Unless you live under a rock, you've probably seen matcha popping up all over the place lately. You may have even tried it – and if not, you're definitely missing out! 

But with all the different kinds of matcha available, it can be tough to know which one is the real champion. Is ceremonial matcha the best kind? Or is culinary grade matcha the clear winner? 

Let's take a closer look at these two types of matcha and see which one comes out on top.

What are the types of matcha?

Matcha is considered a green elixir and the best healthy substitute for the coffee drinkers. But does this super-powered powder come in different varieties? Yes! 

Even though all types of matcha come from the same green tea leaves, they vary depending on the quality of the leaves and the way they’re grown. As a consequence, they also have different flavors, benefits, colors, and uses. 

Currently, matcha powder is graded depending on the quality of the tea leaves, and there are two main matcha grades: ceremonial and culinary grade. 

  • Ceremonial matcha tea

So, what is ceremonial grade matcha powder? This powdered green tea is the highest quality matcha powder available and is packed with nutrients. It is made from young tea leaves that are shade-grown with hand-picked and ground into a fine powder using a traditional stone mill. The resulting powder is bright green in color and has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.

This type of matcha green tea is the Rolls-Royce of the matcha world. It's the fanciest, most expensive type of matcha, so, in Japan, it’s typically used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, where it is prepared using a special bamboo whisk and served in small bowls. However, it can also be enjoyed at any moment. 

Because it comes from the youngest tea leaves, ceremonial grade has a natural sweetness, which means it’s incredibly yummy and smooth in flavor without adding any extra sugars. 

Ceremonial-grade matcha has a higher concentration of nutrients than other types of matcha, and it also has a more intense flavor. 

  • Culinary grade matcha

Culinary grade matcha powders, on the other hand, are made from older tea leaves harvested for more time and are less finely milled. It has a slightly darker color and a more robust flavor that can be better suited for baking or cooking.

While it can be used in many different dishes, it is most commonly used in making sushi, noodle dishes, and green tea ice cream. It is also occasionally used as a natural food coloring.

Culinary vs ceremonial matcha: what’s the difference?

There's tea, and then there's matcha. If you're not familiar with matcha, it's a type of green tea that's made from finely ground powder. Unlike other teas, which are typically brewed with hot water, matcha is typically mixed with cold water or milk. And while it can be enjoyed in both culinary and ceremonial settings, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Quality

When it comes to matcha, there are two main grades: ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial grade matcha is high-quality matcha, and it is typically used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It has a bright green hue and a delicate, slightly sweet flavor and is much more enjoyable to consume.

Culinary grade matcha is less expensive and it is often used in cooking or baking. It has a more intense flavor and a darker green color. Both grades of matcha are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but ceremonial grade matcha is made from younger tea leaves that are grown in shade.

  • Harvest season time

Even though they come from the same tea plants and tea bush, ceremonial grade and culinary grade matcha are harvested in different ways: 

In Japan, the ceremonial grade matcha harvest season is a time of year when tea farmers focus on producing the highest quality leaves. This means that the tea plants are carefully monitored and only the best leaves are picked by hand. The process is slow and painstaking, but it ensures that only the finest matcha is produced. As a result, the ceremonial grade matcha harvest season is a time of year when only the most dedicated tea farmers are able to produce this special type of tea.

The first harvest season happens between April and May after the young matcha tea leaves have been shaded for approximately a month. 

On the contrary, culinary grade matcha powder is harvested during the second harvest in Japan, which happens between the months of June and July. These later harvest matcha leaves are much older than the ones from the first harvest season, meaning that they have been more exposed to sunlight and have a darker color because of that. 

Culinary grade can also be harvested during the third harvest season, which happens between September and October. In this sense, the later harvest grades are more bitter than the younger harvest tea leaves. 

  • Flavor and color

The flavor varies depending on the grade of the matcha. So, culinary grades tend to have a robust, stronger, grassy flavor, while the highest quality grade used in a Japanese tea ceremony is sweeter, and has an extremely delicate and smooth flavor. 

In the same way, the vibrant green hue matcha is known for also depends on the grade, meaning that ceremonial-grade is brighter than culinary-grade because of the chlorophyll and amino acids content. 

The matcha flavor and color vary depending on how young or how old the tea leaves are. 

  • Uses

So, what are the uses of ceremonial-grade matcha? Well, you can use it to make traditional Japanese matcha tea, of course. But why stop there? You can also use it to make matcha lattes whenever you want. Also, it’s recommended that if you want to start drinking matcha during your morning routine, you pick the ceremonial-grade matcha because the flavor and the quality are much better. 

That doesn’t mean that culinary grade matcha grade is not good. Culinary-grade matcha is a type of green tea powder that is specifically designed for use in recipes. It has a bolder flavor than ceremonial matcha, making it perfect for use in savory dishes. So, if you are craving matcha cookies, a smoothie, or any kind of baked goods or matcha blend, culinary matcha is your guy!

  • Health benefits

In the battle of ceremonial vs culinary matcha, we can’t forget to mention the health benefits difference, because there are some!

If you're looking for all the health benefits that matcha has to offer, then you'll want to go with the ceremonial grade. The ceremonial grade is made from the youngest and most tender leaves, which results in a higher concentration of nutrients.

However, since they both are made with the entire tea leaf that’s grounded into a powder, culinary-grade matcha is still super beneficial for health. The real difference is that, since ceremonial-grade comes from young leaves, it’s slightly more nutritious than culinary because older leaves tend to lose some benefits. 

  • Price

Since the younger tea leaves reserved for Ceremonial-grade matcha have to be more carefully harvested than culinary-grade leaves, this type of matcha is more expensive. 

However, for some tea drinkers the fact that ceremonial-grade matcha has a sweet taste, a vibrant green color because it has more chlorophyll, and more health benefits, the price is totally worth it. 

Organically grown tea vs. non organic matcha

Putting aside the types of matcha, there’s also another battle: organic matcha vs non-organic, and this one applies to both ceremonial matcha and culinary. 

As we said before, whether the matcha is one type or the other, they both come from the same tea plant, however, that plant can be cultivated in different ways. In this sense, organically grown tea is made from leaves that have been grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Proponents of organic food in general argue that this method of production is better for the environment and results in a tastier product. In addition, organic farmers often sell their tea directly to consumers, which helps to support local economies.

On the other hand, non-organic matcha is made from leaves that have been grown with the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. While this method is generally more efficient and results in a higher yield, many people believe that it compromises the quality of the tea. Additionally, non-organic matcha is often mass-produced by large companies, which can make it difficult to trace its origins.

So, what’s the best quality matcha for you? 

It depends on the use! If you’re looking for matcha to bake or cook, culinary grade matcha is a must-add to any kind of recipe. However, if you’re in for all the matcha health benefits and want to add it to your daily morning routine, organic ceremonial-grade matcha will be your way to go. 

Just, bear in mind that not all ceremonial-grade matcha is good! Always get your matcha from a known matcha business, like Enjoy Shade, so you can taste the real flavor of this amazing drink and experience the health benefits that everyone is talking about! 

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November 17, 2022 — Paige Rife

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