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While matcha continues to grow in popularity, attracting newcomers for various reasons including culinary versatility, the striking green powder actually traces back centuries. Its most prominent origin story goes like this: The Zen Buddhist monk Eisai brought the tea plant from China to Japan in the 12th century. Every sip of a matcha latte today to every spoonful of green tea ice cream contains this 900-year-old history.
Harvested in the Kyoto Prefecture, Matcha Konomi's Akira Matcha is our favorite ceremonial grade option. It balances a subtle sweetness with the umami flavor, and it comes at a reasonable price. For culinary grade matcha, we recommend Jade Leaf's Culinary Matcha, which blends well and suits a variety of recipes.
Today, new green tea drinkers are eager to learn more. "I get a lot of questions like, 'How do I make matcha at home?' 'Do I need special tools—a bowl, a whisk?' When it comes down to it, you can make matcha in a protein shaker if you want," said Michelle Puyane, co-founder of Chalait. "If you do have all the tools, take a small bowl, use slightly less than boiling water, and move a bamboo whisk back and forth in a W-motion until you get frothy bubbles at the top. Then, you’re good to go."
From culinary grade to ceremonial, here are the best matcha powders to buy.
Best Ceremonial Grade: Matcha Konomi Akira Organic Ceremonial Matcha
There are two main grades of matcha: culinary and ceremonial. The former is best for cooking purposes, the latter for general drinking purposes. You can whisk ceremonial matcha with hot water for traditional tea or mix it with milk for a matcha latte.
"Ceremonial grade is picked by hand and tends to yield a sweeter-tasting tea," says Puyane. Tencha, the name of the tea leaves that become matcha, is ideally stone ground to reduce heat and friction, which prevents bitterness. As a result of this care and craftsmanship, ceremonial matcha is more expensive than culinary grade, but also more flavorful.
We considered several factors in selecting our top ceremonial matcha. Taste weighs heavily, of course, but price, variety of sizes, and sourcing region are components as well, which is why Matcha Konomi’s Akira Organic Ceremonial Matcha is a terrific all-around option, suitable for newbies to longtime fanatics. Just keep in mind that this is not the flat-out tastiest matcha powder you can buy; for that, look at higher-priced products (some of which are included on this list).
The Matcha Konomi powder is organic, stone-ground, and harvested from the heralded Uji region of Japan. It has glowing online reviews, with the majority of customers giving it five stars. The taste is typically described as light and sweet with a mild earthiness. Units are available in sizes of 1 ounce, 3.5 ounces, and 1 pound.
Grade: Culinary | Origin: Uji, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 30, 100, and 454 grams
Best for Lattes: Encha Latte Grade Pure Organic Matcha
There is no shortage of matcha latte mixes, but Encha considers itself the only company "offering a latte grade using first harvest pure and organic matcha powder." Essentially, other latte mixes tend to contain later-season matcha made from tougher, more bitter leaves, leading to an earthier taste, but this mix is filled with the good stuff.
While some reviewers picked up hints of bitterness, the majority call it smooth, naturally sweet, and extremely easy to blend. Encha is so confident in its matcha that the mix has a 100 percent money-back guarantee.
Bags are sold in two sizes, 30 and 60 grams—both of which have handy recipes printed on them. The recommended ratio is 2 grams of matcha (1 teaspoon) for 6 to 8 ounces of milk. Shake, whisk, or blend it. No matter what, it takes just minutes for a delicious matcha latte.
Grade: Latte | Origin: Uji, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 60 grams
Best Budget: PureChimp Mint Matcha Green Tea Powder
Due to a brief harvest season and select growing regions (not to mention the immense work of cultivating and grinding), matcha powder can get pricey, especially compared to coffee and tea. But U.K.-based company PureChimp keeps its prices low, which is why it's our best budget pick.
The product has solid online reviews, with many customers calling the flavor smooth, though slightly grassy, while others say that it's an unbeatable value-for-money option. Keep a decent amount of skepticism, of course. The powder is duller than many pricier matchas—a sign of lower quality—and the company does not indicate how the tencha leaves are ground, meaning a cheaper and cruder alternative to stone grinding might be used.
On the plus side, all of PureChimp's products are sourced in the Kyoto region of Japan, and the company even sells flavored matcha powders, including mint, turmeric, rooibos, and lemongrass. As an added bonus, 5 percent of profits are donated to Save The Chimps.
Grade: Ceremonial | Origin: Kagoshima, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 20, 50, 100, and 500 grams
Best Culinary Grade: Jade Leaf Organic Culinary Grade Matcha
Culinary grade matcha can be enjoyed in traditional tea form, but it's best for mixing into recipes: smoothies, baked goods, salt—you name it. Since the tencha leaves are harvested later in season and ground with more heat, the resulting powder has a darker color and more bitter taste. This helps it "stand up to the strong flavors in milk, butter, and sugar," explains Puyane.
One of the most popular and highest-rated options in the culinary category is Jade Leaf's Culinary Matcha. The flavor is rich and earthy, not sweet, and customers describe the powder as versatile and easy to blend. All Jade Leaf products are 100 percent organic and sourced from Japan, with this matcha farmed in the Uji region. It's affordably priced and available in four sizes, starting at 30 grams and working up to 1 pound. The company also prints handy recipes on its bags for easy-to-make matcha treats.
Grade: Culinary | Origin: Uji and Kahoshima, Japan | Harvest: Second harvest | Size: 30, 100, and 250 grams or 1 pound
Best High-End: Ippodo Tea Ummon-no-mukashi Matcha
Ippodo has been producing green tea for over three centuries. The company is based in Kyoto—the world’s most bountiful matcha region—and this matcha powder, Ummon-no-mukashi, is the highest grade that it offers. The vivid green color will strike you as soon as you open the lid, and once it’s brewed, expect a rich umami taste with an undertone of sweetness. Available in jars of 20 and 40 grams, it's best enjoyed as usucha (thin tea) or koicha (thick tea), though some customers mix the powder with milk for lattes.
High-quality matcha comes at a high price point, of course. Ummon-no-mukashi is likely best for die-hard matcha lovers or those interested in trying premium matcha for the first time. The company sells a variety of products, including several lower-cost alternatives. Its website recommends new customers start with the more affordable Horai-no-mukashi.
Grade: Ceremonial | Origin: Kyoto, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 20 and 40 grams
"Uji matcha tends to have more depth to the flavor, it can be very savory. The other two popular regions are Kagoshima, which might be grassier and have a lighter flavor, and Shizuoka, which is milder, not leaning one way or the other." — Michelle Puyane, co-founder of Chalait
Best for Beginners: Aiya Matcha To Go Sticks
These matcha sticks are a great way for beginners to sample the tea without investing too much money. Each box includes 10 sticks and costs less than the standard jars in which matcha is sold. Another benefit for beginners is that it makes measuring easy, as each stick contains 4 grams of matcha, which is a hefty serving. The brand recommends mixing one stick with 6 to 8 ounces of 180-degree water for hot matcha or 17 ounces of cold water for iced matcha.
We received a sample of Aiya's Matcha To Go Sticks and found them convenient and flavorful, especially for inexpensive matcha. The quality isn't as high as some of the other names on this list, so some customers may want to consider a pricier option if they'll be put off by a grassier taste. Our reviewer added a sweetener for taste, alternating between honey and brown sugar. He also made iced matcha with 8 ounces of water instead of the recommended 17 ounces and still found the drink enjoyable.
Aiya offers the To Go Sticks in a sweetened version that should appeal to many first-time matcha drinkers too. After all, many people who drink black coffee start by taking their coffee with cream and sugar until they get used to the taste. The same can be true for matcha. Like most of Aiya's products, the matcha it uses for its To Go Sticks is harvested in Nisihio, Japan.
Grade: Ceremonial | Origin: Nishio, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 10 sticks
Best for Iced Matcha: Breakaway Matcha Coldbrew Original Matcha
It’s easy to make iced matcha at home. Most ceremonial matcha powders lend themselves to delicious cold drinks, so there’s no need to buy a special brand or variety if you already have one you prefer.
What separates Breakaway Matcha, however, is an added creaminess that will give your iced matcha a fuller, more satisfying taste. The brand makes a variety of matcha powders, with three options specifically designed for cold brew. Original is the lowest grade of all three, so it's the most affordable and an excellent starting point if you're getting into iced matcha. For higher-end alternatives, check out Breakaway’s Coldbrew Organic and Coldbrew Reserve. All of the company’s products are sourced in the Kyoto region of Japan and stone ground for a smoother consistency and easier mixing.
Grade: Ceremonial | Origin: Kyoto, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 30, 100, 250, 500, and 1,000 grams
Best Tea Bags: Matcha Kari Whole-Leaf Matcha Tea Bags
Matcha tea bags can be a worthwhile option for many customers, especially those interested in convenience. Just know that it is an entirely different experience than drinking the traditional tea. Most matcha tea bags actually contain a blend of various green teas. The advantage of this is that it offers the familiar matcha taste but at a significantly cheaper cost.
The closest to the real thing is Matcha Kari's Whole-Leaf Matcha Tea Bags. The company advertises its product as the first tea bags in the U.S. filled with 100 percent matcha. This ceremonial grade matcha is first-harvest, organic, and stone-ground. The flavor is mostly rich and earthy, though there is a hint of sweetness. Each box has 20 tea sachets and simple brewing instructions on the back.
Grade: Ceremonial | Origin: Uji, Japan | Harvest: First harvest | Size: 20 tea bags
Matcha Konomi’s Akira Organic Ceremonial Matcha is a worthwhile option for anyone interested in the tea, from beginners to long-time matcha drinkers. Those looking to cook with matcha, or use a cheaper powder for lattes and smoothies, should check out Jade Leaf’s Culinary Matcha—one of the category's best sellers.
What to Look for in Matcha
The region that a matcha powder comes from is a baseline way to discern its quality, especially for new buyers. The best-case scenario is a single-varietal tea (meaning it comes from only one area) sourced in a primary matcha region of Japan: Uji, Kagoshima, Shizuoka, and more. Many products, particularly inexpensive ones, will be sourced outside of Japan—a sign of lower-quality matcha.
If you have the chance to see a matcha's color, even looking up pictures online, you can get a better sense of its taste and quality. Brighter usually means better. Striking green hues indicate more flavor and less bitterness, while duller colors or yellowish tints are signs that matcha is either lower quality or better used for cooking purposes.
The annoying adage of things too good be true often, well, rings true. Most ceremonial matcha is sold around the same price (75 cents to $1 per gram), so if it feels you're getting a steal, you're likely to end up with a grassy and astringent drink in your hand. Keep in mind that ceremonial matcha costs more than culinary, however; those looking for the latter are more likely to find reliable budget options.
What exactly is matcha?
Matcha is a type of green tea that's easy to identify because it comes in powder form. Unlike most teas where the leaves are steeped in water and removed before drinking, with matcha you actually ingest a ground form of the leaf itself. It often has a rich umami flavor, but other tasting notes can include sweetness, bitterness, grassiness, earthiness, nuttiness, and more. Matcha is highly versatile and can be used for drinking purposes as well as a cooking ingredient. Accordingly, matcha is sorted into one of two categories: ceremonial grade and culinary grade. The former is best for tea and lattes, while the latter is better for recipes and baked goods.
How do you make matcha tea?
The most common style of matcha tea is usucha, or "thin tea." To make usucha, scoop 1 teaspoon of matcha powder into a bowl. We recommend pouring the powder through a tea strainer first to ensure there aren't any clumps, but this step isn't mandatory. Next, heat water to 176 degrees and pour 2 to 4 ounces over the matcha powder. Use a matcha whisk, also called a Chasen, to blend the water and matcha powder; briskly whisk in a "W" or "M" pattern for around 20 seconds until the matcha has evenly dissolved. From there the tea is ready to drink. You can add a creamer or more water as well as sweeteners like honey and sugar to suit your taste.
To make a thicker matcha tea, known as koicha, follow the same steps above, but use 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of matcha powder and 1.5 to 3 ounces of water. Instead of quickly whisking in a "W" or "M" pattern, whisk in a slow circular motion until the mixture combines into a thick paste.
What else can you make with matcha powder?
There's no shortage of recipes that use matcha powder. It's popular in baked goods like cookies, cakes, brownies, pancakes, donuts, and more. A couple of our other favorite matcha baked goods are matcha rice krispie treats and matcha mochi bars. The tasty green tea is also used to make ice cream, smoothies, and even matcha salt. And the list doesn't end there! Keep in mind that most recipes call for culinary grade matcha because it's more bitter and less expensive than ceremonial grade matcha.
Does all matcha powder contain caffeine?
Matcha naturally contains caffeine, so the vast majority of matcha powders are caffeinated. Some brands sell decaf matcha, but it's uncommon. A serving of matcha contains 40 to 70 milligrams of caffeine on average.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. Before recommending these products, he gathered information from customer reviews, third-party articles, and brand websites' details on tea harvesting.
Michelle Puyane is the co-founder of Chalait. Established in 2015, the company has three cafes in New York City and sells its collection of matcha powders online.