Matcha tea has been cherished in Japan for its unique flavor and potential health benefits for centuries. Its benefits have caught on globally and matcha tea consumption is now a worldwide phenomenon in an increasingly health and quality conscious population.
However, as matcha’s popularity has surged, so too has misinformation surrounding its quality. With a plethora of matcha products flooding the market, it’s essential to dispel the myths and unveil the truth about the quality of matcha being sold around the world today. In this blog post, we will separate fact from fiction and help you make informed choices when indulging in this delightful beverage.
Unfortunately in today’s matcha industry, not everything is as it seems. Many brands claim to sell ceremonial-grade matcha, the highest quality of matcha available, but the reality is often far from the truth. The market is flooded with low-quality matcha masquerading as premium or ceremonial grade. This has also led to industry-wide reputation problems as a whole that legitimate matcha brands have had to deal with, one that consumers need to be aware of.
The sad truth is, the vast majority of online shops on Amazon, eBay and many other e-commerce stores today sell low quality, non-Japanese matcha at incredibly low prices and many of those are marketed as of Japanese-origin. It’s no surprise that when Japanese Matcha tea grew in popularity, a particular country (we’re definitely not going to say which one) began to export its own version as Japanese matcha when it clearly isn’t.
What makes real Japanese matcha tea “real” are intrinsic health benefits that simply cannot be replicated by cheap imitations. Pure matcha contains a compound called “Epigallocatechin gallate” (EGCG), and its levels are typically much higher in Japanese-grown matcha.
According to a study by the Japanese academic community as recently highlighted by the website Ujimatchatea, the clear differences in quality between authentic ceremonial grade matcha and lower grade products cannot be ignored. The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found significant variations in the color, flavor, and nutritional content of the matcha samples tested.
Moving away from academia, though, here are seven common myths and misconceptions associated with the matcha tea industry today, and armed with knowledge that matcha grades are paramount to extracting the maximum benefits from your purchase decisions, this can hopefully help consumers make better choices when it comes to choosing between different brands, and grades, of matcha.
Myth #1: All Matcha is Created Equal
One of the most common but misguided myths is that all matcha is of the same quality. In reality, matcha is graded based on various factors like color, taste, and production methods. The highest grade, ceremonial matcha, is made from the youngest tea leaves and is characterised by its vibrant green color, smooth texture, and sweet umami flavor. Lower grades, otherwise known as culinary matcha, are typically used in cooking and recipes, and may have a more bitter taste and duller color.
To ensure you’re getting a quality product, be mindful of the grade of matcha you’re purchasing. Ceremonial grade is best for sipping and drinking on its own, while culinary grade is more suitable for baking or mixing into smoothies.
Myth #2: The Greener, the Better
Another common misconception is that the greener the matcha, the higher the quality. While color can be an indicator of quality, it’s not the only factor to consider. High-quality matcha is bright green, but it can also have nuanced shades. The color of matcha depends on factors like the tea cultivar, growing conditions, location of its tea leaves within the bush, and processing methods.
Color should be seen as just one piece of the puzzle. Flavor and aroma are equally important. A high-quality matcha should offer a balanced and vibrant flavor profile with notes of sweetness and umami.
Myth #3: Price Equals Quality
It’s easy to assume that the most expensive matcha must be the best, but this is not always the case. While quality matcha can be costly, some expensive options may not live up to their price tag. Price is influenced by factors like brand reputation, packaging, and marketing, in addition to the matcha’s actual quality. Some matcha brands are incredibly expensive, but only offer sub-standard matcha grades, because most of the cost goes into areas other than the matcha itself. Some expensive matcha brands are not even grown or extracted organically, nor certified organic by local certification bodies.
To find the best matcha for your budget, do your research, read reviews, and consider factors like origin, grade, and flavor rather than just focusing on the price.
Myth #4: All Matcha Comes from Japan
Matcha’s roots are firmly planted in Japan, and the most renowned and authentic matcha is indeed produced there, with Kyoto the unofficial birth place of the best matcha grades globally available. However, due to its growing global popularity, matcha is now produced in other countries, including China and South Korea. While there are high-quality matcha producers outside of Japan, there are also many low-quality imitations.
If you’re looking for genuine high-quality matcha, it’s advisable to seek products that are clearly labeled as originating from Japan (like ours, for instance). Japanese matcha is produced with meticulous care and adheres to traditional cultivation and processing methods. It would be even better if the matcha is certified organic by a Japanese regulatory body (Happy Matcha’s full range of ceremonial and culinary matcha is certified by JASCERT, Japan’s regulatory body responsible for issuing Ecocert Organic Agriculture Certification to organically produced and extracted food and beverage suppliers and distributors).
Happy Matcha’s organic matcha is fully certified by USDA, JAS/OCIA, EU-BIO, CANADA-BIO and qualified to be sold worldwide as organic. All our matcha is also certified by U-KOSHER and 100% Halal, 100% vegan, non-GMO and 100% gluten-free.
Our factory in Japan is ISO and HCAAP certified, which ensures your matcha will be freshly ground and hand-packed in our factory in Japan in accordance to the highest standards, and shipped directly to your address in Australia from Victoria. This is the only way we know how to guarantee the premium quality and freshness of the matcha we carry.
Myth #5: Matcha is a Cure-All Superfood
Matcha has been celebrated for its potential health benefits, including its high antioxidant content, which may help protect cells from damage. While matcha does offer health advantages, it’s not a magical cure-all. Like any food or beverage, matcha should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.
It’s important to avoid the myth that excessive matcha consumption can replace a well-rounded diet or provide instant health solutions. While it can be a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle, matcha alone cannot replace a well-rounded diet and regular exercise.
Myth #6: The More Matcha, the Better
Another myth that has made the round on the internet is the idea that consuming large quantities of matcha will help “wash” or “detox” the body especially after “punishing” the body (excessive alcohol consumption after a night of partying, for instance). In reality, moderate consumption is key. Matcha contains caffeine, and excessive intake can lead to jitteriness, insomnia, and other side effects. The recommended daily intake of matcha varies from person to person, but one to two cups per day is generally considered safe for most people.
Myth #7: Matcha Lattes Are Authentic
Matcha lattes have gained immense popularity, but it’s crucial to understand that they may not be the most authentic way to enjoy matcha. Traditional matcha preparation involves whisking the powder with 70-degree hot water until it forms a frothy beverage. Matcha lattes, on the other hand, often contain added sweeteners and milk, which can mask the true flavor of the matcha.
If you’re seeking an authentic matcha experience, consider trying it without added flavors or sweeteners. This will allow you to savor the unique taste of the tea itself.
So in conclusion, matcha tea, with all its brilliant health benefits and fascinating history, is undoubtedly a unique and remarkable beverage. However, separating fact from fiction when it comes to matcha quality is essential. Not all matcha is created equal, and various myths can lead to misconceptions about what makes a high-quality product.
When selecting matcha, consider factors such as grade, origin, flavor, and the intended use. By arming yourself with knowledge, you can enjoy the authentic and delightful experience of this centuries-old Japanese tradition without falling victim to the myths that surround it!