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Ceremonial vs. culinary matcha: What’s the difference?

Updated: Oct 19

With matcha becoming a popular ingredient in everything from coffee to baked goods, it’s hard not to come across it from time to time. You’ve probably noticed that there are different types of matcha too, and wondered if matcha grades actually make a difference.

Short answer: yes, matcha grades do matter, both in terms of taste and benefits.

What is matcha?

Matcha comes from green tea leaves, harvested while they’re still a vibrant green color. The leaves are ground into a fine green powder, which can then be mixed with water to be drunk as tea. (That being said, matcha powder is not the same as green tea, although they do have some similarities.)

Matcha was first produced in China during the Tang Dynasty. By the 15th century, its popularity had spread to Japan, where it continues to have deep cultural significance. Today it’s consumed all around the world for its rich, earthy flavor and vibrant green color.

Matcha benefits

It isn’t just the unique flavor that contributes to matcha’s staying power. It has a lot of health benefits, too.

  • High in EGCG, a catechin with many beneficial effects

  • Boosts energy without causing jitters or energy crashes

  • Contains L-theanine, known to produce calming effects

  • High in antioxidants

  • Sharpens concentration

The higher the grade, the more nutrients and benefits matcha provides. Matcha tea is a good alternative to coffee and energy drinks because it provides that all-important energy boost without drawbacks like jitteriness. Its calming effects make it a good choice for those who need the energy support but don’t want to feel wired and anxious to achieve it.

Matcha grades

Matcha has two main grades: ceremonial and culinary. If taste and health benefits are a priority, then the grade you choose definitely matters.

Ceremonial grade matcha

Ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality grade of matcha and is made to be drunk on its own. (This is the matcha grade that has been used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.) It is cultivated using an intricate, labor-intensive process, which is what gives it its naturally sweet flavor.

Culinary grade matcha

Culinary grade matcha is a lower grade of matcha than ceremonial grade, and therefore less expensive. It isn’t quite as meticulously tended to as ceremonial grade matcha, giving it a less distinct flavor. This is the type of matcha usually used in lattes, baked goods, and other recipes.

Culinary matcha has several subsets, including the following:

  • Classic matcha: This is what most people use in their kitchens because it works in virtually any recipe.

  • Kitchen matcha: With a more bitter flavor, kitchen matcha is best when it’s being used as a minor component of a recipe.

  • Ingredient matcha: Ingredient matcha contains a blend of young and old matcha leaves, which creates a more robust flavor. It works best with thicker recipes, like ice cream.

  • Café matcha: Bakers prefer this type of matcha over other culinary varieties. It has a more concentrated flavor and holds up well in high temperatures.

  • Premium matcha: This is the matcha grade coffee shops usually use, as it is less expensive. It has a more bitter flavor than ceremonial matcha, so it’s usually masked with sugar and other latte flavors.

Which is better: Ceremonial or culinary?

With so many types of matcha to choose from, you might feel overwhelmed figuring out which grade is best for you. So keep this in mind: ceremonial grade matcha does it all. It is the purest, sweetest form of matcha, and can be drunk on its own or added to your favorite recipes.

Culinary grade matcha is cheaper, but the taste can’t quite match what you’ll get from ceremonial grade. Plus, you may find that you need to add more sugar or other flavors to mask the bitterness found in culinary matcha grades.

Think of it this way: wild, fresh-caught salmon tastes better (and contains more nutrients!) than the frozen salmon you’ll find at the store. Similarly, higher quality matcha has more to offer than what’s available at your local coffee shop or grocery store.

Matcha elevated: Unicity Matcha Energy

For centuries, matcha has been known for its natural, long-lasting energy and antioxidant support. At Unicity, we’ve taken that advantage and elevated it to the next level.

Unicity Matcha Energy is formulated with our proprietary Chi-oka matcha blend, made with the highest-quality ceremonial grade matcha leaves available. This unique blend also includes L-theanine, citicoline, B vitamins, and L-carnitine to help boost metabolism, energize without leading to a crash later, and support cognitive function.

Add Matcha Energy to your pantry today so you can pull it out whenever you want a matcha boost.


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