Matcha has gained a few myths as its popularity has grown. Hopefully we can help debunk some of these myths and send them to bed for you once and for all.
1. Greener the Better.
Mostly true. You can tell a lot about a matcha powder by the color. A bright dark green means it usually comes from earlier harvests grown properly under shade and contains more chlorophyll. A bright yellow green can be good too. That may mean it is a later harvest, with less chlorophyll, but that bright color means it is still fresh and packed with nutrients, just better for culinary uses than drinking. Duller, browner matcha may be old, not grown correctly, or even be from non-matcha tea leaves.
2. Japanese is Best.
Mostly true. Tea leaves have been grown throughout Asia for thousands of years, but the Japanese created and perfected matcha. Most countries grow their tea plants in full sun and then process the leaves with steam or fermentation to make different types of green tea. These teas have a lot of tannins and are too bitter to be powdered whole. They need to be steeped. Matcha must be shade grown and powdered whole to be its best. Unfortunately, many big box coffee shops use lower quality tea from other countries as it is less expensive. This isn’t true matcha. Yes, some countries can grow in shade, harvest early, and powder their leaves to make real matcha, but they haven’t been doing so for generations.
The region matters too. The best matcha in the world comes from Uji, the rolling hills outside Kyoto. The hilly area creates ideal conditions for matcha, resisting frost, catching rain, and naturally shading. It also makes it impossible to machine harvest, so you get a cleaner, better, more traditional matcha. Anything grown in Kagoshima is machine harvested.
3. Organic or Nothing.
Mostly myth. Japan has its own agricultural standards within the country. Farmers must meet certain expectations of quality, cleanliness, and safety to even sell within Japan. There is JAS certification for organic foods, but it isn’t in demand like organic certification has become in the United States. Many farmers follow ancient traditions and see no reason to apply. It comes down to fertilizers more than pesticides. To grow matcha well without full sunlight, farmers use potent fertilizers, boosted with the exact minerals they need. These aren’t considered organic, but also aren’t harmful to the plant or the tea consumer in the end. The main reason a farmer might apply for USDA organic certification is if they have a hard time selling in Japan. This means most organic matcha comes from the less sought-after regions of Japan where machine farming, drying, and powdering take place, along with the industrial pollutants, heavy metals, and radiation of the areas. It also means organic tends to come from less healthy plants with a duller color, flavor, and nutrient profile. Organic matcha is a toss-up. It can be great, but it has its downsides too.
4. Ceremonial Grade or Nothing.
Total myth. Yes, ceremonial grade matcha is the best, but that doesn’t mean culinary grade doesn’t have its uses. Ceremonial comes only from the first harvest in early spring. This means those leaves are packed with nutrients, low in tannins, full of L-Theanine, bursting with catechins, and tender to boot. Ceremonial is definitely the sweetest, mellowest green tea with all the focus benefits that L-Theanine combined with caffeine offer. Our ceremonial is hand-picked, selected for tenderest leaves, and stone ground on the sacred slopes of Uji where matcha was born, but that means it also comes at a higher price point. Good news is the second harvest isn’t far off. It is slightly more powerful in flavor, which works perfectly for matcha lattes. The third and fourth harvests have less L-Theanine, more potent matcha flavor, and more catechins and tannins. That just makes it ideal for cooking and baking, where you want a stronger matcha flavor to push through in your pastries, smoothies, desserts, and more.
5. Sleepless if Had Late.
Mostly true, but depends on you. Matcha has caffeine. It has less than a cup of coffee, and the L-Theanine counters some of the caffeine effects for a more focused feeling than wide awake or jittery, but it can still keep you up. It depends a lot on how caffeine and L-Theanine affect you. Until you are certain, you should only consume matcha in the mornings or early afternoons. That’s when it does its best anyway, getting you up and going or over the midday hump. Now, if you have to cram or stay up to craft the perfect presentation, go for it later.
6. Matcha is Expensive.
Big myth. Ceremonial grade is expensive for good reason. It is the best and most coveted, especially if it is hand-picked and stone ground. It is a labor of love, but laborious all the same. That costs more. Culinary grade is far less expensive and approachable, even if it is still hand-picked and stone ground like ours. We also make one product that is a blend of the two, so you get all the flavor and nutrition of ceremonial at a cost closer to culinary. It is a unique product to us.
7. Making Matcha is Hard.
Totally false. Having a traditional matcha set with bamboo spoon, ceramic bowl, and bamboo whisk is nice, but not necessary. You can make do with a regular whisk or milk frother and a regular mug or bowl. You do want to whisk our matcha in hot water until smooth, even if you are making an iced latte. It just mixes better that way.
8. Boiling Matcha Kills all Nutrients.
Mostly false. Yes, antioxidants, L-Theanine, EGCG, and chlorophyll are all degraded by heat, but they are tougher than they seem. It takes time to break them all down, so sip away with confidence. You do want to go with water that isn’t quite boiling or has cooled down slightly from boiling. Hotter water can make a tea that is more bitter.
9. The Grades are Interchangeable.
Another big no to this one. You do not want to use a premium ceremonial in a dessert or make a simple tea with a late summer harvest. Ceremonial flavors are more soft and subtle. They will be lost in a pastry. That’s a waste of the more expensive ceremonial grade as well. Likewise, culinary flavors are strong and more bitter. That’s not ideal for straight drinking but work better with eggs, flour, sugar, and such. This is also why our blended grade matcha is the best for lattes. It falls nicely in the middle.