Why Is Matcha So Expensive? (8 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Matcha is a fantastic powder made from a specific type of green tea, and it has been taking the world by storm. While matcha is commonly used to create hot tea, it has been in various desserts, beverages, and more.

If you want to buy matcha but notice the price tag, you may have wondered why matcha is so expensive. I did the research, and here is what I learned!

Why Is Matcha So Expensive?

Matcha is expensive because creating it involves a tedious process. You need to cultivate, harvest, and prepare matcha in a specific manner for the powder to be considered authentic matcha. The process often only creates a small amount of matcha. Other factors such as importing matcha from Japan can make it more expensive.

Are you still curious about what other reasons impact matcha’s price? I made a list of other explanations below, so keep reading!

1. Cultivation

A huge reason why matcha is expensive is that the cultivation process of matcha is complex.

Notably, one of the most tedious parts of cultivating matcha is that matcha is shade-grown. In fact, matcha is one of the only kinds of shade-grown plants.

That said, farmers achieve this by leaving the matcha plants under the sun most of the year and then covering the matcha with a tarp for three to four weeks before harvesting.

Further, farmers do this because covering the matcha plants inhibits photosynthesis.

By inhibiting photosynthesis, the plants try to complete the photosynthesis cycle, forcing the plant to concentrate all the matcha’s nutrients into the leaves.

Moreover, shade-growing is crucial to give matcha its signature bitter and sweet taste.

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Still, if the matcha has only been shade-grown for a few days or not at all, it will taste very different and not be considered authentic matcha.

2. Harvesting Period And Amount

Most matcha is hand-harvested, and matcha has a short harvesting period of one to two months.

That said, this process is fairly time-consuming, but the matcha leaves will only be viable for a short time, which adds to matcha’s price tag.

Moreover, whatever matcha gets harvested is not a lot. Unlike other teas, matcha can only be made from the leaves, which means that the twigs and stems cannot be used to make matcha.

Additionally, matcha’s stems and leaves are not added because the leaves and stems have different flavors.

Lastly, only the leaves of the matcha plant have the sweet, bitter, and smooth flavors traditional matcha has.

3. How Matcha Is Prepared

As mentioned earlier, only the matcha leaves may be used to create matcha.

However, further effort is required to pick out only young green leaves, so any other leaf that is not up to standard will not be used.

4. Processing

4. Processing

Another reason why making matcha is a tedious and expensive process is that matcha can only be considered authentic if the matcha leaves are stone-milled.

That said, stone mills used to make matcha are called Ishi Usu. Further, stone-milling is a very time-consuming procedure because the mill revolves slowly.

Also, slow speeds are crucial to avoid producing heat, which can oxidize matcha. Since the process is slow, a stone mill usually takes one hour to create 40 grams of matcha.

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5. Geological Limitations

While matcha already grows in small quantities and can only be harvested within short periods, matcha cannot grow in many areas.

Instead, matcha may only grow in two regions of Japan, which are Aichi and Kyoto. Technically, matcha can grow in other regions of Japan.

However, traditional Japanese tea farmers and markers believe that matcha can only be grown in Aichi and Kyoto, making matcha more expensive because of the limited growing areas.

6. High Demand

Matcha has vastly grown in popularity over the past few decades.

While matcha may date back as far as the 12th century, it has been a fan favorite for tea lovers worldwide, whether it’s served as a hot tea, milk tea, or even in desserts.

Since matcha is loved worldwide, the demand for matcha is high.

Naturally, there is only so much authentic matcha available worldwide, so the price of traditional matcha goes up frequently.

7. Different Grades

If you have looked at matcha online or in a store, it often receives a “grade,” and the grade will usually determine the price.

Usually, matcha gets graded when it is made and gets graded into two main groups, which are culinary and ceremonial.

That said, culinary grade matcha gets divided into several subgroups: kitchen, ingredient, classic, cafe, and premium.

Also, culinary grade matcha is “lower quality” matcha and is often best used for cooking and various beverages where matcha will be mixed with other ingredients.

In comparison, ceremonial grade matcha is the best matcha you can buy, which is why ceremonial grade matcha will be more expensive.

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Moreover, ceremonial grade matcha is meant to be served with hot water only as you should appreciate the pure flavor.

8. Matcha Is From Japan

Real matcha only comes from Japan, which is a huge reason why matcha is expensive.

That said, this means that you would likely have to deal with a hefty fee if you are not in Japan because of the costs for importing, exporting, shipping, taxes, etc.

Moreover, many people in Japan treasure their culture.

Therefore, Japanese culture encourages people to stick to their roots and preserve the true flavor as much as possible, which involves a lot of work that increases the price.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why protein powder is so expensive, why maple syrup is so expensive, and why Manuka honey is so expensive.

Conclusion

Matcha is expensive for various reasons, and some of the most notable reasons are that it is difficult to grow, harvest, and prepare matcha.

Also, even once the matcha is prepared, the process of making matcha usually only creates a small amount of matcha powder.

However, other factors like shipping fees and taxes can raise the price of matcha. Moreover, what grade of matcha you buy can also determine how much the matcha will cost.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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