Recently, Matcha is popular all around the world. But what is actually happening with it today?
Nowadays in Japan the biggest Matcha producing areas are Uji in Kyoto and Nisho in Aichi. Altogether Japan makes about 2500t of Matcha per year and that accounts for about 3% of tea production here. Japanese tea exports abroad are quite small, about 5% of its tea production, but every year Matcha takes a bigger proportion of it.
To be completely honest, Japan seems to be struggling to meet the domestic and international demand for Matcha. Some Matcha grinding factories in Kyoto say that waiting time from placing an order to having Matcha ground is already over a month in length.
Many other tea prefectures are trying to jump on the trend and are quickly building Matcha factories. But the switch from producing leaf teas to producing powder teas may not be so quick. In addition to how the tea is grown and processed, for Matcha the kind of plant (a.k.a. tea cultivar) is also important. Some regions are dominated by one kind of cultivar (for example Yabukita), that is not always considered the best for Matcha. And if replanting is needed, it can take around 5 years until the tea can be harvested commercially.
Partly because of the growing world-wide popularity of Matcha, partly because of the struggle to meet the demand in Japan, other countries like China, South Korea, Thailand, etc. have started making powdered green teas, and often label them as Matcha. Because of lower production costs in those countries, these powders are becoming really common in western tea markets. Unfortunately, the quality is rarely up to standard. And if someone tries yellow-looking extremely bitter tea powder, it is easy to say they don’t like ‘Matcha’. That, of course, is damaging for the reputation of Matcha.
To avoid this kind of disillusionment it is always best to go directly to the source – the producer growing and making the tea. And luckily in recent years a number of Japanese tea producers willing to work directly with foreign customers is growing. If that is not feasible at the moment, at least you should ask more information from your tea provider: where and by who your Matcha is made. Being more tea-conscious will help to find better teas and have better experiences.