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The Most Important Matcha Grades

If you want to learn about the most important matcha grades then you’ve landed in the right place!

When drinking matcha tea, the differences in matcha grades makes all the difference in how you experience your matcha beverage. Whether it’s in food, milk tea, a latte, or with just water it’s all different. Every matcha grade is unique in its own flavor profile and even when it’s harvested. Here at Talk Boba not only do we talk about boba but we try our best to educate everything from boba, the tea used in milk teas and even how boba has transformed culture throughout the world. 

Suggest a topic for us to write about that you’re interested in and we’ll be sipping away some of our favorite milk teas while we get to writing! Okay, let’s get to the matcha grades now. 

The Most Important Matcha Grades

What Determines a Specific Matcha Grade? 

With matcha grades comes different factors in determining them. Typically you’ll have two different higher level matcha grades: the ceremonial grade and the culinary grade. Now some may say that within these two grades of matcha, there are even more sub-grades like premium grade, cafe grade and so on. 

In this article we won’t go into the sub-grades but if you want we can definitely have something written up for you! This will strictly be about the higher level grades: ceremonial and culinary. 

Here are 5 different but important factors that determine the differences between the two grades! 

1. Origin

If you’re looking for the best matcha to taste so that you have the most memorable matcha experience, you have to start with the origin. Notably, Japan is known for farming and producing the best and most premium matcha powders. Many of the boba cafes and tea shops you know of offer high quality matcha come from here. 

One of the most popular places to source matcha is Uji, Japan. With its ideal climate and highly detailed and passionate matcha farmers, you’ll find some of the best here. 

2. Harvest

The time of year in which matcha farmers harvest their carefully grown camellia sinensis plants is crucial for determining a matcha grade. Not only is the time of year really important for harvesting the plant to make matcha powder, the part of the plant in which farmers pluck is just as important.

Typically if matcha farmers pluck the top of the plant this is considered the ceremonial grade. As farmers pluck lower from the plant, they’re plucking older leaves and stems that are considered culinary grades. Keep these things in mind! 

3. Taste

Of course the best part of determining the matcha grade, the flavor profile. Depending on the actual flavor of matcha like bitterness, sweetness and depth will determine the matcha grade. It’s important to know that each matcha powder source grades their matcha quite differently, since matcha grading is not a universal or regulated system, shops can determine their grade without much external opinions. 

Knowing how it should actually taste is important to understand if the matcha grade stamped on the packaging is indeed authentic. Don’t be fooled! 

4. Color

Another factor many people look for is the hue and vibrancy of the finished grounded up powder. Each color variation of matcha powder, whether it’s lighter or darker will have huge significance in determining matcha grades. 

Many people are misinformed that darker and deeper colors of matcha powders are more “premium.” This is far from the truth, typically the more vibrant the matcha powder is the better the quality. This tells you that the leaves plucked are younger, which entails a more high quality powder than dark old leaves. 

5. Texture

Last but not least, the texture profile of the matcha powder itself. Matcha grades are often determined by how the camellia sinensis plant is processed and eventually grounded into powder form. 

The best quality matcha powders are often processed with manual stone grounding, nothing beats the natural movements and touch of a human! After the powder is grounded, the size and density of the powder is also used to be a factor in determining matcha texture. 

Who would’ve thought that something people drink almost everyday has so much involved in determining its quality. No wonder matcha milk teas, matcha lattes and matcha teas are more expensive than your traditional black milk tea or oolong teas. 

The Most Important Matcha Grades

What is Ceremonial Matcha Grade?

If you’ve had matcha tea that wasn’t bitter but sweet and full of depth, then it’s most likely that you’ve had your first sip at ceremonial matcha. 

Ceremonial matcha generally appears brighter and has a very vibrant green hue to it. Let’s just say it’s a very appealing green! Ceremonial matcha usually is consumed with just water and not mixed with anything else like milk in a matcha milk tea. It’s delicate and silky as you drink it, and shouldn’t be “starchy” as you casually sip on it, if it is, then the texture isn’t quite right. 

The leaves that are plucked for ceremonial grade matcha is usually the youngest leaves, on top of the camellia sinensis plant during harvest. Speaking of harvest, this grade of matcha is usually harvested around May for the best matcha powder. 

What is Culinary Matcha Grade?

The noticeably bitter and darker colored matcha. 

Culinary matcha, most of the matcha powdered beverages you find in typical boba cafes or tea shops, will taste bitter (it’s expensive to have ceremonial matcha). Now this doesn’t mean that this matcha grade is bad though! Many of your favorite matcha milk teas or matcha lattes are made with a culinary matcha grade for good reason! 

If you use ceremonial matcha grade powder into a matcha milk tea, the milk tends to overpower the matcha making for a sad matcha milk tea. 

The bitterness of culinary matcha powders is what balances matcha powder and milk. Without the bitterness you won’t be able to taste matcha like we mentioned, only little bit. Culinary matcha is perfectly used for food, beverages and delicious treats. The balance it provides from depth of flavor and bitterness, makes for great food and drinks. 

The Most Important Matcha Grades

Did you learn the differences between the two now? We hope so! Now that you know the differences between the two grades of matcha, how about taking a stab at trying to make your own matcha milk tea, maybe even a strawberry matcha latte! 

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