We get a lot of questions about matcha, especially at the King’s Cross Market. I thought here would be a good place to answer some of them!
What is Ceremonial Matcha?
You’ll often see matcha in the UK labelled as ‘ceremonial grade’. This is used to signify matcha that is used for drinking, in comparison to ‘culinary grade’ which is only suitable for cooking and baking. Whilst the term can be useful, it can also be misleading as there aren’t actually any rules about what passes as ceremonial grade matcha. So basically, a company can call quite poor quality matcha ceremonial and sell it for a higher price. What really determines the quality of matcha is where it was grown, whether it was shaded, and whether it was ground using traditional granite mills.
Why is some matcha so expensive?
Matcha is made from ground tencha. Tencha are green tea leaves that have been grown in the shade for about 40 days. By shading the leaves, they grow more slowly and retain a lot more nutrients than if they had been exposed to full sun. But the flip side of this is that they can only be harvested once a year as they grow so slowly. This means if you see matcha that calls itself ‘first flush’ you should be a little wary, as there is only one flush for matcha! And if you see matcha that is second or third flush, you should be very suspicious as it’s probably ground sencha and not ground tencha!
Can matcha come from outside of Kyoto?
Yes of course! Unlike champagne, matcha doesn’t have to come from a specific region of Japan. Kyoto has a long tradition of matcha however, and many of the oldest and most well renowned tea producers are based in Uji, Kyoto. Similarly to wine, matcha is affected by the terroir – the unique properties of the land such as soil, microclimate, humidity and distance from the sea. This is one of the reasons that Uji Matcha is considered to be the best in Japan.
How long does matcha last?
Matcha will usually have a 6-month expiry date from when it was packaged. We generally recommend using the matcha with 4-6 week of opening the tin. After this the matcha will start losing some of its flavour and colour. We also suggest storing the matcha in the fridge once opened, as a cool, dark place is ideal for keeping the flavour fresh. If you’ve had your matcha open for a while and the flavour has changed then you can always use it to bake a matcha cake! Also, it’s worth pointing out that our matcha has the expiration date on the bottom of the tin, written in the Japanese style – so Year, Month, Date!
I hope that answered some of you matcha FAQs! Please do get in touch if you have any more questions!