What is the Difference Between Ceremonial and Culinary Matcha?


April 30, 2018

Ah yes, the ceremonial matcha versus culinary matcha debate.

One of the most asked questions we receive in regards to matcha is: "What is the difference between ceremonial and culinary matcha? Should I only buy ceremonial? Is culinary matcha always low quality?"

 

 Ok, get ready! The difference between culinary and ceremonial matcha is a topic we're very passionate about here at Mizuba, because unfortunately, there's been quite a lot of misinformation and misuse of the terms in the matcha market. 
The truth is, the terms mean very little in the American matcha market. Presently, the words "ceremonial" and "culinary"  should really be judged on the integrity of the company. Ie - currently there's very little to no regulation or standardization of matcha to be deemed ceremonial or culinary, so any company can term their matcha ceremonial or culinary. 
This is not the case with Mizuba! We take the utmost care to ensure the matcha you receive is the best of the best √ 
So how do I know my matcha is truly "ceremonial," or culinary? Is culinary even bad to purchase? 
Pure, Authentic Japanese Matcha from Uji - Mizuba Tea Co.
Pure, shade-grown & stone-ground Uji Matcha 
Speaking solely from Mizuba Tea Co's perspective, here are some guidelines to keep in mind: 
1) The best way to shop for matcha is to determine the authenticity of the tea.
How matcha should be traditionally produced and made usually also points to the quality of the tea. 
2) Is the matcha from Japan?
3) Has it been shade-grown? If so, for how long?
4) Is the matcha produced only from tencha tea leaves? (Hint - in order for matcha to be made from tencha, the tea leaves must have been shade-grown). Matcha is not made from sencha or gyokuro! 
5) Has the matcha been traditionally stone-ground? Or powdered by other means? True, authentic matcha will have been stone-ground.
To summarize, poorly processed matcha will not be from tencha tea leaves, will not be shade-grown, or shade-grown for a very small duration, or not stone-ground at all. All the above qualities must be in place to make true, authentic Japanese matcha. 
Keeping these guidelines in mind, here are some factors that historically have been taken into account for culinary versus ceremonial matcha tea:
1) Ceremonial simply means that the matcha is appropriate for koicha preparation in the tea ceremony. (Koicha means “thick tea” and it is a very intense experience! One usually drinks “usucha” which means thin tea) 
2) To prepare koicha, one would want an expertly crafted matcha! So over time, people reserved their exceptional, difficult-to-produce teas for koicha preparation. There are a lot of factors that determine difficult to produce teas. For Mizuba, we carry 3 main ceremonial matchas. The differences in our ceremonial matcha range from how often they are harvested, how old the plants are, whether the tea is harvested by hand or machine, and whether or not it is from a single-estate. These matchas are our Nagomi, Yorokobi, and Kokoro on our website. 
(However, our Daily and House are *technically* ceremonial teas as well!
We just consider them to be our more approachable, basic matcha teas). 

General Culinary Matcha

Culinary matcha has received a bad rap because unfortunately, in the mass market the term culinary has been used to pass off very poorly processed matcha. If you've bought matcha online before, you might have experienced it - super bitter, yellow, dull, oxidized powdered green tea! Not matcha, if it hasn't hit the mark of all the production factors listed above. 
Cheaper, "culinary" matcha is usually harvested from autumn harvests. In Japan, these can taste ok if *purely* used for mixing into cakes, cookies, skincare uses etc. We wouldn't recommend it for lattes or for drinking. However, the majority of mass-marketed culinary matcha is just plain, poorly processed powdered green tea. 
This has led consumers to believe that they must spend the money on ceremonial matcha, even when they want to mix it with milk for lattes, for example. 
However, ceremonial tea should be reserved for enjoying the matcha's nuances on their own! Of course, if you love your ceremonial matcha with milk, we're not going to stop you- the best kind of tea is the one you enjoy the most.
However, it is our recommendation to save your money to enjoy those teas as a special experience, and use Mizuba's Culinary matcha as an every day, high-quality culinary tea to truly enjoy the matcha flavor in your lattes, smoothies, iced teas, lemonades, etc :) Mizuba's culinary matcha is the best option to make your favorite mixed matcha creations, and the ceremonial teas are wonderful option to enjoy
pure matcha. 
Why is Mizuba's Culinary Matcha different?
For Mizuba, we couldn't possibly sell a matcha we don't believe in, or is low-quality. We believe that all matcha should taste wonderful, and our culinary matcha is no exception. Therefore, you can trust in our Organic Culinary Matcha because it is still processed as a true, authentic, Japanese matcha from Uji! 
What is the difference between Mizuba's culinary and ceremonial matchas? Not much! Our culinary organic matcha is still from Uji, shade-grown, and traditionally stone ground just like our ceremonial matcha. However, the tencha used to make Mizuba's culinary is harvested from leaves a little down the stem. These leaves are stronger, and therefore produce a stronger, yet still smooth (!) flavor, for you to enjoy through whatever you add the matcha to. Ie- you can still taste the tea through milk for lattes, through flour for cookies, etc! The Culinary Organic Mizuba will always be the quality you expect. Kind of like how you’d want an incredible espresso to taste good on its own in pure form, but also be solid in a cappuccino. 
Personally from Mizuba, the integrity of culinary matcha been such a problem in the industry that we've considered eschewing the term altogether and calling it something like,  “service” matcha or “all-purpose” matcha. However, as you might know Mizuba has begun to be known as purveying one of the best culinary matcha teas in the industry. So for now, we're keeping the term and telling the world what pure, good matcha should be! We believe it's worth it √ 
Pure matcha green tea from the fields in Japan
Thanks for reading, and we hope this helps you understand how to buy the best matcha possible for you!
At Mizuba, we 100% believe in making incredibly quality matcha accessible to everyone. And our culinary is no exception. 
Cheers! 


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