To obtain the same valuable nutrients from green tea as you would from a cup of green matcha tea, it is estimated you would need to drink between 10 and 15 cups of green tea every day! This is perhaps why matcha has become so popular and now has a number of celebrity endorsements of its perceived health benefits.In this article we look at some of the evidence of potential benefits to our health and well-being and discuss some of the controversies which have arisen around these. We also review some of the best matcha tea brands available and offer some tips on brewing and how to store it to keep it at its best.
Sourced from the premium first harvest and tested for contamination, the Japanese Encha ceremonial grade organic matcha (1.06 oz) is our best matcha pick.
The Chinese premium and contaminant tested Organic Matcha DNA green matcha tea (12 oz) is our budget culinary grade matcha pick.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Matcha Tea Brands
- 1. Encha Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha
- 2. Matcha DNA Certified Organic Matcha Green Tea
- 3. Kiss Me Organics Matcha Green Tea Powder
- 4. Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder
- 5. Zen Spirit Matcha Green Tea Powder Organic
- 6. Midori Spring Organic Ceremonial Matcha
- 7. Kenko Tea Organic Matcha Green Ceremonial Grade
- 8. Enzo's Private Selection Matcha Green Tea Powder
- 9. Epic Matcha Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder
- 10. DoMatcha - Organic Summer Harvest Green Tea Matcha Powder
- Things to Consider Before Buying Matcha Tea
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Matcha Tea Brands
1. Encha Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha
Sourced from Uji, Japan, the Encha ceremonial grade organic matcha (1.06 oz) is a premium first harvest matcha which is USDA organic certified. The back of the packet gives full instructions on how to mix this matcha properly; although some have found that this can still be a little clumpy even after whisking.This matcha is tested for its purity, including for any heavy metal and radiation contamination and the results are available to the public. As a ceremonial matcha, this is best suited to drinking rather than blending or cooking with as it is more expensive and comes in a smaller 1.06 oz pack.
2. Matcha DNA Certified Organic Matcha Green Tea
A premium Chinese-grown tea, the Organic Matcha DNA green matcha tea (12 oz) is independently tested for its quality and to confirm it is free from contaminants such as lead and cadmium. These results are published for each batch.This is a darker colored matcha tea with quite a grassy, and some consider bitter, taste, although this is a culinary grade rather than ceremonial grade matcha.
3. Kiss Me Organics Matcha Green Tea Powder
As well as being USDA certified organic, the Kissme Organics organic culinary grade Japanese matcha (4oz) is non-GMO and vegan. Sourced from the finest Japanese tea plantations, this matcha is tested by a third party for its purity and quality and these results are available to the public. Around half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of this matcha is recommended for each cup of tea brewed.There is some discussion as to how much of this particular matcha is grown in China as well as Japan and that this may not be as clear on the packaging as it could be. Some drinkers also consider that this matcha does not taste as nice as other similar brands.
4. Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder
The Jade Leaf Matcha organic Japanese matcha is USDA certified organic and does not contain any additives. This is sourced from farms in Uji, Japan and tested by a third party, the results are available to the public. The results are also published and currently show that no tested heavy metal, radioactive, microbial or pesticide contaminants were detected in the current batch.Some have commented that the color or flavor is not as expected on this matcha, although this is not a ceremonial grade matcha and so would be better suited to blended drinks. Some have also commented it does not blend well when whisked. This matcha comes with a satisfaction guarantee or your money back.
5. Zen Spirit Matcha Green Tea Powder Organic
A premium culinary grade Japanese matcha, the Zen Spirit organic matcha tea (1.06 oz) is USDA organic and JONA organic certified as well as being vegan certified. This also comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back. This matcha has been tested for heavy metals and radioactivity.This is a smaller packet, ideal for trying, but you may be disappointed with the small quantity for the cost. The package can also be difficult to reseal after opening and some may arrive near to its expiration date.
6. Midori Spring Organic Ceremonial Matcha
A first harvest matcha, the Midori Spring organic ceremonial gold match (1.06 oz) is smooth flavored and vibrant green. Certified USDA organic, this matcha is also certified kosher and vegan and is regularly tested for heavy metals and radiation. The matcha is sourced from the purest and darkest tencha leaves mainly from Aichi and Kagoshima tea gardens in Japan, so is rarer and costs more. It also comes with a satisfaction guarantee.Some have found that they need to add slightly more powder than the recommended quantity to bring out its flavor and as a Japanese matcha this does have more of an umami/natural marine flavor which may not be to everyone’s taste.
7. Kenko Tea Organic Matcha Green Ceremonial Grade
Made from the most delicate, youngest and greenest leaves available, Kenko Tea organic matcha green tea ceremonial grade is certified USDA organic and tested for purity every month. As this is a Japanese ceremonial grade it is more expensive to buy, although you may find that you need less than you would if it was a lower grade matcha. Some drinkers have struggled to blend this matcha and found that it can still be lumpy after whisking and the flavor may not be as strong as expected.
8. Enzo's Private Selection Matcha Green Tea Powder
The Enzo organic matcha (4 oz) is a culinary grade matcha sourced from China. This also comes with a satisfaction guarantee and two free recipe ebooks. Some consider this is lower grade than some other culinary grade matcha and it may not dissolve easily. It is also a darker green color than expected.
9. Epic Matcha Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder
Sourced from Uji in Japan, the Epic Matcha organic matcha green tea ceremonial grade (1 oz) is USDA certified organic. Although this is a ceremonial grade and is costed as one, some drinkers have been disappointed with its pale and dull green color. This also comes with a satisfaction or money back guarantee.
10. DoMatcha - Organic Summer Harvest Green Tea Matcha Powder
The DoMatcha organic summer harvest matcha (2.82 oz) is harvested from summer leaves instead of spring to give it a bolder flavor. This can be quite expensive when compared to other matcha, especially with its smaller pack size. As a later harvested Japanese matcha, this will have more of a bitter taste so may not be as suited to tea or some taste buds as other matcha. This matcha is tested for contaminants and nutritional content.
Things to Consider Before Buying Matcha Tea
Like all teas, including green teas, matcha is harvested from the Camellia sinesis plant. Plants for matcha tea are covered 20 to 30 days before their harvest to restrict sunlight. This allows chlorophyll production and amino acid content to increase and gives the leaves their rich and vibrant green color.
After harvest, the stems and veins are removed, and the remainder of the leaves ground with granite stones into matcha or ‘powdered tea’. Matcha is a fine powder which feels smooth and velvety to the touch unlike its companion green tea which feels more like crushed up leaves and gritty.
Although tea-powdering is thought to have originated in China around 800 years ago, the agricultural techniques for producing matcha were refined in Japan over the following centuries.
Japanese matcha is grown in different soils which can impact upon the flavor of the tea and this also contributes to the often higher price tag for Japanese matcha. Tea plants for Chinese matcha are not always grown in the shade and are often ‘pan-fried’ to stop their oxidation. This means the texture of Chinese matcha can be sandier and will not froth as much.
Average quality matcha will be more yellow and grainy to the touch as it has been made from tougher leaves. A higher quality matcha should be bright green and smooth with a slightly sweet taste.
To brew matcha, you should sift the matcha into a bowl to prevent any clumps. You can then add hot water (no higher than 175°F) and whisk in a vigorous zig zag motion with a chasen or bamboo whisk which can be bought at specialty stores. Once whisked, the foamy tea can be poured into your cup and drunk.
If matcha has a fish odor or taste to it – not to be confused with umami or the fresh and marine odor often naturally exhibited by Japanese green teas –it can mean that it is either lower quality matcha or it has begun to denature due to exposure to heat or humidity.
As well as drinking matcha as tea, you can use it in a wide range of blended drinks and add it to foods such as soups, stir fries or even muffins or ice cream.
Matcha is graded based on its flavor profile rather than its nutrition. There are different names given for matcha and it can get confusing, but at a minimum, it is split into ceremony grade and culinary grade.
Ceremony/ceremonial grade matcha should be delicate, sweet, creamy and vegetal with vibrant green coloring. This will cost the most as it is from the youngest tea leaves. This grade of matcha is not suitable for cooking with as its flavor will easily be overwhelmed by other ingredients. Around half a teaspoon of this will be needed for every 8 oz cup of water.
A classic matcha will be creamy with a bitter note which can be quite distinctive. Costing less than ceremonial grade, a classic will be made from earlier leaves. Both this and ceremonial matcha are ideal for drinking as tea. A classic may sometimes be known as premium matcha as it can be drunk as tea or ideal as a best matcha powder for latte or other types of blended drinks.
A cafe grade matcha will be grassier and slightly astringent. Its flavor is also fuller-bodied. A cooking or culinary grade matcha is more astringent and both these types are more suitable for economy, blended drinks and cooking. You may need to mix one or two teaspoons of this for every 8 oz cup of water.
Once matcha has been ground, its unopened shelf life is limited to about one year. You are best not trying to age matcha yourself as aged matcha is specially produced in an environment which is light, heat and humidity controlled.
To keep matcha at its best it should be kept out of light as exposure to light can give the tea a metallic taste. It also needs to be away from heat and air-tight as otherwise the catechins and vitamins will start to deteriorate. You can store matcha in the freezer in its sealed pack or tin if you will not be opening it for a while.
To keep it at its best once opened, try to use it within a couple of months. If it has come in a tin or resealable container then keep it sealed in this, otherwise, place it into the smallest airtight and dark container possible and refrigerate it. The sealed container is vital to stop the matcha absorbing any odors from the fridge.
When you come to brew your matcha you will need to take it out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm up to room temperature on the counter for half a day or so as this will allow the condensation to evaporate that could otherwise damage the freshness of the matcha.
Catechins, Cancer and Controversy
It is suggested that certain catechins found in matcha are up to 137 times greater in quantity than those found in green teas. Catechins are able to act as antioxidants - compounds that can reduce the effects of damage by free radical molecules in the body.
There are double the amount of the catechins ECGCs (epigallocatechin-3-gallates) in matcha as there are in green tea. Research in the laboratory has shown that ECGCs have some anti-cancer properties, being able to help kill cells from prostate cancer, as well working against lung, skin and liver cancers. A lot more research is needed though as these investigations were only carried out in laboratories, not directly in humans. Some positive early research has also shown some links between ECGCs and a small reduction in LDL cholesterol.
The FDA issued warning letters over a nine year period to a number of ECGCs dietary supplement manufacturers. These letters informed them that their marketing claims around disease prevention or treatment caused them to be classified as drugs, and because they were not approved under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or established as being effective or safe, the manufacturers were in violation of the Act.
A 2018 scientific review showed that excessive intake of ECGCs could cause liver toxicity and also in 2018, the European Food Safety Authority reported that a daily intake of more than 800 mg could increase the risk of liver damage.
Tannins and Anemia
Tannins are natural polyphenols, compounds which are thought to have antioxidant benefits. Tannins are found in teas as well as foods such as nuts, chocolate, strawberries and legumes.
There are more than ten times as many tannins in matcha than there are in a typical green tea and when matcha is consumed in large quantities, the tannins in it can interfere with our absorption of iron, causing iron deficiency anemia.
Tannins also stimulate the stomach to produce more acid which means they can made acid reflux or peptic ulcers worse or cause nausea or an upset stomach. Having green tea or matcha when your stomach is not completely empty can help alleviate any upset stomach side effects.
In terms of tannin content and iron absorption, recommendations are that no more than two cups of matcha is consumed every day. You can also avoid consuming matcha with a meal; instead, drink it at least 30 minutes before the meal or a couple of hours afterwards.
Caffeine and L-Theanine in Matcha
Matcha contains higher levels of caffeine than green tea and caffeine is linked with brain function improvements such as faster reaction times and increased attention. Because matcha also contains L-theanine, an amino acid which can alter the effects of caffeine, this can stop the slump in energy level that occurs after caffeine consumption. L-theanine may also be able to help to decrease levels of stress and promote relaxation.
The side effects of caffeine though can include increased blood pressure and heart rate as well as contributing to poor sleep, irritability and anxiety.
Lead and Matcha
Tea is exposed to toxins in the environment. These can include heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Depending on where the tea is grown, the levels of contamination can differ, even in organic teas.
One 2016 study reported that in line with FAO/WHO recommendations, consuming green teas from Japan, China and India were not associated with health hazards, and that consuming five cups of green tea a week did not pose a risk to human health.
When green teas are brewed, they are usually steeped and then the leaves are discarded. When matcha is used the leaves are ingested which may lead to as much as 30 times more lead than that found in green tea.
Levels of industrial pollution in China and the fact that leaded gasoline was not banned until the year 2000 in China means that some regions have greater lead contamination and therefore some Chinese green teas contain higher levels of lead.
One independent group recommended that we should not to drink more than one cup a day and not allow children to drink it. Its research into lead levels in green tea and matcha showed that six popular brands of matcha were not contaminated by lead, other metals or pesticides. Reputable matcha manufacturers also regularly test their matcha for contamination by heavy metals and these results are usually available to the public.
Although some of the compounds in matcha could have some beneficial effects on our health, at present, there is a lack of conclusive research. Enjoying a cup of matcha is very probably safe and may offer some benefits when taken consumed in a reasonable amount. Even recommendations from different groups suggest different matcha intakes; with the minimum appearing to be one cup per day for five days of the week.We trust that our discussions around matcha controversy have been helpful. We also hope our reviews of some of the best matcha tea brands available from Japan and China have been useful; whether you want a culinary grade matcha for chai matcha lattes or a ceremonial grade for an occasional indulgent brew.