Have you ever seen the term “ceremonial grade” on a container of matcha? It’s a common term in the matcha community, and it essentially signifies high-quality matcha.
But why is it called “ceremonial grade”? The answer to that question lies deep in matcha’s history. Read on to learn more about ceremonial matcha with us!
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What is Matcha?
Matcha comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which grows natively in China and India. Also known as the tea plant, its leaves produce all kinds of tea (other than herbal tea).
In fact, matcha is just powdered green tea leaves. Only the finest green tea leaves are used for matcha because lesser quality leaves tend to crumble and taste bitter.
Some people use matcha as an alternative to coffee because it has a whopping 70 mg of caffeine estimated per cup. It also contains ultra-high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid known to promote relaxation and focus.
Matcha contains potent levels of antioxidants such as catechins (another energy-boosting helper) and EGCG, which are known to protect different body systems and prevent long-term damage. The question is, why not drink matcha?
Background of Ceremonial Matcha
While you might recognize matcha from trendy green drinks, matcha comes from a centuries-old background of spiritualism and Japanese culture. The Japanese tea ceremony is where ceremonial grade matcha gets its name.
Chinese monks were the first to use matcha. Reportedly, these Buddhist monks discovered that drinking these powdered leaves helped them stay alert and focused during their meditations. Thanks to science, we now know that’s because of caffeine and L-theanine.
As global travel grew, matcha eventually made its way over to Japan. Here, the Japanese monks used matcha similarly to the Chinese monks.
As time went on and Japanese culture evolved, matcha tea began to represent spiritualism and harmony. At the turn of the sixteenth century, the Japanese tea ceremony was born.
The Japanese tea ceremony was first a way for the Japanese elite to socialize and form political connections. However, tea was quickly absorbed into Japanese artistic culture and soon became a form of artistic expression.
A popular art movement during this time was wabi-sabi. This movement reflected the Japanese values for simplicity and imperfection.
A traditional tea ceremony (chanoyu) has three main elements. First, the surrounding gardens are carefully cultivated to reflect the simplicity and harmony of the world.
Second, the tea houses are specifically designed to bring all guests into harmony with each other and are decorated as simply as possible. Third, the highest quality tea is served to guests in complete silence. The guests sip the tea and practice being in harmony with the world and with others.
The Japanese tea ceremony traditionally uses matcha of only the finest quality. This is why the highest grade of matcha is referred to as “ceremonial grade.”
Types of Matcha
When we say “ceremonial matcha,” we aren’t just referring to how matcha is traditionally used. Ceremonial matcha is a grade of matcha that helps tea drinkers to know what quality their matcha is. Here are some popular grades of matcha and what they mean.
Culinary Grade Matcha
Culinary grade matcha is the lowest grade. Processed with cooking in mind, culinary grade matcha delivers all the matcha flavor but holds back on quality.
This type of matcha is usually the least expensive, and it typically isn’t used for brewing cups of matcha. Culinary matcha is made with leaves harvested from the lower parts of the tea plant, and these leaves are harvested after the ceremonial grade matcha leaves.
Culinary grade matcha has less caffeine but more catechins and tannins, which leads to a slightly bitter flavor. Think of culinary grade matcha like cocoa powder. While the bitterness doesn’t matter when combined with other flavors in cooking, it will stand out in a hot cup of pure matcha.
Premium Grade Matcha
Premium grade matcha lies in between culinary grade matcha and ceremonial grade matcha. Made with a blend of culinary and ceremonial matcha leaves, this grade has a slightly lower quality than ceremonial.
You’ll often find that premium-grade matcha can come in flavors like raspberry, chocolate, and strawberry. This flavor variety is one of the perks of this middle-ground matcha, alongside its availability and taste.
Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Ceremonial grade matcha is made using only the highest quality leaves harvested in the spring. Because tea plants start growing in the spring, these leaves are brand new.
Tea plants are also typically grown in the shade before the spring harvest. The combination of shady conditions and young leaves makes ceremonial grade matcha so high quality.
You’ll usually know if you have ceremonial grade matcha because of its vibrant green color. Other grades share the characteristic green hue, but their color is often duller. Ceremonial matcha should also have a slightly sweet taste since it hasn’t had time to develop the bitterness of culinary grade matcha.
This is the highest quality of matcha for more than its taste and color; ceremonial matcha also has the highest caffeine content. This grade is also higher in L-theanine and chlorophyll.
While the other grades can be processed using machines, the production process for ceremonial grade matcha is so detailed that it is almost always done by hand. This is why ceremonial matcha can be so expensive.
It’s hard to find ceremonial quality matcha without breaking the bank. That’s why we love Baahtcha Matcha Organic Ceremonial Matcha. This matcha is of the finest quality and is 100% organic to boot – plus, it’s the same price as a typical loose leaf.
When Should You Use Ceremonial Matcha?
With all of these different grades of matcha, how will you know when to use which ones? We have a pretty good guide on which matcha grades are best for which uses.
Culinary grade matcha is best for cooking. It’s not the best quality, but the matcha flavor is still there. The food won’t taste any different, and you can save the great stuff for a nice brewed cuppa. We recommend culinary-grade matcha for recipes like matcha cupcakes, matcha pancakes, matcha smoothies, and any other matcha treat.
Meanwhile, premium grade matcha is a good middle ground. It’s not high enough quality for a tea ceremony, but it’s wonderful for a casual cuppa or other matcha drinks. You can use premium matcha in matcha lattes and matcha smoothies, and you can even drink it hot if you want.
Ceremonial matcha is a lovely choice for tea ceremonies. In fact, since tradition calls for the finest tea available, a traditional ceremony should include ceremonial matcha. You can also enjoy the fine flavor of ceremonial grade matcha by drinking it hot or iced.
How to Enjoy Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Whether hosting a traditional tea ceremony or just looking for quality matcha, ceremonial matcha is the way to go. Its high quality means that preparation is key – you want to be able to taste the difference. Here are some of our favorite ways to prepare and enjoy ceremonial matcha tea.
Traditional ceremonies call for hot tea, so this is the best method to use if you want to emulate tradition. Fortunately, you can make ceremonial matcha by following the same process as making regular matcha.
First, you’ll pour hot water over your matcha powder and whisk it until it becomes foamy and light. Second, wait for the tea to cool and then enjoy!
If you want to follow tradition, you can make your ceremonial matcha in a traditional matcha tea bowl. One of our favorites is our very own Pastel Glaze Matcha Bowl. This bowl is made with the ancient values of wabi-sabi in mind so that you can connect with matcha’s traditional roots.
You’ll also need a bamboo matcha whisk and a whisk holder. If you don’t have one, we recommend our Matcha Whisk Holder. We might be biased, but we think these whisk holders are adorable.
If you’ve never had matcha over ice before, then there’s no time like the present to give it a try! Whisk yourself up some matcha and pour over ice for a flavor-packed refresher.
We recommend making your matcha stronger than you normally would since the ice will water down the flavor as it melts. You can also add cream and sugar for a modern twist.
Alternatively, you can pre-make some matcha ice cubes to chill your tea. That way, your iced matcha will retain its flavor all day. Plus, you’ll have a fun conversation starter for when you have friends over.
As a Latte
If you’re as big a fan of lattes as we are, we’ve got incredible news: you can enjoy matcha as a latte! You might already know this since matcha lattes are becoming more popular in coffee shops. However, matcha lattes are also super easy to make at home.
All you have to do is make hot matcha like you normally would and steam some milk. Add some sweetener to your matcha, and then pour in your milk. You can garnish the top with some matcha powder, a sprig of lavender, crushed rose petals, or even try your hand at some fancy latte art.
While you might not notice a huge difference by using ceremonial grade matcha in your latte, we think the overall effect yields a much better latte. The difference is subtle, but the quality is not.
Wrapping It All Up
Matcha is a popular tea drink right now, but it has been around for centuries. This powdered green tea has deeply spiritual roots, so much so that only the highest quality is used for spiritual ceremonies.
If you like matcha, take our quick quiz, and we’ll deliver some more tea that we think you’ll like right to your door. Whether you drink your matcha hot or iced, you’ll notice a difference with ceremonial grade matcha.
Matcha Tea Shop
Savor the bold and rich flavors of matcha with our wide selection of different types of matcha tea. Matcha is an ancient Japanese Tea that gives you an energy boost while letting you detox with its anti-oxidant properties. Known for its healing powers, matcha tea benefits are massive. Our selection includes different matcha flavors ranging from matcha green teas to floral and fruity matcha drinks.
Interested in trying these teas and others? Subscribers receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscriptions.
About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.