Plus, learn about the types of matcha powder and how to use it.
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6 containers of matcha on a designed background
Credit: Courtesy of the Merchants

Matcha is a finely ground powder made from specially cultivated green tea leaves. It has deep roots in both Japanese and Chinese cultures. Traditionally enjoyed as a hot beverage as part of a tea ceremony, matcha's beautiful color, unique flavor and health benefits have propelled it to popularity in recipes from sweet to savory. To help you find the best matcha powder, we tried nine brands. Here are our favorites from the taste tests, alongside more information about the history, cultural context and the different types of matcha powder available on the market today.

What Is Matcha Powder?

Matcha is a finely milled green tea powder made from a particular type of green tea called tencha. Tencha originates from the same plant as all teas—Camellia sinensis—but is shade-grown to encourage chlorophyll to color the leaves a darker green. After harvest, the leaves are steamed, laid out flat to dry, deveined, stemmed and slowly stone-ground to produce the final powder. Unlike other green teas where the leaves are steeped in hot water and then strained out, matcha is whisked into hot water and consumed as part of the final beverage.

Beverages made from powdered tea date to the Tang dynasty of China, while the act of whipping tea powder with hot water became more mainstream during the Song dynasty. In particular, this style of tea drinking was embraced by Chinese Buddhists, from whom Japanese Buddhists learned of this predecessor of matcha. Buddhist priest Eisai is credited with bringing the practice back to Japan in the 12th century, and it has since become an important ritual enjoyed by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony—attributed to various Zen masters, notably Sen no Rikyu—was developed in the 16th century and encompasses everything from sieving the matcha, measuring and scooping it, to expertly stirring it into just-below-boiling water using a chasen (bamboo whisk).

Matcha's striking color, unique flavor and health benefits have made it a popular flavor in Japan as well as abroad. After the proliferation of the Uji green tea processing method, a more efficient method for capturing the tea's bright green hue, as well as the development of various matcha cultivars (or groups of plants bred for specific characteristics), matcha became far more available to the general public. Now, it can be found in both savory and sweet applications, such as soba noodles and tempura, Pocky snacks and soft serve. In the U.S., matcha's popularity started to increase around 2015, when it began to show up as a flavoring in beverages such as Starbucks' matcha lattes, in restaurant desserts and in packaged goods. As a result, some have expressed concern over the erasure of matcha's important cultural roots in favor of a revisionist history that centers wellness influencers.

Types of Matcha Powder

When buying matcha powder, you may come across three types of matcha powder designations: ceremonial grade, premium grade and culinary grade. While they are meant to indicate quality, there is no regulation or standardization for these terms. Instead, look for the matcha powder's country of origin. Most matcha is produced in Japan, and you can readily buy Japanese-produced matcha in the U.S. Another thing to look for on the label are words like shade-grown, stone-milled or ground, which indicate that the matcha has been properly grown and produced.

How to Use Matcha Powder

High-quality matcha is best served on its own, prepared with hot—but not boiling—water. Some tea shops in the U.S. will also offer guests the experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, with its thoughtfully choreographed steps and calm, smooth motions. In daily life, matcha is a beautiful ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways. Most commonly the powder is seen folded into sweets, like bonbons, ice cream and cake. It has also become a regular flavor in beverages like matcha lattes and smoothies.

6 Best Matcha Powders

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Everyday Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Credit: Chalait Matcha

Chalait: Everyday Ceremonial Grade Matcha

A medium-dark green powder that smells very lightly milky, with a well-rounded herbaceous note. After being whisked with only hot water, this developed into a mellow, white chocolate and vanilla aroma with a surprising, but pleasantly bitter (tannic) flavor alongside a medium weight on the tongue. Of the matcha powders sampled, this seemed the best-suited for a latte to highlight its already milky notes and creamy mouthfeel.

Chalait was started by a wife-and-husband team that sources their matcha through one-on-one relationships with farmers in Japan. It is widely available online via their website.

Price: $25

Rich & Robust Ummon - 40g
Credit: Ippodo Tea

Ippodo Tea: Rich - Ummon-no-mukashi

An emerald-hued matcha powder that smells dewy and bright, like stepping outside after a cleansing rain. There's also a lingering hint of birthday cake (vanilla frosting, even sprinkles) on the nose, an ode to the complexity of this matcha. After mixing, the green tea scent became more pronounced, tempered with a cocoa-butter-like perfume. Much like the smell, its flavor was also milky and reminiscent of soft serve—although no matcha is sweet, this flavor lends well to sweet notes. On the tongue, this was a bit heftier than the other powders sampled.

Ippodo's internal team blends matcha powder to offer a variety of options of tea for any occasion. This is one of their more robust blends, which their president recommends preparing a "little on the strong side so that you can feel its full impact." While this was one of the more expensive matcha powder options in our taste test, it was definitely worth every penny and was the overall favorite. It is widely available online via their website as well as distributors such as Amazon.

Price: $30

ORGANIC CEREMONIAL MATCHA GOLD CLASS 30G - SUPER PREMIUM 1ST HARVEST
Credit: Midori Spring

Midori Spring: Organic Ceremonial Super Premium

An herbaceous matcha powder that smells more like fresh rain than grass. A medium-toned flat green when dry, when swirled with water it forms a dark army-green liquid that emits a strong green tea scent. Upon tasting, however, it is surprisingly neutral and is fairly light when it comes to mouthfeel and weight. Of the matchas tasted, this one is a versatile option with a simple flavor profile that can be used for any occasion, beverages or otherwise.

This matcha powder is graded by the company as "ceremonial," by which they mean it is made with the first flush, or the first leaves that are picked during harvest. It is also certified organic by both Japanese and U.S. standards, as well as kosher. It is widely available online via their website as well as distributors such as Amazon.

Price: $25

ORGANIC CEREMONIAL Matcha Green Tea Powder
Credit: Amazon

Kimikura: Kagoshima Organic Matcha

A pale, pastel-toned, vanilla-smelling matcha powder that resulted in a lighter-tasting and textured final brew. When made with hot water, the resulting tea had more white chocolate notes, with just a hint of herbal greens like chrysanthemum. The flavor of this matcha was one of the most delicate, but not bland; it offered just enough of a creamy, well-rounded consistency on the tongue to make the drinking satisfying.

This matcha powder hails from Kagoshima, Japan, and is certified organic by Japanese standards. It is graded by the company as "ceremonial," by which they mean it is made with the first flush, or the first leaves that are picked during harvest. Amazon is the U.S. distributor for Kimikura and would be the best place to buy this brand.

Price: $24

Akira Organic Ceremonial Matcha
Credit: Matcha Konomi

Akira: Organic Matcha Ceremonial Grade

This jade green matcha powder really jumps out of the can with its grassy, almost saline, scent. Whisked with hot water, it produced a tea with only slightly milky notes—it had a robust, roasted green tea (almost oolong-like) scent. The final flavor and texture was lightly tannic (in a good way), with a smooth and lightweight mouthfeel and enough of a vegetal taste to keep things interesting. Of all the matcha tasted, this was the best organic matcha powder of the bunch and a great well-rounded option.

This matcha powder comes from Uji, Japan, and is certified organic by Japanese and U.S. standards. It is shade-grown for at least three weeks, and is harvested in the spring (or first) harvest of tea during the year. It is widely available online via their website as well as distributors such as Amazon.

Price: $24

KENKO Matcha Green Tea Powder
Credit: Amazon

Kenko: Organic Matcha Premium Ceremonial Grade

One of the more vegetable-forward-smelling powders,  and boasting a deeper jade hue, this matcha gave off a sweet scalded-milk middle note upon first sniff, and a more yeast- doughnut scent when pre-whisked. Combined with water, this matcha remained fairly light in scent but bloomed in flavor, offering a balanced daintiness of brewed tea, taffy flavor and smooth medium-bodied texture.

This matcha powder is grown in the Nishio region of southern Japan, and certified USDA Organic. It is widely available online via their website as well as distributors such as Amazon.

Price: $23

Bottom Line

Matcha is a flavorful green tea powder with a striking color and sweet aroma. Traditionally served as part of an elaborate tea ceremony, matcha has only grown in popularity and can now be found in everything from noodles to ice cream. The labeling process around matcha is not yet fully defined, so finding the best matcha requires due diligence from the consumer in regard to how the matcha was sourced and processed. These six matcha powders are a great place to start, whether you're looking for a vegetal, deep jade drink like Kenko or a vanilla, pastel-toned beverage like Kimikura.