Why Is Matcha So Expensive? Is It Worth the Money?

Jill Caren

Instead of coffee, I like a cup of matcha tea during my afternoon break. I wish I could have a cup of matcha every day, …

Categories Matcha

Instead of coffee, I like a cup of matcha tea during my afternoon break. I wish I could have a cup of matcha every day, but that is not always possible, especially when I am on a budget.

Matcha is somewhat more costly than other types of green tea. Why is matcha so expensive?

Matcha is expensive because its production involves significantly more manual labor than other green teas, and also because other factors like limited cultivable land, increased demand, and a unique production process have a significant influence on the final price of matcha.

Let’s go into detail and explain a little more about the higher cost of matcha compared to other types of green tea.

Factors Contributing to Matcha’s Expensive Price Tag

The primary reasons why matcha is expensive are:

  • Limited land suitable for cultivating high-quality tea plants for matcha production
  • Long time to grow new tea plants
  • Increased demand
  • A unique growing process
  • Manual harvesting
  • Processing the leaves into powder
  • More nutritious than other green teas

Let’s take a deeper look at the key factors that contribute to matcha’s high price.

The Area of Land Suitable for Growing Matcha is Limited

The authentic matcha is always from Japan. Green tea for matcha production is cultivated throughout Japan, primarily in the south. Matcha is mostly grown in the following areas:

  • Uji in Kyoto Prefecture-best and most expensive matcha
  • Shizuoka
  • Kagoshima
  • Mie
  • Miyazaki

The matcha-producing places indicated above are distinguished by fertile soil, a pleasant climate, and a modest elevation. These elements are required for the production of high-quality matcha.

In Japan, available land for growing and manufacturing matcha is limited. This undoubtedly has a significant influence on the final price of matcha. There is high demand and limited quality land for production.

A New Tea Plant Takes Time To Grow

It takes years to grow a tea plant that yields high-quality matcha leaves. Growing tea plants takes between 3 and 5 years on average before they can produce quality tea leaves for matcha.

Farmers must therefore invest 3–5 years on new tea plants, with no return in the first years.

The price would be much lower if tea plants could be grown in just one or two years. Today, there is a greater demand for matcha powder, and supply cannot keep up.

Increased Demand

In 2020, the global matcha market surpassed USD 3 billion. It is expected to reach USD 5.5 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 8% between 2021 and 2026.

Increased matcha demand in the past years is mostly due to matcha’s popularity not just in making tea but also in the use of matcha in various food products and even beauty products. This will further increase the price of high-quality matcha.

I should point out that there is a distinction between matcha powder for tea and matcha for cooking. So there are two matcha grades: ceremonial grade matcha and culinary grade matcha.

When whisked with hot water, ceremonial-grade matcha is meant to be consumed on its own. Culinary-grade matcha, on the other hand, is always less expensive and is intended to be used in lattes, smoothies, and other foods.

So let’s get back to our topic. The demand for high-quality original matcha from Japan is rising. There is limited land for growing tea in Japan. As a result, matcha is becoming more expensive.

The Unique Growing Process

The growing process involves shading the green tea plant (Camellia sinensis) for about 20–30 days before harvesting the leaves.

This step is not used for other green teas except for Gyokuro (an expensive green tea). Farmers use plastic or burlap cloaks to protect the tea plants. Today, canopy covering is also used.

Shading the tea plant before harvesting is essential in the matcha manufacturing process. It causes the entire plant to produce more chlorophyll by inhibiting photosynthesis in the leaves. This modifies the caffeine level of the leaves and also increases the amino acid and antioxidant content.

The shading process requires more labor and extra material, which adds to the final cost of matcha.

Manual Harvesting

High-quality matcha is always hand-harvested. Farmers select only the highest-quality leaves, leaving the lower-quality leaves on the tea plant. They are later harvested for lower-quality green tea.

It is believed that just 10% of green tea leaves are suitable for matcha. Because matcha is prepared from only the best green tea leaves, you will have to pay for such a luxury.

This hand-picking method takes time, skill, and additional labor. All of these affect the final price of matcha.

Processing The Leaves

This step of matcha production also contributes to its higher price. Hand-picked leaves that come to the factory for processing are dried, and then the stems and veins of the leaves are removed. This, too, is done by hand.

So again, we have manual labor and a time-consuming process, which contribute to the higher price of matcha.

Once the stems and veins are removed, the leaves are stored in a cool area. After that comes another costly process-grinding the leaves.

High-quality matcha is milled by hand using granite stone wheels. Just be aware that this is a time-consuming process. It takes around an hour to produce 30 grams (1 oz.) of high-quality matcha powder.

Now you may have a question: why is this grinding process of matcha so slow? Matcha’s grinding speed plays a vital role in the end flavor and color of matcha.

A slower grinding speed reduces the heat and friction applied to the leaf. This preserves the green hue and sweet flavor of matcha.

Higher grinding speeds generate more heat and friction, which may “burn” the tea leaf. This may cause its vibrant green color to fade, indicating bitterness in matcha.

More Nutritious Than Other Green Teas

Matcha is loaded with antioxidants, particularly the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

Catechins fight oxidation, counter free radicals and boost the immune system. According to studies, matcha has 3–10 times more antioxidants than traditional green teas.

When you drink matcha tea, you ingest the entire powdered leaf. When drinking other varieties of green tea, you simply steep the dry leaves and then remove them after the steeping time is over.

L-theanine is also found in matcha. An amino acid that, when mixed with the caffeine in matcha, helps you feel energized and focused while also calming your body.

Do you want to know more about the caffeine in matcha? Go on, then see my detailed post: How Long Does Matcha Caffeine Last?

So, when compared to other green teas, matcha has higher nutritional content and multiple benefits. This also contributes to its higher price compared to other teas.

Matcha making by using a bamboo whisk and matcha powder
The process of making matcha

How Much Does High-Quality Japanese Matcha Cost?

A high-quality ceremonial grade matcha powder from Uji, Japan will cost you $1.3-$3.3 per gram (0.035 oz). The price for culinary-grade matcha powder is between $0.3 and $0.75 per gram (0.035 oz).

Always look for the term “ceremonial” on the packaging when purchasing high-quality matcha powder for tea.

Sellers may use deceptive wording to offer you matcha that is not worth the price. They could say things like “top grade”, “traditional grade”, “finest grade” and so on. Don’t fall into this trap since matcha powder should not be too expensive if it does not state “ceremonial grade” on the label.

How Can I Identify a High-Quality Matcha?

Remember that high-quality matcha is always produced in Japan. The powder should be a rich, vibrant green. The aroma should be fresh and green, and the flavor should be pleasant with no lasting bitterness.

On the label, look for “ceremonial grade” 100 percent Japanese Matcha. The price per gram should be more than $1.

Is Matcha Worth the Money?

In my opinion, matcha is worth all the money. Besides the fact that matcha is far more expensive than other types of green tea, it also offers multiple health benefits and is very tasty. I’m talking here about high-quality matcha.

Also, for one cup of matcha tea, you need approximately 1 gram of powder. So, 30 servings of matcha may be made from a 30-gram package of matcha powder. 

For high-quality matcha powder, you need to pay more. For this reason, you should make your matcha tea the right way. So, you need to use the recommended water temperature to not burn your powder and waste money on bitter tea.

Here are the details on the ideal matcha water temperature.

Finally, high-quality Japanese matcha is more expensive than other green teas since there are many more steps involved in creating the final matcha powder.

I personally like a cup of matcha tea made by using the traditional method with a bamboo whisk (chasen), bamboo scoop (chashaku), and a bowl to whisk the powder.

This tea’s vegetal, full-bodied taste with a slightly sweet finish is what keeps it at the top of my list. When I add up the health benefits, I would say that matcha is maybe a little expensive, but it is worth the price.