A tea once reserved for traditional ceremonies in Japan, matcha is now enjoyed in all types of food and drink, from desserts to cocktails. The popularity of this unique green tea powder has rapidly risen over the past few years in the United States especially, and in the West, matcha powders often find themselves classified into two broad grades: ceremonial and culinary.
What is Culinary and Ceremonial Matcha?
Commonly, the term “ceremonial grade” is used to define matcha that is higher quality, while the latter is used to define lower quality. This portrayal isn’t completely accurate, however.
In Japan, tea producers choose not to use these two matcha grades as classification standards, but rather a more complex evaluation system. Each blend is assessed on their individual characteristics, such as their taste, texture, color, cultivar, and feel. In fact, all matcha powders are considered as the same quality due to each being recognized as having a unique profile intended for different preferences.
With this in mind, rather than viewing ceremonial or culinary matcha as ‘high’ or ‘low’ quality, each can instead be viewed as having been specifically crafted for an intended use.
Differences Between Culinary and Ceremonial Matcha
At Senbird Tea, we use the term ceremonial grade to describe matcha that is suitable to be enjoyed with only water. This is because ceremonial matcha is generally made from first harvest leaves. As a result, these matcha powders will have a fine texture, subtle sweetness, and bright green color.
On the other hand, culinary matcha is typically made from later tea harvests, containing the harsher parts of the leaves such as the stem. This produces matcha that have a wide color range, more potential bitterness, and grittier texture that might not mix as well with just water.
In summary, here are some of the key differences between culinary and ceremonial matcha to keep in mind:
Recommended Use for Each Matcha Grade
As the name suggests, culinary matcha powder is ideal to be used in recipes, especially in baked goods. The more bitter and potent flavor will be balanced, but not overpowered by other ingredients. A favorite go-to treat of ours is a matcha banana bread – the matcha's earthy and grassy notes combine strikingly well with the comforting flavors of a traditional banana bread.
Because of their finer texture and less bitter qualities, ceremonial matcha is ideal in tea ceremonies and everyday beverages such as matcha lattes or matcha lemonade. One interesting thing to note about ceremonial matcha is the complexity and nuance of each producer’s matcha flavor. Some are rich, some are mellow, and some are floral – yet all are considered high quality and usage and enjoyment is based on your personal taste preference.
Our popular Matcha Otome is one with a rich umami profile from Kyoto’s esteemed Uji prefecture. We tasted over 8 different types of matcha from our tea producer in order to find the perfect balance for our matcha selection. This ceremonial matcha is a team favorite for its delightful aroma, color, minimal bitterness, and smooth texture.
Every matcha flavor profile has its own special appeal. By understanding the distinct purposes of ceremonial and culinary grade matcha powders, we can appreciate the unique qualities found in each blend and choose the right matcha for our preferences. There are so many ways to enjoy matcha green tea!
If you want to read more articles on matcha, explore them here:
- A Modern Guide to A Matcha Tea Ceremony at Home
- 4 Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea Powder
- The Caffeine Content in Matcha Green Tea versus Coffee
- How to Prepare Matcha: Usucha vs. Koicha
- 5 Unique Matcha Drink Recipes
- How to Make Matcha Lemonade
- How to Make Matcha Banana Bread
- Matcha Bubble Milk Tea Recipe
- Vanilla Matcha Hot Chocolate Recipe
- Matcha Apple Pie Ovenight Oats Recipe
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