In recent years, supermarkets have been stocking more and more products that are labeled organic. Conscientious consumers are choosing to buy organic products over non-organic products and the percent of people looking for organic options continues to rise. With all the organic options out there, does organic matcha exist? Is it better than non-organic matcha?
Organic matcha farming in Japan
Organic matcha does exist. Of course, originally all tea farming in Japan was what we would consider organic. However, with the rise in the use of pesticides, truly organic matcha farming became almost nonexistent. Within the last 20 years or so, organic matcha has started to make a comeback but still only counts for less than 1% of the entire matcha market. This is because organic matcha is incredibly difficult and risky for the farmer to produce.
A farm must have enough space to completely separate its organic and non-organic products. Because of wind contamination, an organic field cannot be grown next to a non-organic field. If any traces of pesticides are found in the organic matcha, the farm risks being losing its status as an organic farm. Small tea growers often can’t afford the space to dedicate to organic fields.
Organic matcha can only be harvested once a year while non-organic matcha can be harvested 2 to 4 times a year. Plus, organic tea fields naturally require more labor to ensure a good crop.
The extra labor and comparatively low output can financially strain tea farms.
Is Organic Matcha Better than Non-organic Matcha?
No, organic matcha is not necessary “better” than non-organic matcha. As mentioned above, organic matcha can only be harvested once a year. The flavor of the small amount of organic matcha that is produced from this single harvest is difficult to control. A farm could spend a whole year raising a field of organic matcha and end up with a matcha that doesn’t taste good enough to compete with other brands on the open market. Non-organic matcha has the advantage in terms of flavor because the fertilizers used were specifically developed and used to increase the umami in the tea leaves while the flavor of organic matcha is completely dependent on what it can absorb from water, the sun and the soil.
What about safety?
That being said, non-organic matcha is not unsafe. It is difficult to compare agricultural standards across countries, but Japan has strict rules regarding pesticide and chemical use in agriculture (more about that can be found here). What kinds, how much and when these chemicals can be used is all controlled and monitored.
Choosing organic matcha over non-organic matcha comes down to personal preference. Organic matcha may fall short in terms of flavor but reducing your contact with agricultural chemicals or supporting a budding industry might be more important to you. The matcha we use at 3 Leaf Tea is not certifed organic but is grown with the customers’ safety and satisfaction in mind. We have access to regular testing on all our matcha shipments we import, and feel confident in the growers we have selected to bring the best matcha to you!