What’s the Difference Between Ceremonial Grade Matcha and Culinary Matcha?

By Avery Hastings

What’s the Difference Between Ceremonial Grade Matcha and Culinary Matcha?

The Difference Between Ceremonial Grade Matcha

As a matcha enthusiast, I'm excited to delve into the intriguing differences between two main types of matcha: "Culinary Grade Matcha" and "Ceremonial Grade Matcha." To explain the difference between Ceremonial Grade Matcha and Culinary Grade Matcha is that it's all about the quality of the matcha powder and how you intend to use it.


But first, let's get acquainted with matcha itself. Originating in Japan, matcha is not your ordinary tea; it's a finely ground powder made from shade-grown tea leaves. But what are the main differences that distinguish "Culinary Grade Matcha" from its ceremonial counterpart? 

Culinary Grade Matcha vs. Ceremonial Grade Matcha

Culinary grade matcha is more robust in flavor and ideal for your culinary adventures and can be added to everything from smoothies to baked goods. On the other hand, ceremonial grade matcha is meant to be whisked into a frothy elixir for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. 

culinary grade matcha powder

Differences in Quality and Taste

Let's talk about the difference in quality and taste between these two grades. Culinary grade matcha is made from slightly older leaves and tends to be more bitter, as it's meant to complement other ingredients in recipes. Its robust flavor can hold its ground amidst strong flavors, making it perfect for cooking and blending.


Conversely, ceremonial grade matcha boasts a mellower taste, sweeter and more delicate on the palate. This premium grade is produced from young, shade-grown leaves, carefully plucked during the first flush (shincha). The shade-grown process enhances the leaves' chlorophyll and amino acid content, contributing to the tea's vibrant green color and umami flavor. 

ceremonial grade matcha powder
Timing of Harvest: Ceremonial Grade and Culinary Grade Matcha

Let's also consider the impact of harvesting time on the matcha's overall quality. Culinary grade matcha is typically harvested later in the season, after the first flush. This later harvest results in leaves that are coarser and more robust, making them better suited for cooking and blending.


Conversely, the first flush, known as shincha, marks the peak of tea leaf quality and flavor. Ceremonial grade matcha is carefully handpicked during this period to ensure its exceptional taste and aroma. The timing of this harvest plays a crucial role in capturing the delicate, nuanced flavors that elevate ceremonial matcha to a class of its own.


While not all first harvest leaves are necessarily designated as ceremonial grade, it is during this early harvest period that the best quality leaves are carefully selected to create the refined and exquisite ceremonial grade matcha. As such, the first flush plays a crucial role in determining the exceptional character of ceremonial matcha and its significance in Japanese tea culture.

tea bushes covered with a bamboo tarp

How to Tell the Difference Between Ceremonial Grade Matcha

Color. ceremonial matcha boasts a vibrant, emerald green hue, reflecting its high chlorophyll content.

Scent. Next, take a whiff; the aroma of ceremonial grade matcha is rich and inviting, often described as vegetal and sweet.

Taste. When prepared, its taste should be smooth, velvety, and delicately sweet, with a lingering umami finish.

Texture. Additionally, the texture should yield a fine, silky powder, signifying the finely ground, top-quality leaves.

Froth. Lastly, observe how the matcha froths when whisked; ceremonial grade matcha should create a creamy and stable foam.


By paying attention to these distinctive characteristics, you can confidently identify and enjoy the true essence of ceremonial grade matcha. Moreover, it's essential to understand that while there are regulations for matcha production in Japan, ceremonial grade matcha remains unregulated. Instead, the responsibility falls on the tea masters to judge and select the finest matcha for ceremonial purposes. This lack of strict regulations can lead to variations in quality and authenticity. However, it also gives the tea masters the freedom to rely on their expertise and intuition, making each ceremonial experience unique and personalized.


Ready to Experience the Difference Between Culinary Grade Matcha and Ceremonial Grade Matcha?

Looking to explore the world of matcha? Or are you looking for the perfect Ceremonial Grade matcha to add to your collection?


As you embark on your matcha journey, I encourage you to explore both varieties and discover the enchanting world of this vibrant green elixir. To get started, try Bonsai Cha Premium Japanese Matcha to get a taste of quality tea for any occasion, or try our Ceremonial Grade Special Selection Matcha for an elevated matcha experience.


Remember, in the realm of matcha, there's no right or wrong—only the joy of savoring each unique experience. So, go ahead and indulge in the matcha magic!




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