MATCHA GREEN TEA: THE IMPORTANCE OF ORIGIN, CERTIFICATIONS & TESTING

MATCHA GREEN TEA: THE IMPORTANCE OF ORIGIN, CERTIFICATIONS & TESTING

Matcha green tea is a versatile, antioxidant-rich superfood, with over 137 times the EGCG, and 10 times the nutrients of brewed green tea. Matcha is the new “it” drink, but people have been drinking it for centuries in Japan for its numerous health benefits, including fat-burning properties, calming energy and anti-aging effects. It’s easy to see why drinking matcha has caught on like wildfire in the West, but in order to get all of these amazing health benefits, you need to drink the best matcha you can get. That means purchasing organic, high-quality matcha that is certified and lab-tested by a third party lab for quality and purity. If you’re into matcha for its wealth of health benefits, you should be paying attention to quality, origin and tests and certifications. Although there is a clear distinction between culinary grade and ceremonial grade, that’s not what this blog post is about. Ceremonial grade matcha isn’t “better” that culinary grade, they are just intended for different uses. However, some huge factors determine the quality of matcha, which I’ll explain below.

 

ORIGIN: JAPANESE OR CHINESE MATCHA?

 

Location, location, location. Where matcha is grown is very important in determining quality. Where your matcha comes from can severely impact quality and the presence of both healthy properties and dangerous contaminants. To the point, Japanese grown matcha is better than Chinese grown matcha (as a general rule). Even though matcha originated in China, the tradition of preparing powdered green tea flourished in Japan during the 12th century. To this day, matcha is grown in either China or Japan, and although China produces a lot of it, Japanese matcha is usually higher quality.  High-quality Matcha not only tastes better it is also better for you. Higher quality matcha has the perfect sweet and savory umami taste (naturally sweet, slightly bitter), while low-quality matcha can be quite bitter. High-quality matcha also contains more of those wonderful, health-promoting compounds like l-theanine and catechins.

 

So we know that Japanese matcha is generally higher quality than Chinese matcha, but there’s more to buying matcha than choosing the cheapest Japanese matcha available. There are other things to consider if you want to get the most out of your matcha. Matcha is grown through varying regions of Japan, under different conditions, with varying quality standards, so not all Japanese matcha is good matcha

 

GROWING AND HARVESTING MATCHA

 

The tea industry in Japan consists of both growing/harvesting, and processing. Tea farmers focus on growing the very best leaves possible, full of flavor and unique qualities that depend on the location of the farm. After harvesting, the farmers produce a crude form of tea known as “aracha,” which the tea makers use to produce all the different varieties of green tea. The best teas are born from a cooperative effort between farmers and expert tea makers.

 

We source our matcha from a select group of family-owned farms that have a passion for quality tea. Our matcha comes from the Kakegawa region of southwestern Shizuoka, where the tea farms are located on mountain slopes. Because the mountain slopes prevent the use of large machinery, our tea is grown and harvested using hand tools. This allows the farmers to have an intimate growing relationship with their plants. And, like all the best matcha, ours is 100% organic and shaded.

 

WHY IS MATCHA SHADED?

 

Shade-growing the tea leaves used to make matcha is critical to creating the most flavorful green tea powder. This is because the light restriction forces the leaves to work extra hard to grow, which causes them to produce more chlorophyll. The high level of chlorophyll found in shade-grown matcha is not only responsible for giving good quality matcha its vibrant green color, it also has several health benefits including immune system support, intestinal cleansing and increased energy.

 

Another bonus to shade-growing is that the leaves contain higher amounts of amino acids, like L-theanine. This amino acid plays a big role in giving matcha its unique, savory/sweet umami flavor. If your matcha tastes bitter or astringent, it was most likely made from low-quality leaves. In addition to having higher levels of L-theanine and chlorophyll, shade-grown matcha also has elevated levels of tryptophan, caffeine, EGCG, and many antioxidants.

 

MAKING MATCHA POWDER

 

Once the leaves are harvested, tea makers take the initial steps to processing them. With the help of the tea farmer, tea makers steam, cool and dry the leaves (without rolling them). Since the tea maker will grind the leaves, there’s no need to roll the sides like loose leaf, plus unrolled leaves make a more vibrant, tastier matcha. With matcha, every cell of the leaf will be broken and ground, so that you can consume the whole leaf. The result of flat drying the matcha leaves is called “tencha.” Tea making companies then purchase this tencha to make their matcha powder. Historically, the leaves were ground by hand in stone mills, but today they’re ground by mechanic mill. The finer the matcha powder, the higher the quality. After grinding our matcha to an average of 5 to 10 microns, it’s packaged using a nitrogen flush method and immediately refrigerated. Matcha is extremely prone to oxidation and will turn brown or bitter if it’s not protected from oxygen and heat. Through our special nitrogen flush and refrigeration method, we can preserve freshness and ensure the quality of our matcha powder.

 

CERTIFICATIONS & TESTING

 

You might wonder why you should be concerned with testing and certifications when you’re shopping around for matcha. Let’s start with lead. There is a whole lot of matcha out there that is contaminated by lead, and most of it comes from China. Chinese tea, in general, is more prone to contamination because China is one of the most polluted countries on Earth and they have lower quality control standards than other tea producing countries. Japanese matcha tea, however, is grown on the mountainside in a carefully managed environment. While not all tea from China is contaminated, studies show a variety of Chinese tea exceeds safe lead levels. Traces of lead are in everything; our food, our water, our bodies. There is no such thing as lead-free, but Japanese tea fields come pretty close. Our matcha powder is not only grown on an organic Japanese tea farm, it’s also lab-tested to ensure it is well below the safe levels for lead. So, if you’re concerned with matcha purity, which you should be if you’re drinking matcha for its health benefits, always check the label to make sure your matcha comes from Japan.

 

WHEN LEAD IS DANGEROUS

 

Lead becomes dangerous, even fatal when you’re exposed to excessive amounts. Excessive exposure can lead to reduced brain function and loss of motor skills. Lead is often found in the soil of urban areas largely due to the previous use of gasoline, pipes and paint but high levels of lead are dangerous, especially to children who tend to absorb more of it. We have all our matcha routinely tested for lead to ensure it remains well below the safe limits.

 

JAPANESE MATCHA AND RADIATION CONTAMINATION

 

During the Fukushima tsunami in 2011, one of Japan’s nuclear power plants was damaged, leaking radiation into the water and air. However, the radiation leak did not make its way to Japan’s tea fields, which are upwind from the nuclear plant and more than 1000 miles from the site of the disaster. Since the nuclear plant was located on the East coast, the wind and water current swept most of the radiation out to sea.

 

OUR TESTS AND CERTIFICATIONS

 

Matcha quality control is a priority for us. We know that radiation contamination, lead, and chemical pesticides are serious concerns for our customers, that is why our matcha is is lab-tested by a third-party, American lab to ensure it’s free from radiation and other harmful chemicals. We also have tests to prove the quality and purity of our matcha and all our tests are available to the public. Providing safe, quality, organic matcha to our customers is our top priority, so we work hard to ensure we only produce USDA certified matcha, and that all our matcha is FDA approved. Our tea is only sourced from tea farms that agree to practice safe farming, follow all government regulations and keep detailed records of the farming process. We vow to produce only the best matcha made from clean leaves that are free of chemical pesticides, radiation and other harmful contaminants.

 

Our lab-tested matcha is 100% USDA certified organic, which means our farmers have strict regulations regarding fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, our organic certification means that all our tea is non-GMO and requires detailed record-keeping and labeling. We meticulously comply with the international standard for food safety, which requires clean facilities and frequent third-party audits.

 

OUR TESTS AND CERTIFICATIONS

 

When it comes to matcha quality control and matcha purity, we value full transparency. That is why we have all our tests available to the public. We’re proud of our commitment to quality, and we want our customers to feel confident about what they are putting in their bodies. You can find all our lab tests and certifications linked below.

 

HEAVY METALS [1]

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION [1] [2]

RADIATION TESTING [1]

GLOBAL FOOD SAFETY INITIATIVE (GFSI) CERTIFICATE [1]

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION [1] [2]

CATECHINS AND PHENOLS [1]

 

We believe in the quality and purity of our matcha, we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure it. From the farms that grow our organic matcha to the tea makers who carefully process it, we ensure matcha quality control every step of the way, that’s why we offer a money back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, for any reason, you can return your matcha for a full refund. If you decide to go with another brand, make sure they are organic and that they have all their tests and certifications available. Our priority is your health and safety.  

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