Although all matcha is made of powdered green tea, the quality varies greatly depending on harvest time, processing methods, and regional source. Most matcha found in cafes is medium-grade, which means it requires added milk or sweeteners to offset its slightly bitter taste. That’s why it’s typically used for green tea lattes or smoothies.
On the other hand, ceremonial matcha is the highest quality available, and its naturally mild flavor and grassy sweetness is best enjoyed with plain water. Also known as emperor grade, this tea was typically reserved for Zen monks and the highest social classes, but its modern popularity has made it accessible to the masses.
A better question is when does it come from? Tea is harvested all throughout the year, with the first harvest producing the highest quality leaves, and the last harvest producing heartier leaves with more robust flavors. These early spring leaves are reserved for matcha, as they are delicate, small, and mildly flavored, and therefore ideal for the highest quality matcha. The first harvest tea is also grown in the shade, which results in a richer nutrient profile compared to later harvests (which are typically reserved for tea bags).
Our ceremonial matcha is harvested during this first batch in early spring, from shade-grown tea leaves that are Organically grown in the lush volcanic regions of Japan.
First-harvest teas require more intricate methods of processing. Delicate new tea leaves are hand-picked every spring, with only the softest leaves and buds being selected. They are then manually de-veined and de-stemmed to produce even softer leaves, which is a very time-consuming labor process. Finally, these super-soft leaves are stone-ground using a very precise milling method that takes many hours for relatively little output.
Although modern machinery attempts to mimic this process, traditional stone-grinding methods are still reserved for ceremonial grade matcha, as the new technologies have yet to match this necessarily-delicate process. Grinding that is too harsh or that creates too much heat will burn the powder or increase its oxidation, resulting in low-grade matcha, regardless of its initial harvest. Thus stone-grinding remains the standard process for ceremonial matcha, and this higher time requirement results in a higher price point.
Ceremonial matcha is best enjoyed as plain tea in hot water. Because it is mildly grassy and slightly sweet in flavor, there is no need to add milk or sweeteners. Of course you can add it to smoothies and recipes as desired, but its higher cost typically prevents its use as anything but a straight tea.
*Please note that matcha does not “dissolve” in water. It will disperse and blend, but because it is a natural plant material made of finely-ground tea leaves, there’s no “dissolving” these particles. It is somewhat like cocoa powder, in that it is extremely versatile for a wide range of culinary uses, and its flavor and color remains intact after being incorporated into various recipes.
Ceremonial matcha was originally prepared as part of the traditional Zen tea ceremony, which requires special tools. However, you can enjoy it at home with no accessories required. Here’s how to prepare it both ways.
Modern Method: Using a small hand sifter, sift 1 teaspoon of matcha directly into a mug or glass of your choice (this will prevent clumping, which occurs naturally due to matcha’s fine particle size). Add about 1 tablespoon of water and stir vigorously. (Insider tip: stir with a fork instead of a spoon to break up clumps!) Add another 8 ounces of hot or cold water and stir for a few seconds until thoroughly blended. Enjoy!
Traditional Method: For a ceremonial-style cup of matcha, use a bamboo matcha scooper (AKA “chashaku”) to spoon matcha powder into a teacup or small bowl. Next, swap out your stirring spoon for a bamboo whisk (AKA “chasen”) to blend the tea into hot water. This is the method used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, but it can be adapted for everyday use.
How to use a bamboo whisk: Sift 1 teaspoon of matcha into a shallow mug or a small bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of hot water (not boiling), and stir the whisk in a circular motion just to break up any early clumps. Add in another 4-6 ounces of hot water, and briskly stir the whisk in a “W” shape back & forth until the tea starts to froth. Begin the process with the whisk touching the bottom of your mug, and eventually bring it up & out of the tea. The matcha should be fully dispersed and free of clumps using this method.
Regardless of your preparation method, the key to enjoying ceremonial matcha is to properly disperse the powder into filtered water, and take your time appreciating the nuanced flavors of each sip.
While many Asian countries have begun harvesting matcha due to its increased popularity, Japan remains the most reliable source for this fine green tea powder.
All of our Sencha Naturals matcha is organically harvested in the rich soils of Japan. This island nation has hundreds of years of tried & tested methods for precise matcha processing, has prime soil conditions in its volcanic regions, has rigorous quality control measures in place, and has produced green tea with the highest nutrient values compared to other tea-growing countries. For this reason, we source all of our matcha exclusively from Japan.
We work directly with small tea farmers in the lush Kagoshima and Kyoto regions of Japan.
Kagoshima is an ancient seaside town under the watchful eye of an active volcano. This volcanic region provides rich soils that are perfectly primed for nutrient-dense green tea.
Additionally, Kyoto is the land of temples, lending a spiritual touch to our matcha harvests. Once the capital of Japan, this culturally-rich ancient city is also home to numerous tea fields grown in an optimal subtropical climate.
Both of our regional growers specialize in sustainable organic farming practices and harvesting methods to produce the freshest quality matcha at the best value. These multi-generational farmers have passed on their traditional harvesting techniques throughout the decades, ensuring that the finely-tuned art of matcha production and harvesting is preserved for years to come.
All of our Sencha Naturals matcha comes from first and second-harvest green tea. As a quick background, tea is harvested all throughout the year, but its precise harvesting time depends on its intended usage.
Ceremonial grade matcha (the highest quality) comes from first-harvest green tea leaves that are picked in early spring. The young leaves are mild and delicate, resulting in a rich green color with a grassy, sweet flavor.
Premium grade matcha (such as that used for lattes and smoothies) come from second-harvest matcha picked in early summer, which has a more astringent taste due to its longer exposure to the sun.
Only first-and second-harvest teas are appropriate for matcha, as all later harvests are too bitter/astringent to be used as powdered green tea. These third and fourth harvest tea leaves are reserved for the conventional tea bags that most people are accustomed to.
Our Sencha Naturals Ceremonial matcha is hand-picked during the first harvest of every spring, after being grown in the shade for the perfectly delicate flavor. Our Premium grade matcha is comprised of first and second harvest teas, expertly blended to provide a balanced flavor at a great value. Finally, our Everyday Matcha consists of second harvest green tea, resulting in a grassy flavor that pairs well with either sweet or savory recipes. Ceremonial grade is our highest quality matcha (best for drinking plain), while our Everyday matcha is best for culinary purposes.
All of our Sencha Naturals matcha is grown using Organic and Non-GMO practices, to ensure the highest quality tea without harmful chemicals.
Because matcha is consumed in its whole leaf form, there’s no “washing away” the pesticides found in in conventionally-grown tea. Any chemicals that are sprayed onto the leaves or that leach into the soil will remain, and are then ingested by the end consumer.
Additionally, the same tea plant can be harvested for 30 years, meaning that conventional tea will have decades of harmful pesticides accumulated in the plant, and artificial fertilizers built up in the soil. These chemicals often leach into neighboring communities, rivers, and underground water sources, ultimately polluting the nearby regions for generations.
Organic matcha is free from these harmful chemicals & environmental practices, and therefore we are committed to sustainable harvesting methods for all of our matcha green tea.