If you’ve ever shopped for matcha, you may have come across both culinary and ceremonial grades. So when should you use each one? Here are the main differences between culinary vs ceremonial matcha.
Whisking your own matcha to make matcha tea or lattes at home is easy and quick. The trick to making them delicious is making sure you’re using the right grade of matcha.
The two most common are ceremonial and culinary. And each one has a specific purpose.
What is matcha?
Matcha is essentially a finely ground green tea powder. It was first used 800 hundred years ago in China, then spread to Japan a few hundred years later, where it was revered and used in elaborate tea ceremonies.
Matcha is produced using a precise growing process, which helps make the tea leaves rich in antioxidants. In the 3-4 weeks prior to harvest, the tea plants are shade-grown to help balance bitter and sweet flavors produced by various compounds in the leaves. This also increases the amount of beneficial amino acids, as well as the level of chlorophyll, which intensifies the leaves’ green color.
The veins and stems are typically removed after harvesting and the leaves are then ground into matcha powder.
Along with being a delicious drink and having culinary purposes, matcha is believed to have a range of [health benefits], which has helped boost its popularity.
Ceremonial vs culinary matcha
While both grades of matcha are made using the same basic process, one is higher in quality than the other. And each has its specific uses.
Ceremonial grade matcha
Ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality matcha tea grade. Originally intended to be used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, it’s made with very young, first harvest tea leaves — and it has a clean, slightly sweet taste.
It also has a vibrant green hue and the powder itself is very fine. This results in tea that has a smooth, creamy texture, without graininess.
This high-grade matcha should only be mixed on its own with hot water.
Avoid adding ceremonial grade matcha powder to matcha lattes or in cooking or baking, as that will simply mask its pure flavor.
Culinary grade matcha
Culinary matcha powder is a slightly lower grade of tea than ceremonial matcha. It’s made with older tea leaves picked during the second harvest that have been exposed to more sunlight. That results in a powder with a less intense green color.
Later harvesting also gives the leaves higher levels of catechins. These substances generate greater amounts of beneficial antioxidants in the tea. But catechins can also produce more bitterness.
That’s a key reason why culinary-grade matcha is meant to be combined with other ingredients, like milk to make matcha lattes. It’s also ideal to use in smoothies, baking, and cooking.
Main differences between ceremonial and culinary matcha grades
Culinary grade matcha powder is typically less expensive, but it shouldn’t be viewed as worse than ceremonial. Each simply has specific uses for which they are intended. So the best matcha for you will come down to how you plan to use it.
Here’s a summary of the different grades of matcha.
Ceremonial grade matcha
- Highest quality of matcha.
- Uses young tea leaves picked during the first harvest season.
- Intensely green, very fine powder made with no tea leaf stems or veins.
- Lower in antioxidants.
- Higher in l-theanine amino acid and caffeine.
- Pure and clean, with slight natural sweetness.
- Smooth, creamy texture.
- Meant to be consumed on its own by simply using a bamboo whisk to mix with hot water.
Culinary grade matcha
- Uses older tea leaves picked during second or later harvests.
- Powder is a less vibrant green color, and can be rougher as stems and veins of the leaves may be ground into it.
- Higher in antioxidants (due to later harvest and higher catechin levels).
- Slightly bitter taste (due to higher levels of catechin).
- Meant to be combined with other ingredients like milk to make lattes, or in cooking and baking.
What are the health benefits of matcha?
The potential health benefits of matcha derive from the green tea leaves used to make it.
Rich in antioxidants
Compounds like catechins and flavonoids found in matcha make the powder rich in antioxidants. And antioxidants have been linked to a range of health benefits, including:
- Neutralizing of free radicals – Excessive free radicals in the body can increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Antioxidants can moderate these molecules which may help protect against these diseases.
- Healthier skin – High levels of free radicals can prematurely age skin. Antioxidants can help neutralize them and make skin appear revitalized. Plus, antioxidants like vitamins C and E help produce collagen, a primary building block of skin that helps prevent it from sagging.
- Vision – Antioxidants may be able to slow poor vision due to cataracts or macular degeneration.
Can promote heart health
Matcha includes a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Studies have shown that it can promote cardiovascular health by reducing levels of bad cholesterol and limiting the build-up of plaque in coronary arteries, which can lead to heart attacks.
In a study of more than 100,000 people, researchers found that drinking green tea at least three times a week may significantly improve heart health. Study participants were 20 percent less likely to suffer from and die of heart disease several years after the initial study period.
May lower cancer risks
Polyphenols in green tea have been linked to lower risks of certain types of cancer, including breast, stomach, bladder, and prostate cancer. Studies have shown that they may help combat lung, ovarian, and colorectal cancers as well.
In addition, research has associated green tea compounds with delaying the onset of cancer in some cases.
Potential weight loss benefits
Green tea has been linked to weight loss as well. Polyphenols in combination with caffeine in green tea can help raise your body’s metabolic rate, which can lead to more efficient caloric burn.
And simply drinking unsweetened green tea instead of other beverages with sugar can help shed unwanted pounds.
The amino acid theanine is found in high levels in matcha. It’s been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, and promote a sense of calmness without causing drowsiness.
Studies show it may also help boost cognitive function and promote normal sleep cycles.
Matcha has a creamy texture and flavors that range from umami to earthy. It can also have fresh grass aromas and be somewhat bitter. The quality or grade of matcha will affect the taste. Ceremonial-grade, high-quality matcha has a cleaner flavor, whereas culinary grade matcha typically has more bitterness.
Matcha has about 70mg per cup. That’s more than twice the amount in a regular cup of green tea, but less than the roughly 100mg found in the same serving size of coffee.
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