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Differences of Matcha Grades & Types

Ceremonial Matcha Grade and Bamboo Tea Whisk

Photo by @awesomeeves

There’s a very common question we get here at Kenko Tea.

What’s the difference between a Ceremonial grade and Culinary/Cooking grade matcha?

In this article, we’d like to answer that popular question.

If you have purchased matcha before or been creative with it, you’ve probably encountered both types of matcha - and it’s important to know which one is best suited for your purpose.

Basically, there are 2 grades of matcha that are sold at Kenko Tea: Premium (Ceremonial) and Cooking (Culinary) Grade. They each have distinct differences in both use and characteristics.

Kenko Tea Premium Matcha Grade     Kenko Tea Cooking Matcha Grade

Premium Grade (L) by @rara_tang; Cooking Grade (R) by@thekindnessco

Matcha was originally only served as a ceremonial beverage during traditional tea ceremonies in Japan.

Nowadays, matcha is used for a wide variety of food and drink recipes. You can use matcha to make smoothies, milkshakes, latte, cakes, ice cream or even chocolate! Whether it’s baked, shaken, frozen or blended, matcha can be used to create brilliant flavours and outlandish recipes.

In addition to the simple split between ceremonial and culinary matcha, these new uses for matcha have also given rise to different grades of tea for both classes.

To fully understand all of the differences across the spectrum of matcha products, first we need to start at the very beginning, where green tea is turned into powder.

Matcha vs. Green Tea Powder

Many people have the misconception that matcha is simply regular green tea crushed into a fine powder.

However, matcha is unique to Japan, where a special cultivating method has been developed to give this tea extraordinary nutrient and flavour profiles. There are countries that have grown and produced green tea powder, but it is not matcha!

The most obvious distinction between matcha and green tea powder is the colour. Matcha’s rich chlorophyll content gives it a vibrant bright green colour, whereas green tea powder has a yellow-brown colour.

Comparison of matcha powder vs. low quality green tea powder by @kenkotea

Colour of Green Tea Powder vs. Matcha Powder

Matcha is ground to a powder using a traditional slow-turning wheel, which grinds about only 40g of matcha powder per hour. This slow motion process helps minimise friction and prevents the tea being ‘burned’ to retain its nutrients, chlorophyll and green colour.

On the other hand, green tea powder is pulverised by air pressure, which can overcook it, which results in its yellow-brown hue.

Another distinct difference between matcha and green tea powder is the taste.

Matcha has a naturally sweet and smooth flavour with a hint of astringency, due to the amino acid theanine. Green tea powder tends to taste more flat and abrasive.

So the next time you are looking for matcha, make sure it’s from Japan, and that the colour and taste are what they should be for this unique product.

Ceremonial vs. Culinary Grades

Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea

Traditional Matcha Green Tea by @urbanxkoi

Now we know what matcha is, let’s discuss the main differences between Ceremonial and Culinary grade.

When it comes to buying matcha, it’s important to know the difference. You want the best matcha product that fits perfectly with what you want to do with it. A matcha made for baking may not be the best choice for a tea ceremony, and vice versa.

Ceremonial grade is the highest matcha grade made from the youngest tea leaves. All stems and veins are removed from the leaves to obtain a very smooth and fine texture.

Culinary grade matcha is also made from young tea leaves, but these are comparatively older to those used for the ceremonial grade.

Because of that, ceremonial and culinary grade matcha have slightly different flavour profiles, making them more suitable for different tasks.

Let’s run through the differences:

Use

Ceremonial grade matcha is used for traditional occasions, such as Japanese tea ceremonies. Culinary grade matcha is used in cooking, baking and making everyday beverage blends.

For ceremonial grade matcha, it’s recommended to only mix it with hot water and nothing else. Ceremonial grade has a very delicate flavour so must be served as purely as possible.

Ceremonial Matcha Grade is used in Traditional Tea Ceremony

Ceremonial Matcha Grade in Tea Ceremony by @eugenekhooyr

In contrast, culinary grade matcha pairs up with anything. Whether it’s matcha ice cream, matcha cakes or matcha cookies, culinary grade matcha can be mixed and matched to your taste bud’s delight.

You can check out our collection of matcha recipes here!

Making matcha chocolate vegan treats with culinary grade    Matcha cheesecake using Kenko Tea matcha cooking grade

Matcha chocolate (L) by @vegan_naturalee; Matcha cheesecake (R) by @jollyeater

Flavour

As mentioned above, the flavour of ceremonial grade matcha is very delicate.

It is naturally sweet but can be easily masked by added flavours, which is why it is best served only with hot water. You can drink ceremonial grade matcha on its own, simply enjoying its subtle delights.

On the other hand, culinary grade matcha is harvested from slightly older leaves. Its flavour is more robust, bitter, and less sweet than the ceremonial grade. Because of that, you can use other additive flavours to cook, bake, shake, or mix with this matcha grade without it losing its distinctive taste.

Aroma

    Matcha Green Tea with Kenko Tea Premium Grade

    Matcha Tea with Kenko Matcha Premium Grade by @badkebad89

    Both grades of matcha should smell very similar – that grassy, fresh aroma.

    However, this aroma is simply an indication of the high quality of the matcha, not of the grade. No matter what grade you want, it should have a fresh smell.

    Colour

    Ceremonial grade matcha has a bright, vibrant green colour because of the rich content of chlorophyll in the young leaves.

    Culinary grade is less vibrant than ceremonial but still very green because it’s a high quality matcha product.

    Color of different Matcha Grades

    Kenko Premium (2nd) & Cooking (4th) Matcha Grade’s color vs. those of another brand

    Texture

    Both grades of matcha should feel fine and smooth to the touch, like eye shadow. They should not feel coarse or gritty, as that indicates a low quality matcha.

    Price

    The different prices you can pay for different matcha grades are due to the flavour profile.

    Ceremonial, the highest grade, has the more delicate and milder flavour profile. Its production is more complicated so the natural flavour can he preserved. This means the price is higher than culinary. It is also produced exclusively in Japan.

    Culinary is cheaper as its flavour profile is stronger and easier to retain throughout the production process. However, the price does not reflect its quality. It’s still high grade matcha, just not as high grade as ceremonial.

    Quality

    Following on from the last point, one the common misconceptions about matcha is that a lower grade means lower quality.

    However, both matcha grades are high quality, and the only differences are price, flavour, and end use. As long as they present the vibrant green colour, the fresh aroma and the fine smooth texture, both ceremonial and culinary matcha, are considered high quality products.

    Koicha vs. Usucha Matcha

    So, if you decide to cook with matcha, you can check out our collection of matcha recipes using culinary grade here!

    If you want to try traditional matcha tea with ceremonial grade, then it’s time to learn about the differences between Koicha and Usucha matcha!

    Koicha (thick) and Usucha (thin) are the two types of matcha tea made with ceremonial grade. Let’s see the differences between them:

    Koicha Matcha tea with Kenko Premium Matcha Grade    Usucha tea with Kenko Tea Premium Matcha Grade

    Koicha Tea (L) by @yummiegirl; Usucha Tea (R) by @begin_anywhere

    Method

    The preparation of Koicha and Usucha matcha tea is different, but very simple. Koicha is thick matcha mixed with very little water, whereas Usucha is mixed with more water.

    For Koicha, roughly 2 tsp (4g) of matcha is mixed with 1 oz (30 ml) of water. With Koicha, you don’t have to whisk much as the idea is not to make froth. A slower kneading movement from left to right, up and down, finished with a gentle 360 degree rotation is enough to create a thick consistency.

    For Usucha, about 1g matcha, which is 4 times less, is mixed with 3-4 oz (80-100 ml) of water. The matcha is whisked briskly in the W or M motion until froth foams up.

    Viscosity

    Due to the different amount of water and matcha used, the viscosity of these 2 types is different. Koicha is more viscous (left), like honey or melted chocolate. And Usucha is far less viscous (right), like espresso or maybe even macchiato.

    Flavour

    Koicha is concentrated so it’s mellower and sweeter. In contrast, Usucha matcha is less sweet. But it should not be so unpleasantly bitter, as it indicates that the tea is not prepared properly or the quality of matcha is bad.

    Matcha is very diverse in the grades and types available, so it’s always handy to know the differences.

    We hope you now understand more about matcha grades and types and when to use them best.  

    If you want to experiment with our Cooking Grade, try our Matcha Latte or Matcha Smoothie Recipes.

    All this talk about matcha is putting me in the mood for a warm matcha latte with Kenko Cooking Grade. What’s your choice?

    Matcha Green Tea Latte with Kenko Tea Cooking Matcha Grade    Matcha Smoothie with Kenko Tea Cooking Matcha Grade

    Matcha Latte (L) by @littlealleycafe; Matcha Smoothie (R) by @ninalovesummer

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