Date(s) - 05/10/2019
Matcha tea is the latest craze to sweep the world. You may have tried it, but do you know what you are drinking?
And did you know there is quite some difference in the different types of matcha tea available on the market?
You might be aware that matcha tea is expensive, but does it have to be? And are you using the best kind of tea for the purpose you want?
There are many questions for the first time matcha drinker and here we look at ceremonial grade matcha tea and also some of the other types available.
CEREMONIAL GRADE VERSUS CULINARY GRADE
Although there is more variation in matcha tea grades than just this, these two are the main ones and all really need to concern yourself with.
Ceremonial grade matcha green tea is the highest grade available. This is, as the name implies, the blend of matcha that is used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
It is certainly not cheap and should be reserved solely for drinking.
With a sweet, delicate taste, think of ceremonial grade matcha as being similar to a really high quality of coffee bean, or a single malt whisky – something to be enjoyed on its own, without the need for sugar, milk, or any other flavor.
Sometimes people make the mistake of assuming that because it is of superior grade, this means it must be better for cooking.
It is not, this isn’t an indictment of its quality though.
The production methods for making ceremonial matcha should be thorough and arduous.
Similar to premium quality coffee production, the way it is ground matters. For the best ceremonial grade tea, the grinding should be done by stone, not machines.
On the whole, culinary grade matcha is seen as being a lower class of product than the ceremonial tea. However, this is not the whole story.
Whilst it is true that culinary grade – also known as cooking or kitchen grade – matcha is cheaper than the ceremonial product, this doesn’t automatically make it a bad thing.
As we mentioned, often people will choose cooking with a ceremonial grade matcha over culinary matcha, assuming it to be better just because it is more expensive.
This is a mistake because as you will soon discover, it is not strong enough cut through the other ingredients you are cooking with.
Trying to use ceremonial matcha to flavor your soups or cake will result in a disappointing outcome, because ceremonial matcha has a far more subtle flavor than the kitchen grade tea does. It is simply not strong enough to flavor something like a soup.
You will also find yourself having to use more of the ceremonial matcha in order to achieve the same flavor level as the culinary grade. And that ends up getting very expensive!
And contrary to popular belief, you can drink culinary grade matcha, however, you should be prepared to sweeten or even flavor it when you do. Cooking grade matcha may be used to prepare lattes.
Culinary matcha enjoys some popularity in the west, because of peoples’ taste for a stronger flavor.
MATCHA TEA CHECKLIST
There is more to consider than just whether your tea is ceremonial or culinary.
For the uninitiated, we have put together a checklist of things to look out for when choosing your matcha tea;
To select the highest quality of matcha tea, it is important to get the first harvest of the year. This will yield a superior flavor.
Ceremonial grade matcha should always be made from the first flush or Sincha harvest.
This takes place in May and is usually done by June. The timing of the harvest affects the taste, because of the slower growth that occurs in the colder, winter months. In short, it improves the flavor. Not only this, but it can have up to triple the levels of L theanine in it than the subsequent harvests have.
Sometimes manufacturers will try and cheat and use second or third flush leaves. Whilst this may be fine for other grades of tea, a higher grade like ceremonial should always be made from the first leaves of the year.
Matcha tea differentiates itself from ‘ordinary’ green leaves, by being grown under the shade.
However, you may not be aware of the different types of shading that exist to facilitate this. Essentially, it comes down to natural or plastic shading.
Ceremonial grade matcha should be grown under a natural shade, so to be sure of a genuine product and proper value for money, ensure it isn’t grown under plastic shades, which might affect the taste.
Tea is susceptible to the slightest changes in humidity and temperature and plants grown under plastic may get too hot and too humid to produce the best flavors.
For the highest quality matcha, you should always insist on a tea that has been hand picked by experts over leaves that were machine harvested.
Think about it; a discerning human picker is trained to select the better leaves and choose exactly the right time to do it in. This has always got to be better than leaves harvested by a machine.
The better quality matcha tea is always ground by stone and never by a mechanical process. Always check your ceremonial grade matcha tea has been ground by stone.
Finally, there’s an easy way to test whether you truly have a premium grade tea or not by simply whisking it into a lather.
If larger bubbles form, then this is not a high grade product. Ceremonial matcha should always produce small, evenly sized bubbles.
Always check your matcha by performing this simple test!
Have you any more questions about matcha tea to put to our experts? We’d love to hear from you!