The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Imagine this: You walk into a local grocery store. You find the tea aisle and grab some matcha. The container looks nice, and you have no reason to doubt it. Right? Think again.

Sadly, some companies sell impure matcha and put it in nice packaging. They figure the customer will be none the wiser, and the company makes more sales. We hate this vicious cycle of deception that occurs, so in this post, we’re going to be showing you the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to matcha.

Sometimes, bad matcha is hard to pick out. It can look good in some respects but bad in others. Maybe it tastes funny to you and you don’t know exactly why. There are a wide range of factors to take into consideration, including flavor, freshness, and color.

And before you drink your matcha, take the short quiz at the end of this post to determine whether or not it’s pure.

The good…

We know a cup of good matcha when we drink one, and these characteristics of a pure cup are some we’ve picked up over the years.

  • Flavor: Good matcha should have a vegetal taste and a sweet aftertaste that lingers. It shouldn’t taste too sweet or two bitter; instead, it should be complex and vibrant.
  • Color: Pure matcha should be a bright electric green color. Matcha is shade-grown, and this process increases the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves, giving the tea its vivid green hue.
  • Date: Just as good coffee should have a roasting date on it, good matcha should have a freshness date. The more recent, the better. Older matcha can get stale, and it’s not uncommon to see months-old matcha sitting on store shelves.
  • Authenticity: Good matcha should come from Japan and not China. Japan is widely known as the most superior source of matcha. The matcha should also be certified organic by a legitimate, well-known organization, such as the USDA or Oregon Tilth.

  • The bad…

    Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to tell if you have bad matcha. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Staleness: This is most noticeable in the smell and the taste of the matcha. If it smells musty, it’s most likely stale, as good matcha should have a vegetal smell. An overly bitter or sour taste is another good sign that your matcha is past its prime.
  • Discolored matcha: Good matcha should have an unmistakable neon green hue. If it’s a darker green, yellow, or even brown, you’ve got some bad matcha on your hands. This is also usually the result of staleness.
  • Bastardized matcha: Many types of matcha are mixed with excess sugar to give the tea a sweeter taste, but the sugar masks the true flavors of matcha. In fact, sometimes sugar is the first ingredient! Ideally, no sugar should be added to matcha.

  • And the Ugly:

    Far too often, matcha companies resort to seedy practices in order to sell their wares. They promise ceremonial grade matcha that tastes great, but in reality, it could be poorly processed and full of dangerous chemicals. Here are some tricks companies use that you should watch out for.

  • Lead contamination: This is a huge issue in China, where a lot of matcha is grown. China’s toxic environment causes the leaves to absorb more lead than normal. In a 2006 study, 32% of examined leaves from China were found to have dangerous levels of lead.
  • Chinese matcha: Aside from the pollution and lead contamination, Chinese matcha is often mislabeled as organic and/or as ceremonial grade. Matcha grown in China is often not shade-grown; instead, it’s fried. This method ruins the natural flavors and rich depth of matcha.
  • False value: Much of the matcha grown in China is sold as premium, ceremonial grade matcha when it’s absolutely not. The best matcha comes from Japan, where it is properly and safely grown and processed.

  • Our Goal

    We’re passionate about providing you with true matcha and not a poor knock-off. Our matcha is shade-grown by hand in Kagoshima, one of the safest areas to grow tea in Japan. The tea grown in Kagoshima is not only safe, but also harvested by hand and treated with the utmost respect and delicacy.

    We also want to provide the best value possible for the product: honestly ceremonial grade that’s been certified organic by the USDA. All of this at an affordable price. We want you to enjoy matcha any way you like, and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.

    We always stay transparent about our process and give you all of the details. It was our vision for people to enjoy matcha with peace of mind about its origin and safety, and now, we’re making that a reality.

    Edison Zeng
    Edison Zeng