Although good quality matcha does not come cheap, it is certainly worth every penny of its price. Its current valuation is not only influenced by the recent increase in market demand, but more so for the meticulous method involved in its production.
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Matcha came from the leaves of shade-grown camellia sinensis, or more simply known as green tea plant. Its rich flavor, silky-smooth texture and bright green hue are joint results of the leaves’ inherent organic properties and the traditional conscientious way they are harvested, sorted and pulverized. The traditional grinding method employed in Japan involves using granite stone mills, wherein each contraption only yields about 30 grams of fine powder every hour. This slow and arduous process not only preserve most, if not all of the green tea nutrients, but also its natural flavors and aroma.
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For the said reasons, matcha has a higher concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and amino acids than any other kinds of tea and other vastly nutritious whole foods like berries, broccoli, kale, etc. In fact, several clinical studies attest to matcha’s disease-fighting properties against cancers, diabetes, psoriasis and other ailments. It is also a powerful detoxifier and metabolic-enhancer, as well as an energy and mood booster.
1. Know the grade. Some purveyors may offer between 3 to 5 matcha powder grades. However, you can just familiarize yourself with these three basic classifications:
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1. Ceremony Grade – Made solely from the supplest buds and leaves handpicked from the topmost part of shade-grown green tea stalks. This grade is also strictly produced in accordance to the Japanese traditional method. Its exceptionally bright, almost fluorescent green in color and has the smoothest, almost silky texture. Naturally, this grade is the most costly, averaging about $1 per gram, plus or minus 15%, in the market.
2. Café Grade – This class is made from young leaves taken from the middle of the green tea stalks, and likewise produced in the same old-fashioned way. It can be used well in both traditional and café-style preparations, as well as for culinary purposes. It is the most recommendable for both café and home use, as it cost significantly lower than ceremony grade powder.
3. Culinary Grade – This class is made from slightly more matured leaves, which are darker in color and has a grainier texture. This is used best for cooking purposes, but not recommendable for making matcha latte or traditional tea preparation. However, some said that it is good enough to be used as mixer for iced alcoholic cocktails.
NOTE: Steer clear from matcha powders that are brownish in color and has a hay-like smell, instead of fresh grassy aroma. These powders have obviously undergone oxidation, which destroyed much of its nutrients and spoiled its natural flavors.
2. Know where the product came from. The best quality matcha still came from Japan, a country whose people are known to be sticklers for quality and for upholding centuries-old traditions in production processes. Their method proved to be the best in preserving all the antioxidants, amino acids and other nutritional contents of the green tea leaves, as well as its natural flavors and aroma.
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3. Inspect the goods prior to purchase. If you are buying a sealed pre-packed product, asked the store to show you a sample of the powder. Good quality matcha is bright green in color, has a fresh grassy scent and a smooth talcum-like in texture. If you are ordering from an online store, try to get as much information about the product such as grade level, origin, expiration date, seller’s reputation, etc. before clicking ‘buy now’.
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Matcha can be relished in many different ways. It can be used to make hot or cold beverages including cocktails and smoothies, or it can be used as an ingredient or garnish for various desserts and dishes. So, there is no excuse of letting even a small amount of your powder go to waste, and missing its numerous healthful benefits in the process.