Matcha green tea is customarily divided into two grades: ceremonial grade matcha and culinary grade matcha. The separation comes down to harvest times. That small difference changes each grade’s color, flavor, and uses. Below is a basic comparison of the two.
|Type||Ceremonial Grade Matcha||Culinary Grade Matcha|
|Color||Vibrant green||Less vibrant green|
|Flavor||Fresh, delicate taste||Bitter taste|
|Typical Uses||Drinking||Cooking and baking|
History of Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Ceremonial grade Matcha has been around for centuries. Drinking green tea was first done way back during the 4th century in China by Buddhist monks, Zen masters, and students. The practice then spread throughout Japan, where priests and nobles began drinking it during the mid-14th century. In the two ensuing centuries, military commanders and wealthy merchants started participating in these traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and during the late 1800s, women were allowed to begin taking part in them.
Since the green tea craze began in Japan, ceremonial grade matcha was primarily grown in Uji, Japan. This is the birthplace of matcha, the hills south of Kyoto a perfect place to grow the sweetest of green teas. For centuries now, this area is regarded around the world as producing the best ceremonial grade matcha thanks to near-perfect weather conditions and carefully detailed growing practices.
Ceremonial Grade Matcha Benefits
Besides an extremely fine texture with an appetizingly pure and delicate flavor, ceremonial grade matcha offers the same health benefits of culinary grade matcha. Some of those benefits include:
In terms of nutrition, ceremonial grade matcha has very few calories, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates in a typical serving, dietary fiber, a tiny amount of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and iron. Ceremonial grade tends to have more chlorophyll and L-Theanine than culinary grade.
Purpose of Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Ceremonial is the early harvest of the sweetest, tenderest, greenest leaves grown under shade, unlike regular green tea. Harvest is done by hand and the leaves stone ground into a fine powder. This makes it perfect for a powerful tea mixed in hot water. Unlike culinary grade matcha, ceremonial grade isn’t used as an added ingredient in baking, cooking, or garnishing foods. One reason is that its delicate flavor doesn’t make it ideal for baking or cooking, and another reason is as ceremonial grade matcha is the highest-quality matcha tea grade, it’s also the most expensive per gram.
Ceremonial grade matcha is exclusively used for drinking on its own—sweeteners and other ingredients that you might add to regular green or herbal teas rarely are mixed with this grade of green tea. It is meant to be enjoyed pure and simple.
To make ceremonial grade Matcha, you mix the matcha powder together with hot water, typically using ¼ to 1 tsp. of matcha powder and 2 oz. of hot water, to make a thick, frothy drink. If you wish to make this green beverage the traditional Japanese way, you’ll need to use a bamboo whisk, ceramic bowl, and bamboo spoon.
Purpose of Culinary Grade Matcha
Culinary matcha comes from later harvests in the summer. The tea is still grown under shade, but more sunlight leaks through. This sunlight converts L-Theanine (the source of the sweet flavor and relaxing effects) into catechins (antioxidants) and then into tannins (a bitter antioxidant). Each later harvest is more bitter than the last. This makes culinary grade less pleasant as a simple tea, but the perfect addition to lattes, smoothies, cooking, and baking.
The more potent flavor comes through in foods where the delicate flavor of ceremonial would be lost or wasted. Really one grade isn't better or worse than another. They just have different uses. Now you know.