country of origin. Make sure that the ingredient list contains only 100% Japanese tea leaves (camellia sinensis). This will ensure that you don’t get disappointed by a cheap knock-off that lacks the health benefits and lacks the beautiful flavour of a real Japanese green tea powder.
You may also notice price differences within pure Japanese matcha and this is because there are different grades of matcha green tea. Well there are actually more grades than people commonly list, it’s generally acknowledged that there are three primary classifications for these grades. The three primary classifications range from ceremonial grade, to premium grade and all the way down to culinary grade, which is primarily used for cooking and baking purposes. All of the matcha powder at Matcha Me is premium grade!
Ceremonial grade is made from the youngest leaves that are picked at the beginning of the spring picking season, resulting in an extremely smooth and delicate taste, and a very intense and vibrant fresh green colour. Mixing this matcha with milk or other substances may overpower the delicate taste and it should therefore only be mixed with water, in its pure form. This matcha is best used on its own with water and in tea ceremonies.
Premium grade is made from fresh leaves as well, but the main difference being that the leaves are picked later in the spring season when the leaves aren’t as youthful as they were at the start of spring. This results in a darker green colour in the matcha and a taste that isn’t quite as smooth. But don’t fooled, this matcha still tastes amazing. Matcha Me only sells premium matcha powder.
Culinary grade tea leaves are a bit older and therefore have a different flavour profile. This matcha ends up being a bit more bitter and robust than ceremonial grade and premium grade. This makes it perfect for use in cooking and baking as it won’t lose its flavour. Culinary grade is also less vibrant green than ceremonial grade and premium grade, but being a japanese matcha, it’s still very high quality.
Choosing a matcha from Matcha Me is easy because all of the matcha sold by Matcha Me is pure matcha from Japan and has a beautiful colour and flavour!