Japan, the One-and-Only Global Leader in Matcha
Certain commodities – fine wines, for example – have clear ties with their places of origin. This can be due to specialized skills of people in a particular area or unique aspects of geography and climate. Premium matcha depends on both.
Matcha green tea is uniquely identified with traditional Japanese culture, associated with Zen Buddhism, martial arts, and aesthetics. Now, matcha’s popularity extends throughout the world. In the U.S., you can find it in high-end supermarkets, natural food stores, and tea shops. Much of that matcha, however, does not come from Japan and is of inferior quality.
Where Does Cheap Matcha Come From, and How is it Different?
Subpar, mass-produced matcha mainly comes to North America from China, which, although it exports many excellent loose-leaf teas, lacks Japan’s expertise in creating true artisan matcha. Quality matcha is the result of just the right growing conditions and commitment to a labor-intensive process of preparation. You pay less for Chinese matcha, but what you get is likely to be off-color and bitter, without the rich and complex aroma and flavor of the traditional Japanese product. Moreover, growers in Japan are very mindful of the need to protect the environment of tea plantations in order to minimize toxic contamination of tea leaves. That is not so in China, where the purity of all natural products is suspect.
Most people who have tried matcha and not liked it have never experienced the real thing. Excellent matcha is bright green and delicious, a joy to consume. It generates relaxed alertness without the jangling stimulation of other caffeinated beverages, and it provides a host of health benefits. That is the kind of matcha produced in particular ecosystems of Japan by traditional methods perfected over centuries.
Deciding how to shop for matcha
When you shop for matcha, always inquire about the country of origin. Of course, there is a range of quality (and pricing) of powdered green tea from Japan. Get the best you can afford and you will not be disappointed.
Team Matcha Kari