A cup of matcha green tea beside a whisk and a scoop of matcha powder

Culinary vs Ceremonial Matcha

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Have you tried eating a bitter matcha cake or drinking a slightly sweet matcha tea? It’s possible that you have encountered the two main types of matcha. In understanding and the differences between culinary vs ceremonial matcha, we need to consider both their similarities and major distinctions.

Culinary vs Ceremonial Matcha: General Overview

Culinary vs ceremonial matcha won’t be as confusing as you think if you understand their distinctions. Let’s start with a bit of history to get a glimpse of where matcha started.

Culinary Matcha

Culinary or cooking matcha is lower-grade matcha that’s typically less expensive, making it a suitable added ingredient for baking and cooking. 

Whether for ice cream, donuts, or cakes, you can make culinary treats using this matcha. Even in fine dining, desserts and sweets cover 58% of all matcha-flavored menu items.

Furthermore, culinary matcha tends to have a more robust yet less nuanced taste so that it can shine even when mixed with complementary ingredients. Therefore, when you taste a bitter matcha tea, it’s likely brewed using culinary matcha.

A whisk and a glass with matcha powder

Ceremonial Matcha

Ceremonial is the higher-grade matcha used for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and for the simple enjoyment of high quality matcha tea at home or work.

Unlike culinary matcha, this type tends to have a more subtle taste and more nuances. Ceremonial matcha is meant for savoring on its own by just adding water and drinking straight up. However, if it tastes too strong, you can still use it with an added ingredient (but not recommended by us, as culinary match is best in that case).

It’s also not advisable to incorporate ceremonial matcha in cooking as its delicate flavors will easily get lost in the mixture.

Culinary Matcha vs Ceremonial Matcha

The matcha tea market expects a 6.50% growth rate between 2020 and 2027. This stems from growing consumer awareness about matcha’s health benefits. 

To identify which kind of matcha would benefit you the most, it’s important to understand their similarities and distinctions.

Similarities

While culinary and ceremonial matcha grades have stark contrasts, they still share some aspects.

  • Source: Ceremonial and culinary matcha come from powdered green tea leaves. Such leaves generally grow in Asian countries like Japan, China and Vietnam.
  • Processing: Culinary and ceremonial matcha comes from steamed or pan-fried leaves after harvest to stop oxidation, then stone-ground into fine powder. Both of them should feel like talcum powder and not grainy.
  • High caffeine content: Both types of matcha are great energy boosters. A teaspoon of matcha contains 70 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a shot of espresso has 64 milligrams.
  • Antioxidant content: Ceremonial and culinary matcha are concentrated forms of green tea, making them extremely high in antioxidants. Matcha has 137 times more antioxidants than other varieties of green tea.
  • Health benefits: Matcha contains L-theanine, a compound that promotes calmness and relaxation. This boost in brainpower improves cognitive function, performance, mood, and energy. Matcha is also rich in amino acids, fiber, minerals, and vitamin C.

Differences

Culinary and ceremonial matcha have close similarities, but they have notable differences that can help you determine when to use each.

Harvesting and Filtering

Despite the significantly higher cost than other types, ceremonial matcha expects an 11.2% growth rate in revenue. This is potentially due to the demand for premium products in Western Europe and North America.

Ceremonial matcha uses young tea leaves harvested during Ichibancha, which translates to ‘first tea’. This is why ceremonial matcha is the higher grade since it comes from the first harvest of Spring, which produces younger and tender leaves. 

On the other hand, culinary matcha comes from the second harvest of the season or Nibancha. This later-grade variety uses older leaves that were more exposed to sunlight.

Filtering

Cultivators remove the veins and stems of the tea leaves to produce a smoother texture and flavor for ceremonial matcha. In contrast, culinary matcha retains the stems and veins.

Grinding Process

A traditional stone grinder can be used to ground ceremonial matcha (which take hours, and is very deliberate). However, machines are typically used grind and pulverize culinary matcha powder.

Taste and Appearance

Do you ever feel like anything matcha-flavored tastes the same? It’s because, in general, matcha has a concentrated green tea flavor, which can be vegetal, nutty, or floral. 

Person pouring matcha tea into a smaller cup

However, ceremonial matcha has a fresher and sweeter tang. Meanwhile, culinary matcha has an earthy and more potent taste. It often overpower other ingredients using a nutty and umami-like smack.

Ceremonial matcha displays striking, bright green color because younger leaves have higher concentrations of chlorophyll. On the other hand, culinary matcha shows a greenish hue, although less striking, due to the grinding of older leaves.

Blending and Intended Preparation

The traditional manner of preparing ceremonial matcha uses a handcrafted ceramic bowl, scoop, whisk, and sifter. You also need low heat water to accentuate the fine, delicate taste. 

Scoop the matcha powder into a sifter. Sift the powder into the bowl, add a small amount of hot water, and whisk until smooth and frothy. This should give you a pure and strong aroma and flavor.

Meanwhile, you can blend culinary matcha powder directly into your baking mixtures.

Major Distinguishing Factor

Culinary grade matcha has a potent, earthy, and bitter taste, making it ideal for cooking, baking, and smoothies. In contrast, ceremonial matcha has a fresh, delicate, and slightly sweet flavor, perfect for drinking straight. It also has a vibrant green color, whereas culinary has a paler shade of green.

When to Use Culinary Matcha

The sky is the limit when you want to use culinary matcha as a recipe ingredient. Use culinary matcha if you need a more pungent taste to shine in your baked goods, even when mixed with other ingredients. Likewise, culinary matcha is suitable for smoothies.

When to Use Ceremonial Matcha

Use ceremonial grade matcha if you prefer hot and cold drinks. It has a naturally sweet taste, so ceremonial matcha is also ideal for those who don’t want to add sweeteners. Choose this high-quality matcha if you want to enjoy a pure matcha flavor.

The Verdict

Matcha is a finely ground powder that comes from green tea leaves. Its two types have different tastes and colors. Now that you know the differences between culinary and ceremonial matcha, it’s time for you to try both and include them in your next tea and snack time.

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