Matcha as a wellness world staple is nothing new. For the last few years, everywhere you look, influencers, wellness experts, and probably your BFFs are running around town with a matcha drink in tow. So what’s the deal? You have to admit that even if you’ve never tried it, it looks absolutely delicious. The smooth, milky green shade is incredibly appealing. It’s high time we get to the bottom of this phenomenon, so we tapped a whole host of experts to give us the scoop on the very best matcha around.
Our collective matcha obsession knows no bounds, which is why we spoke to food and beverage professionals and matcha devotees alike to get the low down on what makes it so darn special. Turns out, we have a lot to learn. Matcha lovers have strong opinions, and luckily, they’re sharing their secrets with us.
Different kinds of matcha powders are better suited to particular tastes and needs. You’ll want to mix it up depending on whether you want to drink it straight, prefer it in a smoothie, crave a latte, or are just starting out and getting your toes wet in the wonderful world of matcha.
Featured image by Kristen Kilpatrick.
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What is matcha?
Matcha is a very finely ground powder made of green tea leaves. The vibrant, bright green powder is whisked into hot water, after which you can add a milk of your choice or leave it as is. Not only is it visually stunning, but its distinct flavor and various health benefits have helped create a recent surge in popularity.
Like green tea, matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG, which studies have shown to have a wealth of health benefits, including helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and weight loss. It is also rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants, and amino acids. But most people are in it for the taste and ritual.
While it does have less caffeine than the average cup of coffee, matcha is still a caffeinated beverage. It won’t necessarily be a suitable alternative for those with caffeine sensitivities. The difference is that the matcha buzz lasts longer, is more energizing, and has a cleaner comedown.
Professional baker and pastry chef Alexei Keats loves both its versatility and its impact. He tells us that, “matcha not only has a distinctive flavor and sweetness that can be used in a variety of drinks, pastries, and other delights, it makes a statement.” Another devout matcha obsessive, Val Snow, Assistant General Manager at Jolene in New York City, notes that she’s drawn to the complexity of the flavor. She loves that it has an herbaceous and very tannic mouth-feel but is also incredibly delicate.
Ceremonial Grade vs. Culinary Grade
You’ll find that for the most part, matcha is divided into two categories: ceremonial grade and food grade. Not only can you drink it, but depending on what kind of matcha you purchase you can cook with it as well. Keats explains that culinary grade matcha is the best type of matcha for cooking and baking. It generally has a very fine grind that blends well and retains its color and flavor even while baked at high temperatures.
As Vanessa Proctor Wall explains, if you’re looking to drink matcha, then what you want is ceremonial grade powder. Proctor Wall runs operations at some of Los Angeles’ most popular restaurants, like Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s, and Petit Trois. She began drinking matcha over a decade ago, and shares that as she began experimenting and moving through the different tiers of matcha, she fell in love with the earthy, umami notes in ceremonial grade matcha.
“As I moved to the ceremonial grade, I realized that much like any other tea, matcha could take on so many flavor profiles. Some are buttery and rich, some foam up better than others, and you can really see how a certain kind might lend itself better to a certain application, such as making a latte.”
Keats adds that when looking to drink matcha lattes, you’ll want to use ceremonial grade matcha that’s at least as fine as powdered chalk, if not finer. The finer the grind, the easier it will blend into your milk and leave you satisfied, without the grittiness of a poorly ground tea.
Best Ceremonial Grade Matchas
Best Matcha Powder For Beginners
Best Culinary Grade Matcha
Best Matcha For Lattes
Best Organic Matcha
Best Matcha Prep Set
This post was originally published on August 20, 2021, and has since been updated.