Getting the best matcha powder can be a headache. Not anymore. We are here with answers to finding authentic matcha powder in Japan.
The best matcha powder is one that’s vibrant green in color and has a silky feeling with no coarseness. The best quality can be found in Uji, Kyoto where tea houses are found almost everywhere you look. There you will find matcha merchants such as the Fukujuen shop where you can buy authentic matcha. For matcha with an umami taste, the best place to get it is in remote areas such as Nishio City in Aichi Prefecture.
We are here to ensure that you won’t get lost when looking for authentic matcha powder when in Japan. Here we have covered the major regions where you can get good quality matcha including specific shops and tea houses where you can taste and sample authentic matcha. We also have a number of tips to ensure that you get yourself authentic matcha powder. Let’s go on a matcha adventure, shall we?
What is Matcha Powder?
Matcha is a bright green powder which is the end product of grinding green tea leaves (Tencha). Scenic green tea plantations are spread all over Japan; from the Makinohara Plateau in Shizouka to Wazuka-Cho in Kyoto. Since the 12th century, matcha powder has been used to make green tea where it’s served suspended in hot water. However, in recent times, matcha powder has diverse uses from making latte to infusing it in food.
As a matter of fact, the immense benefits of matcha powder have led to a huge spike in green tea exports in Japan. It seems like everyone around the world wants a piece of this ‘magic powder’ that has become a key component of healthy living.
Zen-lovers are buying it in drives as preparing matcha was a meditation process incorporated in Japanese tea ceremonies. Other key health benefits of matcha include improved brain function and decreased risk of heart disease.
How to Tell Whether Matcha Powder is Authentic
To be honest, matcha is so popular in Japan that the residents sometimes can’t pinpoint which is the best. Due to the huge influx in the demand for matcha, you will definitely come across all manner of powders dubbed matcha. That said, here are a few pointers to guide you on whether you have authentic matcha powder:
- Color – If it’s not bright green in color, then it’s not the real thing. Usually, good matcha is attractive spring green. Anything that’s yellowish or brown is most likely adulterated or old matcha; and you don’t want that. The more vibrant the green color, the better the Matcha.
- Origin – Japan is the only authentic producer of matcha powder. If it’s from China, chances are it’s a knock off. While history has it that the Chinese are the ones that introduced Japan to matcha, the shading of green tea leaves method used to make matcha powder is 100% Japanese.
- Texture – Touch your matcha. Does it feel silky? Is it a fine powder without any coarseness? Then there’s a high probability that it’s authentic.
- Price – Plainly, good matcha isn’t cheap. At an average of $30 per ounce, matcha powder comes with a hefty price tag. Of course, you will come across one that’s on sale but no offense; it will often lack that vegetal, well-blended taste of matcha.
Where to Find Best Matcha in Japan
Are you a matcha aficionado and have a trip planned to Japan? Then we have compiled a list of the best places to get original matcha powder in Japan. It’s worth noting that the quality of matcha often varies depending on the region of production. Matcha bought in Uji, Kyoto is praised for its flavor due to its creamy and sweet taste. If you love your matcha tea with an umami taste, then you may have to head out to Nishio in Aichi.
Let’s now sample some matcha powder products from various regions in Japan.
1. Uji, Kyoto
Popularly known as the Town of Matcha, Uji is re-known for its flavor-filled matcha powder. So reputable is the matcha here that it’s a hotspot for tourists who are looking to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony. Uji matcha has a creamy and smooth texture which is attained by firing the green tea leaves at low temperatures. Here are some matcha-related places that you have to visit when in Uji:
- Fukujuen Shop – Founded back in 1790, Fukujuen is one of the best green tea shops in Kyoto. Its matcha is produced using stone mills. Some of its leading products are the Banjono Mukashi matcha powder and the Chasen matcha whisk. Though the shop’s products may have a hefty price tag, the matcha powder is worth every penny. Better yet, they have an online shop.
- Byodoin Temple – This place is must visit when in Japan; whether you love matcha or not. For 500 yen, you will participate in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony. While at it you will be blown away by the temple’s representation of ancient Japanese architecture.
- Nakamura Tokichi Honten – The tea house is a leading matcha merchant in Kyoto. Located ten miles outside the city, Nakamura Tokichi offers matcha tea ceremonies that are performed four times a day. As a bonus, you also get a leaf grinding tutorial.
2. Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture
Craving for an umami taste in your matcha? Then you need to head to Nishio City in Aichi Prefecture. Due to its highly fertile soil and good elevation, Nishio is responsible for 60% of the total matcha grown in Japan. Not only will you be blown away by the sweeping views of endless green tea plantations but you will be awed by the region’s natural look. While it might not be as vibrant as Tokyo and Kyoto, Nishio is undoubtedly Japan’s matcha haven. Some of the places to go for a matcha experience in Nishio include:
- Aiya Nishio Matcha Museum– At the topmost floor of the Aiya tea factory, you will get to experience the best matcha powder Nishio has to offer. You will also learn all there is to know about this infusion drink.
- Konoe House – Your visit to this matcha tea city isn’t complete without stopping at the Nishio City Park where you will find the former Konoe house. Enjoy the traditional matcha tea ceremony in the Chashitsu as you marvel at the intricate detail in the house’s construction.
3. Tokyo City
Think of anything that can be made of matcha powder and Tokyo has it. Be it the best matcha latte in Japan or scrumptious Matcha desserts, you will find it in Tokyo. The city will provide you unbelievable creativity displayed in the matcha infused food that’s served in almost every corner of the city. Tokyo has brought a modern touch to Matcha. Explore the following matcha hotspots in Tokyo;
- Kagurazaka Saryo – Are you looking for a traditional matcha dessert café in Tokyo? Look no further than the Kagurazaka Saryo where you will enjoy one of the most popular matcha fondues in Japan. From the café’s re-known bittersweet matcha sauce to its delicious matcha infused ice cream, you will be totally spoilt for choice.
- Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House – Located inside breathtaking Hammarikyu Gardens, this tea house is the place to be if you are crazy about matcha. For over three centuries, yes it’s that old, the tea house has been a hotspot for matcha tea lovers. After paying 300 Yen as an entrance fee into the gardens, you will pay about 720 Yen for a matcha tea set here. Trust me, the matcha experience is worth every cent.
- Rikugien Garden – The picturesque Japanese garden is popular with tourists especially during autumn when the tree leaves change color. In the garden is the Fukiage Chaya tea house where for about 600 yen, you will enjoy a memorable matcha tea set.
There are also several online matcha powder shops in Japan that sell authentic products that are worth sampling.
Fun Facts about Matcha Powder
Before wrapping up, here are a few captivating fun facts about matcha:
- It’s the only tea in the world that’s consumed in a suspended form.
- Matcha is the only caffeine-filled drink that has a calming effect rather than the jittery and hyper feeling associated with caffeine.
- Samurais from way back in the 13th century used to drink matcha before going for any battle.
- Matcha is one of the leading 100% natural methods of burning fat and weight loss.
- The Oika aroma of matcha will remain in your head forever! Am kidding. But yes, the tea’s aroma is one of the best fragrances that you will ever come across.
Your trip to Japan isn’t complete without participating in a matcha tea ceremony. Sitting on a Tatami while sipping some matcha tea as you look out into beautiful Japanese gardens is a dream of any traveler. Whether you are looking to buy souvenirs for loved ones back home or want a memorable matcha trip, then our pick of the best matcha powder products will come in handy. Try matcha today and you will understand why this green powder has remained a Japanese favorite tradition for centuries.