My love for Matcha spans more than a decade. Growing up in Japan more than 30 years ago, Matcha wasn’t as prevalent in our daily lifestyle. It was a ceremonial beverage intended and exclusive to chanoyu 茶の湯 or sado 茶道 among the Japanese tea ceremony community. I've been drinking ceremonial-grade Matcha daily for the past decade. That’s at least 3,650 times! Within my tea career, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to elevate the quality of Matcha available to the American household and excited to continue to bring the highest quality ceremonial grade organic Matcha through Key To Teas.
Matcha is prevalent more than ever not only in Japan but all over the world as it has witnessed a revival of young enthusiasts who are looking for a healthier or different flavor alternative to coffee while still providing lots of energy with caffeine. US and global green tea studies are catching up to Asia’s and we really can claim Matcha as an amazing superfood tea with naturally occurring antioxidant catechins concentrated in its powdered glory.
In addition to its health benefits, Matcha has also been on fire as a beverage, latte, cocktail, and continuously used and elevated in cooking and baking in restaurants, hotels, cafes and in our homes. We will continue to see this popular health & wellness trajectory and is now loved more than ever among the plant-based lifestyle shifts we’re witnessing in our fitness and diet conscientious communities and more prevalent in our everyday lives & households.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is what does ceremonial grade mean?
Ceremonial grade refers back to Japanese tea ceremony where only the highest grade Matcha within the tea school and professional tea industry (highly connected) selects with ample criteria to win tea competition, awards and accolades. Within the ceremony, Matcha is often served as koicha or ‘thick tea’ style (almost like an espresso). I find it is easier to discern quality nuances in a concentrated cup. These criteria include cup color, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. These Matcha grades are rarely consumed within the everyday Japanese household and most likely will not be exported. However, today, where there is more interest in health & efficacy of Matcha beyond the niche Japanese tea ceremony and industry competitions as well as discerning palates who enjoy terroir and single origin specialty teas, ceremonial grade Matcha is available at a handful of specialty tea stores, boutiques or department stores in Japan.
True ceremonial grade matcha should use only the youngest, spring harvest tea buds and leaves, be shade-grown for about 30 days, aged in cool temperatures for months and stone or machine milled to order to offer the most floral top notes, umami mid-palate, and lingering sweet notes with minimal astringency. When all criteria align, when opening a tin of Matcha, the green powder should be as fine as silk and concentrated in powder density while still retaining its verdant green color with a bright and deep green hue. All of this to accomplish to USDA organic standards is mind-blowing. It is a lifelong commitment of generations of Japanese green tea growers to Matcha producers who have the utmost desire to sustain the beauty and gem of Matcha agricultural production and where the terrior driven taste varietals cannot be replicated by any other tea growing region in the world.
Today, we offer two regional blends from Japan:
WAKA or 和歌 is made from stone-ground tencha (or the not yet to be ground shade-grown tea). This blend is created from a Master Blender in Japan whom I’ve partnered with for years to provide a superior and consistent flavor profile which also is USDA organic – a tremendous feat.
- Dry powder: Vibrant chartreuse color, stone-ground for an ultra-fine powder, silky smooth
- Taste: High floral bouquet, umami mid-palate with a lingering sweet finish. Minimal astringency.
- Origin: Kagoshima, Kyoto, Mie, Aichi, Shizuoka
- Leaf varietals: Asanoka, Okumidori, Yabukita, Saemidori, Yutakamidori, Sayamakaori, Ujihikari
SAI or 彩 is ball-milled tencha by 3rd generation Japanese green tea makers who have brought so much Japanese tea innovation to the US in a such short period of time.
- Dry powder: Vibrant chartreuse color, ball-milled for a fine powder, silky smooth
- Taste: Subtle floral bouquet, vegetal mid-palate with a sweet finish. Minimal astringency.
- Origin: Kagoshima, Shizuoka
- Leaf varietals: Saemidori, Asanoka, Okumidori
I Love You So Matcha!