Matcha Grades: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Perfect Matcha Tea

Green tea leaves are processed into a powder known as matcha. It includes a high concentration of antioxidants that might help prevent cell damage and lessen your chance of developing chronic illnesses. It is also strong in caffeine and amino acids.

Matcha is separated into grades, each with a distinct taste characteristic. Matcha grade refers to the matcha's quality. To choose the best matcha, you must understand how to differentiate between high-quality and lower-quality matcha and when each may be used.

Choosing the right matcha grades is key to your green tea experience. Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast looking to incorporate matcha into recipes or seeking the traditional serenity of a tea ceremony, the variety of matcha grades has distinct offerings for every need. This guide strips away confusion and clearly details each grade’s unique profile, so you can make an informed decision without the guesswork.

Key Takeaways

  • Ceremonial grade matcha, the highest quality available, is crafted from the youngest tea leaves harvested during the first flush of spring, providing a sweet and rich umami flavor profile ideal for traditional consumption without additives.

  • Culinary grade matcha differs in its versatility and range, from premium culinary grades for high-end dishes to kitchen-grade for recipes needing strong matcha notes, each varying in texture and flavor for culinary use.

  • Choosing matcha involves assessing its color, texture, and origin, with a bright green hue and fine texture indicating high quality. Organic varieties offer a potentially cleaner option, minimizing pesticide contamination.

The Different Matcha Grades

There are three common grades of matcha:

  • Culinary
  • Premium or Latte
  • Ceremonial

Each of these grades works best for a certain objective. As a result, the various Matcha grades may be identified depending on the time of harvest, which impacts the final product's characteristics like color, flavor, and nutritional value. Also, what may be made from the leaves, from Matcha green tea powder to tea bags, depends on the precise months of harvest.

The best matcha powder is produced during the first harvest, which occurs in the spring, and is only used for the matcha of the highest caliber (Ceremonial grade). This results from the delicate taste of the freshly unfolded leaves and tea buds, best savored as straight Matcha tea without any additional sweets or milk.

Typically, first-harvest tea leaves are cultivated in the shadow, producing darker leaves and a fuller taste. This shade growing process gives it a deeper, sweeter flavor that makes it perfect for ceremonial grade plain tea.

Green tea produced from the second harvest, and processed in the summer, has a stronger, more astringent taste. The naturally existing tannins increase in amount due to the leaves' additional time to mature and exposure to the sun, giving the tea its astringent, bitter taste. Although this second harvest batch is still utilized to make matcha, it is usually too astringent to be relished as simple drinking tea and is instead suggested for use in culinary.

Due to the wider leaf growth and more sun exposure during the third and fourth harvests, the teas produced are much more bitter, and as a consequence, they cannot be utilized to make matcha. Only tea bags and roasted teas like toasted kukicha and genmaicha (popcorn tea) are produced from these autumn and winter crops. All three matcha categories (Culinary, Premium, and Ceremonial) are made from one of these first two harvests or a combination.

Culinary Grade Matcha

This particular matcha kind is great for baking and cooking and is often used in conjunction with second-harvest green tea. In addition to receiving a few more months to develop and be exposed to the light, as was previously said, a second harvest gives the tea a stronger, more astringent taste.

Culinary matcha contains more tannins, which gives it a bitter taste, and more catechins, an antioxidant, owing to extended sun exposure, even if its nutritional value is still comparable to the first harvest. Additionally, you may drink it pure, albeit that defeats the purpose, and the taste can be too overpowering. Also, compared to its first-harvest equivalent, this contains less matcha caffeine.

Culinary matcha's astringency makes it perfect for savory recipes, but it also mixes well with milk, sweets, and other foods to create a wide variety of taste combinations. An example of culinary matcha powder is cocoa , a versatile ingredient that gives practically any dish a special color, taste, and nutritional boost.


  • Astringent, pungent, and bitter taste


  • The color of this matcha ranges from pale green to yellow-green

  • Uses:

    • Baking (bread, desserts)
    • Cooking (curry, broth, seasonings)
    • Lattes (may need sweetener)
    • Matcha smoothies (may need fruit and sugar)
    • Snacks (energy bars, yogurt, oatmeal)
    To be utilized as a powdered green tea, culinary matcha must be better caliber than most tea bags. It still offers the bulk of the health advantages of first-harvest matcha as a second-harvest green tea, but at a much lower cost.

    Premium or "Latte" Grade Matcha

    Green teas from the first and second harvests are often combined to make the premium grade. Its taste is light, and its color will be a deeper green than culinary matcha since it contains at least some first-harvest matcha. These factors lead to a higher price than culinary-grade tea, though it is still much less expensive. Although most matcha is used for matcha lattes, higher grades of premium matcha may be delicate enough to be consumed as simple sipping tea.

    When making Jade leaf matcha lattes, milk and sugars are often added to premium grade matcha, which is commonly available in cafés. Since matcha used in these commercial cafés is sometimes pre-mixed with sugar, milk powder, and other specific culinary additives to keep it from clumping, it may be much lighter in color than quality matcha.


    • The taste of this matcha is somewhat grassy and sour, distinguishing it from others.


    • A medium yellow-green tint characterizes premium matcha.


    • Matcha lattes and smoothies.
    • A basic matcha drink.

    Premium matcha will appeal to you if you like drinking a matcha latte or plain matcha. It is an affordable high-quality tea since it is much more inexpensive than ceremonial matcha and yet contains first-harvest tea.

    Encha Matcha provides organic powder that is ideal for your everyday latte. Since they utilize first harvest tea leaves for a sweeter flavor profile, their version is also mild enough to be sipped on its own as a hot tea. Check out our favorite matcha latte powders at Matcha Connection!

    Best Matcha Latte Powder

    Encha Matcha

    • Encha Organic Latte Grade Matcha
    • First-harvest tea leaves
    • Origin: Uji, Japan
    • Premium matcha powder, never bitter

    • Our Rating: 4.9 of 5 Stars

    Jade Leaf Matcha

    • Jade Leaf Organic Matcha Latte Mix
    • Perfect for matcha latte
    • Sweetened, Cafe Style
    • Origin: Kagoshima & Uji, Japan

    • Our Rating: 4.7 of 5 Stars


    • Tenzo Organic Ceremonial Matcha
    • Stone-ground, vibrant green powder
    • Origin: Kagoshima, Japan
    • Premium, authentic flavor

    • Our Rating: 4.8 of 5 Stars


    • Pique Sun Goddess Matcha
    • Individual on-the-go matcha packets
    • 100% Organic Ceremonial Grade
    • Origin: Kagoshima, Japan

    • Our Rating: 4.7 of 5 Stars

    Ceremonial Grade Matcha

    ceremonial grade matcha powder

    Ceremonial matcha is considered the best first-harvest tea, making it the most costly and special kind of green tea. Due to its desired flavor and finish made possible by using a Matcha whisk, this Matcha, also known as emperor or imperial grade, is the only kind acceptable for the traditional Japanese matcha tea ceremony. Bright grassy green in hue, with a lushly verdant and somewhat sweet taste, distinguishes ceremonial grade matcha from others.

    It has greater levels of L-theanine, caffeine, and chlorophyll. Matcha tea has also been used for centuries by Zen monks to meditate without dozing off because the last component has been demonstrated to promote a state of calm attention.

    Compared to second-harvest teas, ceremonial matcha has lower levels of certain tannins, which results in almost no bitterness. It is strongly advised to drink ceremonial tea straight, without any additional sweets or milk, due to its inherent sweetness and the distinct taste profile of the components that are shade grown.

    Why is it so Expensive?

    Processing first-harvest teas calls for more complex procedures. Tender young tea leaves are manually harvested every spring, with only the softer leaves and buds being picked. To generate even softer leaves, they are next de-veined and de-stemmed, which is laborious and time-consuming. Furthermore, these delicate leaves are stone-ground using a highly exact milling technique that takes several hours for just a little output, leading to a greater price.


    • Pure, earthy and smooth


    • Bright green


    This Matcha beverage may be consumed simply as a warm tea or used in lattes and other Matcha recipes; however, owing to its increased price, it is often not advised.

    Due to its high price, first-harvest ceremonial matcha is often supplied in small containers and is meant to be drunk straight rather than combined with other ingredients. This premium quality of organic matcha powder green tea is offered by Encha Matcha, which advises that it be blended with warm filtered water and consumed gently to be fully appreciated.

    Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony: An Ode to Ceremonial Matcha

    The Japanese tea ceremony, steeped in history and tradition, is a meditative ritual venerating the art of matcha preparation and consumption. The ceremony, which can last up to four hours, is a carefully orchestrated event, with each element reflecting a deep respect for the tea and its preparation. Some key elements of the powdered green tea ceremony include:

    • Flower arrangements

    • Host’s gestures

    • Tea utensils

    • Tea room design

    • Tea preparation techniques

    These elements come together to create a serene and harmonious atmosphere, allowing participants to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

    The ceremony’s centerpiece is ceremonial grade matcha, derived from the first spring harvest of tea plants, with its delicate flavor making it the ideal choice.

    Embracing Tradition: Preparing Ceremonial Matcha

    Preparing ceremonial matcha involves a sequence of steps integral to the ceremony, akin to the tea drinking itself. Traditional tea tools, including a chashaku for measuring and a chasen for whisking, are used in this process. The preparation includes two types of matcha - Koicha and Usucha. Koicha, or thick tea, is prepared using a slower kneading movement, while Usucha, or thin tea, is briskly whisked to create froth.

    In a tea ceremony, the guest of honor first sips the Koicha from the tea bowl, followed by other guests in descending order of rank. The ritual underscores the respect and appreciation for the craftsmanship of the tea tools, as the guest of honor inspects them after cleansing.

    From the ceremonial matcha preparation to the final sip, each step pays homage to the art of matcha and its place in Japanese culture.

    Feeling the Difference: Texture and Fineness

    In the case of matcha, the tactile experience is as crucial as the flavor. Texture, a significant determinant of quality, is largely influenced by the grinding process. Traditional stone-mill grinding, known as ishi-usu, and a slow grinding process create a fine texture in premium-grade matcha, preserving the tea’s natural aromas. Ceremonial grade matcha, for instance, is typically stone ground using traditional stone mills, resulting in a smooth and fine texture akin to cornstarch powder.

    On the other hand, modern grinding methods such as ceramic ball mills, used primarily for culinary-grade matcha, can generate heat, altering the flavor profile and resulting in a coarser texture. High-quality matcha produced from reputable regions is characterized by uniform particle size and smoother texture through meticulous grinding processes, essential for a higher grade matcha. However, variations in texture can occur due to regional processing methods, with some regions producing finer, silkier powders.

    Health in a Cup: The Benefits of Drinking Matcha

    Matcha’s allure goes beyond its vibrant color and unique taste - it also stands as a nutrient powerhouse. Matcha offers a concentrated form of nutrients, including:

    • Antioxidants such as catechins and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which are 137 times more concentrated than those found in regular green tea

    • Vitamins, minerals, and fiber, contributing to its reputation as a superfood

    • L-theanine and caffeine, which provide a unique effect of relaxed focus

    • Chlorophyll, which is believed to have detoxifying properties

    Incorporating matcha into your diet can also have potential health benefits. Consuming matcha can enhance cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of heart diseases, aid in weight management and metabolism, protect the liver, and potentially have anti-cancer effects due to its high levels of EGCG. Additionally, drinking matcha has been shown to improve cognitive functions, including better attention, quicker reaction times, and enhanced memory.

    Best Ceremonial Matcha Powder

    Encha Matcha

    • Encha Ceremonial Grade Matcha
    • Hand-picked from organic farm in Uji, Japan
    • First Harvest Matcha - Vibrant green color
    • Highest quality matcha, never bitter

    • Our Rating: 4.9 of 5 stars

    Tenzo Matcha

    • Tenzo Organic Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea Powder
    • Authentic Japanese Matcha
    • Rich in antioxidants, helps boost metabolism
    • Ceremonial Grade - Vibrant Green Color

    • Our Rating: 4.8 of 5 stars

    Pique Matcha

    • Pique Matcha - Organic Japanese Matcha Green Tea Powder
    • Harvested from a family-owned organic tea farm in Japan
    • Increases energy and focus
    • Highest-quality, shade grown ceremonial-grade

    • Our Rating: 4.8 of 5 stars

    Kenko Matcha

    • Kenko Matcha Organic Ceremonial Matcha
    • Gold Class Ceremonial Grade Matcha
    • Country of Origin: Japan
    • First Harvest Matcha - Vibrant Green in Color

    • Our Rating: 4.8 of 5 stars

    Other types of matcha - matcha blends

    Sweetened matcha

    While traditional matcha enthusiasts savor its natural, slightly bitter notes, the world of matcha has also embraced a sweet side. Sweetened matcha or sweet matcha, offers a delightful twist to the classic green tea powder. There are many brands that now offer a sweetened matcha variation which essentially is your traditional matcha powder with a form of sweetener added to the powder. Some brands also refer to this as a "cafe style blend", since the matcha is similar to that of a Starbucks matcha, and is a little bit more of a dessert-like drink.

    One of the benefits of sweetened matcha is that it is very easy to prepare, and a great option for those who like their matcha to-go and don't want to spend additional time adding sugar, stevia, or honey to their matcha tea. If you like your matcha sweet and don't want to add a sweetener to your matcha tea every time, we highly recommend the following sweetened matcha products: Jade Leaf Cafe Style Sweetened Matcha Latte, and Tenzo Sweetened Matcha

    Flavored matcha

    Flavored matcha is a delightful and innovative twist on traditional green tea powder. It takes the natural, earthy flavors of matcha and infuses them with various enticing tastes, creating a spectrum of unique and exciting options. From classic vanilla and chocolate to more adventurous choices like fruity blends or fragrant spices, flavored matcha offers an array of exciting experiences. Whether you prefer a subtle hint of sweetness, a burst of fruitiness, or the comforting warmth of spices, there's a flavored matcha to satisfy your taste buds. We aren't the biggest fans of flavored matcha, however, we do recommend one brand in particular for those who want to explore the realm of flavored matcha: Chamberlain Coffee Vanilla Matcha (and other flavors)


    What matters most when choosing Matcha is how you plan to utilize it. Matcha should only be mixed with food or drinks, including the premium barista grade if it is of culinary quality. Ceremonial grade Matcha should be consumed in its natural state to enjoy more matcha benefits. You may pick the ideal Matcha for your requirements by purchasing the various Matcha grades stated above individually.

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