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The 5 Reasons Why Matcha Is Expensive (Or Is It?)

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

We’ve already covered the difference between ceremonial and culinary grade matcha and the big gap in price, but what about comparing to other types of Japanese tea? Why is matcha so expensive?

The main reason why it’s so expensive is that producing a quality stonemill matcha powder is an immensely tedious and laborious process that requires special skill and knowledge. 

 

how is matcha produced 

 

The 5 Big Reasons Why Matcha Is Expensive:

  1. The cultivation. Unlike, for example, sencha, matcha is stone-ground tencha, a shade-grown green tea. It only grows in specific regions of Japan and requires a fixed timing of the shading period.

  2. The harvest. It is hand-harvested only 1-2 months per year from May till June.

    After harvest when preparing for the tea leaves to be ground every single leaf is carefully de-stemmed and de-veined which requires skill, time, and patience. Often times the leftover stems and veins will, later on, be used to make kukicha, a mild and nutty Japanese tea with a little caffeine content.

  3. The preparation. Unlike other teas, when drinking matcha we consume the whole tea leaf. When the harvested leaves are not up to standard, we will definitely taste this much more than when we just drink the brewed tea liquid.

    *For this same reason we especially recommend purchasing organic matcha powder

  4. The processing. The mills required to grind the loose leaf into the most delicate powder that we all end up receiving can produce no more than 40 grams of tencha per hour. This is because tencha can only be ground in small batches to shield the leaves from over-heating (which results in a loss of nutrients) or an uneven grind (the powder not being consistent). 

    The speed at which tencha is ground is what plays an important role in the flavor and color of the finished matcha powder. Slower grinding decreases the friction and heat applied to the tencha leaf, which helps preserve matcha's vivid green color and sweet, fresh flavor. While a faster grind can "toast" the tencha leaf and cause its bright color to fade to a greenish yellow – a good sign of bitterness in matcha. 

  5. The demand. Because of matcha’s popularity and numerous health benefits, it has been more in demand than ever before. The ground Japanese tea went from being a luxury only consumed during designated tea ceremonies to a commodity we can find in most cafes, kitchens, and even beauty products. The demand is undeniably one of the factors that make the price of matcha rise. 

green matcha


What About Culinary Grade Matcha?

Culinary grade, when purchased from a trusted vendor, should still be of satisfactory quality. And in fact, it isn't only for culinary purposes, but also for straight drinking, lattes, cocktails, etc. The main reason why it is cheaper is that while ceremony grade matcha is only made from the very first harvest, a culinary grade is made from subsequent harvests. It is also produced in much bigger qualities, and the amount of care that goes into its production doesn’t quite compare to matcha reserved for ceremonies. (Read more in our article about koicha - thick matcha)


How Much Does Japanese Matcha Green Tea Cost?

In general, you will be paying anywhere from $0.75 to $1 per gram of ceremonial grade matcha and $0.25 to $0.50 for culinary grade. While it is possible to find matcha even cheaper than that, we do not recommend purchasing it. Low-quality matcha is characterized by a dull color and a bitter, lifeless taste.

An important thing to remember when comparing the price of matcha to other tea types is that while the cost of matcha is more expensive per gram, we also use much less of it per cup.


For example, when comparing to gyokuro, one of Japan’s finest teas, we are paying $25 per 30 grams of ceremonial-grade matcha versus the $12 we would pay for the same amount of gyokuro.

However, for a serving of matcha we only need 1 gram of powder versus the 6 grams we need for gyokuro or many other loose leaf teas. That means that one 30 gram package of matcha contains 30 whole servings and results in slightly less than $1 per serving!

 

To learn about matcha, including recipes, history, and more, check out or "matcha" tag!

Watch our video on how to make Matcha Tea