The Different Matcha Grades and Categories |

bowl of matcha tea bet to bowl of green tea powder with whisk and bamboo scoop

The Different Matcha Grades and Categories

Started in China but popularized in Japan, matcha is now a staple in coffee shops and cafés worldwide. What began as a status symbol due to its high quality, labor-intensive growing method, and unique texture and flavor has transformed into a worldwide phenomenon for both tea lovers and trendsetters alike. 

However, many people might not realize that not all matcha is created equally. There are different grades of Chinese and Japanese matcha powder, and these affect the taste, flavor, and texture of the tea. Some matcha grades are better for enjoying traditionally, while others are perfect for adding to different cakes, pies, and other recipes. 

If you're trying to figure out the best matcha to try, then those of us here at Matcha Outlet are happy to help. With our different grades, flavors, and more, our Chinese and Japanese matcha powder is sure to be a hit. Trying to figure out what might be best for you? Here's a bit of information to get you started: 

What Exactly is Matcha?

In short, matcha is a type of green tea. It's created from the same plant as green tea, Camellia Sinensis. However, the time when it's harvested, the method of how it's processed, and more vary significantly from traditional green tea. 

When tea plants specifically used for matcha are grown, a special method of shade growing is used to produce a different flavor. The controlled sunlight alters the flavor of the tea leaves, bringing out more of the umami flavor and the natural sweetness of the matcha. Many would describe matcha as having a vegetable flavor, almost like spinach or brussels sprouts, finished with a sweet hay flavor to round everything out. 

When prepared, matcha isn't steeped like the typical green tea leaves. When you prepare green tea, you most often prepare it by placing the tea leaves into a tea bag or tea strainer and allowing that to steep for a certain amount of time. Once the tea has steeped, you remove the tea leaves from the water and drink the tea to your liking.

However, when you prepare matcha, you don't steep the tea leaves. Instead, matcha is prepared by whisking the Japanese tea powder into hot water - tea leaves and all. It gives the tea a bright green color, starkly different from its traditional green tea counterpart, with a thicker and foamier texture. Enjoyed traditionally, matcha has a unique flavor and texture all its own, incomparable with any other tea on the market. 

What Should You Look for When You Purchase Matcha?

When shopping for matcha and trying to choose a good one, there are several different characteristics you should look for. When you first begin purchasing and enjoying matcha, this might be difficult to see right out of the gate. However, as you continue to buy different grades, varieties, and matcha brands, you'll be able to spot these characteristics immediately. 

The color is the first thing you should pay attention to with any Japanese matcha powder. The color of the matcha should be bright green, like the grass in the middle of the summer. Matcha should be this color because of the shade-growing process. The lack of sunlight during a proper shade-growing process helps matcha to retain more of the nutrients in the leaves, including chlorophyll. The chlorophyll gives the matcha a vibrant green color. Without the proper shade-growing method, the leaves will not be as bright green when harvested, changing the flavor, color, and more. 

The texture of matcha should also be smooth and fine, almost like cornstarch powder. Culinary-grade matcha can sometimes be a little rougher because stems and veins of the leaves are sometimes ground into culinary matcha, but ceremonial-grade matcha should be smooth and fine to the touch. 

Unless you are purchasing a matcha mix, then no Japanese matcha powder should have any additional ingredients. It should be the purest form of matcha available - a simple, finely ground powder made of only the ground tea leaves. If a Japanese matcha powder adds extra ingredients but markets itself as pure matcha powder, then that is a brand that should be avoided. 

Check the matcha for oxidation, as well. If the color of the powder is dull green or has more of a brownish tone, then the powder has been exposed to oxygen and will not have the strong umami flavor of matcha that has been properly prepared and stored. If matcha has been properly stored, then no oxidation should occur. However, if the matcha powder has not been stored in an airtight container or the leaves were not processed correctly, the powder will oxidize. The flavor will not be as strong or vibrant, and you'll miss out on the delicious umami flavor that matcha can provide. 

Finally, you should be sure to look at the grinding process. In today's modern world, commercially sold matcha is typically processed via machines and is ground through those same means. However, if you want a unique and powerful matcha experience, you should look for a stone ground matcha. Stone ground matcha is the pinnacle of grinding methods and will provide an unparalleled taste and texture to the matcha. This does not mean that other grinding methods taste poorly in comparison, but simply that the stone ground method truly elevates the tasting experience.  

Why Are There Different Grades of Matcha?

Just like there are different types of tea because of varying plants, grinding, and steeping methods, there are several different grades of matcha. Matcha tea is only made with certain tea leaves, grown at very particular times and harvested within a very short window of time. Because of this, there is a wide range of tastes, textures, and more that make different matcha grades very distinct. 

One of these differences is the different harvest times. Matcha goes through a couple of different harvest times throughout the growing season. The Japanese matcha powder made from these harvests is sorted into different grades depending on when the leaves are harvested from the matcha plants.

Grinding methods also play a part in grading matcha. Different grinding methods play a role in the flavor, texture, and more. Typically, ceremonial grade matcha is stone ground or hand ground, creating a smooth, fine texture. However, culinary matcha can use other methods, usually resulting in a coarser grind. 

There are a host of other reasons why matcha may be sorted into different categories: flavor, color, processing times, and more. This doesn't mean that one matcha will inherently taste better than the other or that one is more premium than the other; it simply means that these matchas are perfect for different uses. 

Ceremonial Grade Matcha

Ceremonial grade matcha is the finest, highest quality matcha available on the market. This matcha is referred to as "ceremonial grade matcha" because this Japanese matcha powder was once used only in traditional tea ceremonies, reserved only for royalty and nobility. This premium matcha was once considered a status symbol for its high quality, delicious flavor, and rarity. 

Ceremonial grade matcha is made with the first harvest of leaves at the beginning of spring, making its taste softer and gentler than other grades of matcha. The flavor of ceremonial matcha is typically lighter and sweeter than culinary matcha, stemming from the fact that the stems and veins are removed from the leaves. Ceremonial-grade matcha is also typically stone ground, resulting in a finer, smoother texture of the powder. 

While other matcha grades are best used for lattes, pastries, and more, ceremonial grade matcha is best used as intended: enjoyed traditionally after being whisked to a light froth with the traditional bamboo whisk. The flavor of ceremonial matcha gives it its high distinction, so using ceremonial matcha in a latte or pastry is tantamount to using a hundred-year-old bottle of wine to cook with. It's nearly sacrilegious! 

Matcha Outlet is proud to offer several varieties of premium matcha from China and Japan. Each type of matcha is slightly different in both flavor and texture, making each new type a delicious experience unlike any other. Our matcha is ground into a soft and fine powder, perfect to be enjoyed in a traditional preparation. We invite you to try this delicious matcha for yourself; with our different types of ceremonial grade matcha and our starter kit to prepare it traditionally, Matcha Outlet makes it easier than ever.

Culinary Grade Matcha

The other type of matcha grade is culinary matcha. While culinary matcha is still delicious, it doesn't quite have the high-quality punch that ceremonial matcha is so known for. Additionally, culinary matcha is best enjoyed in culinary preparations, like lattes, pastries, and more. 

Culinary matcha is divided into five different categories:

Premium Grade

Premium matcha is a type of culinary matcha most similar to ceremonial grade. This grade of matcha typically comes from the second plant harvest in early summer, right behind the ceremonial grade harvest. It has a slightly stronger flavor than ceremonial matcha, but not by much. It makes for a delicious tea if enjoyed traditionally and is easily added to different lattes, lemonades, and more. It is not quite as high-quality as ceremonial matcha, but it is not far off, making this a slightly less expensive alternative to the ceremonial grade.

a glass of matcha lemonade with spoon of powder and strows

Café Grade

Café grade matcha is the perfect grade of matcha to use in baking and cooking. This matcha is referred to as café grade because it is typically used in cafés for smoothies, lattes, pastries, and other blended drinks. This grade still retains the bright green color of the ceremonial and premium matcha. It is typically harvested in the season's second or third matcha harvest, giving it a stronger flavor. 

cup of hot matcha green tea

Classic Grade

Classic grade matcha is the most prevalent matcha available on the market today. If you were to go to a store and grab some matcha powder off the shelf, then this is most likely what you'll be purchasing. While not as high-quality as ceremonial or premium matcha, this classic grade matcha has a strong flavor that is perfect for mixing into a large amount of food and drinks. It's slightly bitter, which makes it not the ideal type to drink traditionally, but it does have the widest range of uses. 

bowl of yogurt with matcha with chia seeds and raspberries

Ingredient Grade

Ingredient-grade matcha is perfect for exactly what it says on the tin: used as an ingredient in different recipes. Ingredient matcha is a type of Japanese matcha powder mixed with some of the older tea leaves, giving it a bit of a thicker consistency and stronger flavor than other grades of matcha. This matcha is the perfect consistency for adding to recipes that contain dairy products, like smoothies, lattes, ice creams, and buttercream. The only downside of this grade of matcha is that it can get a little lumpy, so it's important to whisk it well before incorporating it into your dishes.

matcha ice-cream on piece of waffle

Kitchen Grade

The final type of culinary matcha is kitchen-grade matcha. Kitchen-grade matcha is also made with older leaves, giving it a coarse texture and strong, astringent flavor. This type of matcha is the most bitter of the bunch and typically has a darker green color than the other grades of matcha. This grade is most commonly used in large-scale bakeries and matcha products.

matcha green team cupcakes

What Matcha Outlet Offers

What's important to remember is that there is no grade of Japanese matcha powder that isn't suitable. Every grade of matcha has a purpose, and every grade has something that it is the best choice for. The right grade of matcha simply depends on personal preference and what you want your final product to taste like. 

Here at Matcha Outlet, we're proud to offer a wide range of grades in matcha, both ceremonial and culinary. We even have a matcha mix that comes pre-sweetened for your matcha latte needs! No matter what you're wanting to use our matcha for, we're guaranteed to have one that you want. 

We also offer matcha wholesale, making it easy to purchase our delicious, high-quality Chinese and Japanese matcha powder in bulk for your café or other business needs. It's the perfect way to hop onto the trend and try something new!

If you're interested in purchasing any of our different matcha grades or flavors, please check out our website. We're sure to have something that you will enjoy!