Why does my matcha taste bitter?

February 17, 2021

Why does my matcha taste bitter?
Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder

While we love to see our regulars visit the café, we also love to hear about the matcha our customers make at home. Matcha is easy to prepare and enjoy but can sometimes end up tasting not how you expected. With a few key pieces of information, every mug you make will be matcha perfection. Check out this list before pouring your next cup!

Water temperature
Unlike most black teas which are less sensitive to water temperature, using boiling water with matcha is not recommended. Matcha is filled with chlorophyll; the chemical in plant cells that make it green and make photosynthesis possible. Chlorophyll is sensitive to heat and will start to break down if exposed to extreme temperatures. This break down is what causes matcha to turn bitter. This is the same process that gives overcooked spinach its bite. Just like with overdone spinach, there is no way to fix matcha that's turned bitter from high heat. However, it can be rearranged and enjoyed in a different way. For example, adding honey or agave can help counteract the bitterness. Using what would have been your matcha latte in matcha pancakes or bread recipe can be a sweet way to get out of a bitter situation.

Improper storage

Matcha is sensitive to light and air. If stored improperly it can change from a vibrant green color to a dull yellow, and taste very dry, and bitter. The catechins (a type of antioxidant) in matcha, specifically EGCG, will rapidly degrade when exposed to oxygen. To ensure your matcha tastes the best, it is key to properly store matcha in an airtight opaque container (check our preparation page to learn more). 

Using Old Matcha

The catechins in matcha are not only sensitive to light and air but will slowly start to breakdown over time. Proper storage can lengthen how long matcha will stay fresh so it's important to know when it was packaged, and how it was stored before purchasing. We recommend using as fresh a product as possible to ensure the best flavor. Here at 3 Leaf Tea, we buy directly from matcha farms in Japan so our tea is as fresh as it gets.

Using Low-grade Matcha

Matcha is divided into different grades, ranging from culinary to ceremonial grade. Inadvertently using culinary matcha for your morning latte could certainly be the wake-up call you needed but maybe not the sweetest start to your day. The difference between low-grade and high-grade matcha starts in the tea fields. As mentioned above, matcha is a vibrant green color because of the chlorophyll contained in the tea leaves. To obtain that vivid green, tea leaves have to be shaded from harsh sunlight. Overexposure can reduce the quality of the chlorophyll in the leaves and once reduced to a powder will be yellowish or yellow-brown. Matcha that looks yellow-green or yellow-brown from the start is usually only used for cooking or baking because it's cheap, and the other ingredients in your recipe mask the harsh, bitter flavor. Besides the proper amount of sun exposure, high grade matcha's tea leaves are carefully harvested while they’re still young. This extra work is reflected in the price difference between culinary and ceremonial grade matcha.

Improper Ratios

The ratio to matcha and water is, of course, free to adjust according to the drinker’s preferences but adding too much matcha to one cup might taste a bit overpowering. We recommend using 1/2 - 1 tsp of matcha per 8 ounces of liquid. As always, play around and find out what tastes best to you! 

Japan Tea Field
Territory

3 Leaf Tea imports our tea from Shizuoka, Uji, and Fukuoka, Japan. All of these areas are known throughout the world for their superior matcha quality and well rounded flavors. Matcha isn't only grown in Japan - matcha grown in China and India have also become available for purchase online. Just like the same variety of wine has a different taste depending on where the grapes were grown, matcha’s favor will also change depending on where it was produced. These differences will make some matcha taste better than others. 

In many cases, incorrect water temperature is often the reason why matcha turns bitter but it's not the only culprit. Other factors like storage and production area can affect how the matcha tastes once prepared. Armed with the right information these effects can be reduced or even eliminated entirely! We’re excited that we can share our passion for matcha with you and we want to ensure that every cup makes you feel your best and most vibrant self.



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