Everyone's heard of matcha lately, but how do you tell which one is good?
Taste - Good matcha has a sweet, vegetal smell (L-Theanine) with a smooth taste, low-quality matcha however lacks L-Theanine and has a bitter/chalky flavor. It should find a nice balance between natural sweetness and a slightly bitter and vegetal tea flavour and be very clean and easy to drink. Many people have a bad first experience with matcha believing that it is very bitter – if this is the case, chances are that you have been drinking a low quality “ingredient or culinary” matcha.The best way to tell a good matcha is to order it straight and explore the flavours. Adding milks and sweeteners takes away the matcha taste and also the health benefits.
Packaging - The ability to reseal + keep your matcha air/water tight is a big consideration as oxidation decreases the quality of matcha – it should also be refrigerated after opening. Also when you are constantly making a cup of tea or smoothies you want to be able to access your matcha easily without getting your hands covered in the green powder, having it spill everywhere when reopening.
Color - and look of matcha powder - look for a really vibrant green. Matcha is shade-grown so tea leaves produce chlorophyll, which gives it a nice bright green color. Lower quality matcha will be yellowish/brownish in hue which is due to being made from leaves that have not been properly shaded, or that may be older and/or harvested from lower on the stalk of the plant.
Feel -How it mixes when made - The feel and texture of the powder itself can reveal a true quality matcha. At roughly 5-10 microns, a high-quality grade is very fine and silky however a lower-quality grade has a bigger particle size, which results in a coarser feel when rubbed between your fingers.
Price - Like everything in life with matcha you really get what you pay for. Matcha is known to be an expensive tea, which reflects the laborious efforts involved in the cultivation, harvest, and manufacturing process that goes into producing it. Typically, a good grade of ceremonial matcha you can expect to pay around $29-$39 for about 30g. Smoother grades however (used for Koicha tea) can be $70+. There are cheaper bagged matcha selling for 100g @ $20 but you will notice the bad bitter after taste, off colour instantly.
Smell - Should have a sweet, vegetal smell which comes from the amino acid L-theanine.
Origin - The main matcha producing regions in Japan (80% of matcha produced) are Uji, in Kyoto Prefecture, and Nishio, in Aichi Prefecture. There are other matcha producing regions however because they do not specialize in it the same way, their quality is less consistent.
Tip: Make matcha right! - Don't pour boiling water on your matcha, it destroys it! The best temperature is 175f / 80c.