If you’re like most people, you’ve never bought matcha before. You may not even know what it is, although that seems unlikely these days. By now, most people have heard about matcha. Not a day goes by that some magazine, blog or other website does not publish a matcha-related article. In fact, that’s probably why you’re here: you’ve either seen an article in your local newspaper, seen a report about matcha on the news or read about it on your favorite tea blog.
But do you really know what it is? I won’t go into too much detail about it here, since that’s not the topic of this article and there are plenty (and I do mean PLENTY) articles out there that will provide you the basics. I will give you a little info, though.
Basically, matcha is a green tea powder. High-quality tea leaves are dried, then deveined and destemmed. The remaining parts are then stone ground into a fine powder. Only the highest quality leaves are used to make real matcha powder from Japan and they are ground to an incredibly fine powder that has a bright green appearance. If it is not bright green, the quality is lower and the powder likely came from China (or is just a cheap Japanese variety).
Now to the actual question: where should you get your tea powder? Well, that depends on what you want. If you want a high-quality powder for making koicha (or even usucha), you’ll definitely want one that was sourced in Japan. Preferably, it should come from the Uji region of Japan. You can find good powders like this on a number of online tea shops and even general online stores like Amazon.
That said, Amazon mostly sells cheaper powders, many of which come from China. These will be much lower quality and I would not recommend them if you plan on drinking your tea. If you are only going to cook with the matcha, you can get away with cheaper varieties, but I would still pay more and get a higher quality. The quality green tea powders are not THAT much more expensive, but the difference in flavor is considerable. You will not regret paying more.
If you don’t like online shopping, you may be able to find matcha in your city. If you live in a city, that is. Most major cities in the west have decent tea shops that will sell the powder. It is so popular these days, that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tea shop that doesn’t carry it. As is always the case, once celebrities start doing something, every idiot will want to start doing it too. The potential profit is too good to pass up.
While many of these people might be a little annoying with their “healthy” sugar-laden drinks that only retain a very slight matcha flavor, their trend-hopping is actually good for us in this instance. It means that matcha powder has become much more widely available. Now, that does not mean that the matcha in your neighborhood shop is necessarily good; you’ll have to give it a try. If it sucks, it recommend giving online vendors a try, despite any misgivings you might have.
If you live in a more rural area, the online vendors will be your only option anyway. Trust me, many of them are quite good. Just make sure that have reviews on their site and that the site looks like someone is busy updating it regularly. If it looks like it was last updated in the early 90s, I’d stay away.
So there you have it. If you have decent tea stores in your area, try their matcha and you may end up with a great and convenient source. If not, give online shops a try. As for the matcha bars and cafes that are springing up in the biggest cities. Well, some of them are quite good, but many simply serve sugar water with a slight matcha flavor. This is always the case for the big chains like Starbucks. Stay away from that crap. It is not matcha.