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Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Scott
Uniquely cultivated from specialized green tea powder, matcha tea has a unique and dynamic taste on the palate. Ceremonial matcha especially, when prepared properly, has a sweet, nutty, and floral taste.
You should also be able to note the agreeable savory “umami” taste in a good brew, but if you’ve ever taken a sip of matcha and wondered if it tastes fishy, then you’re not alone.
If your matcha tastes fishy, then you likely have a poorly prepared and improperly sourced tea. Avoid buying cheap tea and opt instead for a high-quality ceremonial matcha. Also ensure you’re steeping and sourcing your water properly, and storing your tea properly to avoid the tea taking on a fishy taste.
There are a lot of reasons your matcha might taste fishy. In fact, you might be doing it to yourself in the preparation phase. It’s also important to consider how you go about tasting tea. The rest of this article will dive into what to look for when buying high quality matcha and how to prepare it to get the best flavor.
Matcha Tastes Better When Properly Sourced
Whether it’s the way the production of the leaves is regulated or how it’s stored, everything that happens before the matcha hits the store shelves is very important in determining how it should taste.
The first thing you should always note before buying is where your matcha is sourced.
Japan and China are two major producers of matcha, but the stricter regulations on growing conditions in Japan assures that you will almost always get a higher-quality pick from Japan than China. An example of a high quality matcha sourced from Japan is MatchaKari.
Japan also has a more suitable climate for the best growing conditions, and you’ll always get the best umami flavor out of a Japanese-made matcha.
A Good Matcha Has Vibrant Green Color
The color of the matcha is also a significant litmus test for quality. A poor quality matcha will lack matcha’s distinct vibrant green color, tinged with yellow and cyan undertones.
Not only is a bright green matcha better tasting than a murky colored tea, but the health benefits, namely the higher concentration of chlorophyll and L-theanine, are more present when you brew up a higher quality matcha.
Storage Conditions Influence Flavor
People often wonder how long matcha tea powder will last, and storage is a key consideration for getting the best taste from your matcha. When exposed to too much heat and humidity, matcha will take on a fishy taste and lose its trademark smooth, creamy flavor. Matcha should be stored in a cool, well-ventilated environment.
Heat, moisture, and direct sunlight will all negatively influence the flavor, so be sure that you’re buying from a reputable source that stores it properly.
In addition, if you’re not planning on using matcha right away, it should be stored in the freezer or fridge and protected from UV light.
Also, matcha absorbs smells and flavors from other foods very easily, so be sure to keep it stored away from any other coffees or teas you have.
Poor Water Quality Can Make Matcha Taste Fishy
Unfortunately, when it comes to a fishy taste in matcha, one of the main culprits might be your own kitchen sink. Tap water comes with a host of minerals and other contaminants that can influence the flavor of your matcha.
When an algae bloom occurs in the city’s water supply, affected water can take on a fishy taste. Such a taste will be very disruptive to the complex palate pleaser that matcha offers.
Be sure to filter your water before using it in your matcha. Spring water comes highly recommended, and if you’re feeling a little fancy, you can get some high-quality bottled water from the store to use in your matcha brew.
Steeping at the Wrong Temperature
Proper steeping is another key consideration for ensuring a good tasting matcha. If you put your matcha straight in boiling water, you run the risk of immediately boiling off all of the wonderful flavor compounds that make matcha such a dynamic and enjoyable treat, leaving you with only a disappointing bitter fishy taste.
On the other hand, brewing your matcha at too low of a temperature or not mixing the powder well enough will not allow it to mix properly and won’t yield a good result either.
The ideal temperature for brewing matcha is 175 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees Celsius.
Adding boiling hot water or milk is often the reason that the expensive $6+ drink you got from Starbucks still tastes off.
Your Palate May Be Interpreting Flavors as Fishy
People have different palates and tastes. Some people can recognize and appreciate the nuance of more acquired tastes, while others can’t. The same may be true for the complex taste of matcha.
While there is no fishy taste in matcha, per se, the grassy compounds can taste almost like seaweed to some people. The combination of the minerally taste of umami and the grassy flavors/textures can lead people to interpret the flavor as fishy.
Over time, however, as long as you’re sourcing and preparing your matcha properly, you should begin to notice the more nuanced flavors in the tea.
What Should Good Matcha Taste Like?
Good matcha should be rich and creamy, with a foam that lasts up to half an hour. Always make sure you drink your tea when it’s hot. Leaving it for too long will destroy all of the flavor. You should be able to taste the strong umami flavor, which has a full-bodied, hearty taste like no other.
The tea should taste sweet, not bitter, and have a dominant vegetal flavor. In some brews, you may be able to taste a more floral aspect as well.
Matcha tea is tasty and great for you! It has a whole host of skin, heart, and cognitive benefits. On top of that, it also has zero calories, making it a great treat for anyone who’s watching calorie count.
The fishy taste in matcha often comes from cheap matcha powder, but the issue can also arise if you’re using low quality tap water or preparing your tea at too high or low of a temperature.
Always make sure you’re buying from a reputable vendor and taking steps to get the best brew possible, and you’ll get the most enjoyment out of matcha tea.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.