Where does matcha come from? This is usually the second question we get asked after, “what is matcha”.
The short answer is that matcha comes from Japan, but where in Japan?
This is the question that we hope to answer in this article, as we take you on a deep dive through the matcha production process from leaf to cup. We’ll also show you where matcha comes from when it’s low quality versus high quality.
Let’s get started!
Where does matcha come from in Japan?
If we take a look at a map of Japan, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it is very spread out in terms of Latitude.
Japan has everything from extreme cold climates in the Northern Island of Hokkaido, to tropical climates in the small Southern Islands like Okinawa.
The tea plant is an evergreen shrub native to Southern China and it prefers mild, subtropical climates.
For this reason, it can’t be easily cultivated north of Tokyo and therefore matcha is really only grown in Southern and Central Japan.
Interested to learn more about where other Japanese green teas are grown? Make sure to read our article 👉 Where Does Japanese Tea Grow?
Where does matcha come from in Central Japan?
The largest production of Matcha actually happens in Central Japan, which includes well known areas like Kyoto with richest tea history. It's also where the best matcha farmers are from such as Nakai matchas, the chanoka matchas or the osada matchas. While most of Japan is mountainous, there are small pockets of flat land in these areas where tea can be easily produced.
Downsides to growing tea in colder climates
The downside of this area is that the winters can be quite cold, and therefore the farmers need to take certain steps in order to avoid the frost.
Some farmers will cover the roots of the matcha plant, use fans to blow air over the tea plants and even spray water on them, all to keep the tea plants above freezing so the frost doesn’t damage them.
Where does matcha come from in Southern Japan?
In southern Japan, there are lots of great growing regions for matcha like Kagoshima, where the Sakamoto matchas are from, Kirishima, where the henta matcha is from and Yame.
Here, the tea plants benefit from mild winters and rich, volcanic soils. While central Japan produces the largest volume of tea, there are exceptionally high quality teas being produced in the South
Advantages of growing matcha in warmer climates
Because of the cold winters in Central Japan, the farmers tend to grow tougher, more frost resistant tea cultivars like Yabukita. In Southern Japan, frost isn’t as much of an issue, so the farmers can experiment with more delicate tea cultivars like Saemidori and Asatsuyu.
These more delicate tea cultivars can produce a sweeter flavor in the tea. As a result, you will tend to find more of these rare tea varietals produced in Southern Japan compared to the North.
Where does matcha come from when it is high quality
Where does matcha come from might not be the right question. Matcha can come from anywhere, so a better question might be where does matcha come from when it is high quality.
Japan mastered the art of matcha over the past 800 years. The first powdered tea that was brought over from China in the 8th century was likely very bitter, but through the discovery of shading, stem removal and steaming, the flavor of this tea was greatly improved overtime.
These techniques were passed down through generations, and the matcha being produced today is likely the best it has ever been. While it is possible to produce high quality matcha in China, the best matcha tends to come from Japan because of the multiple generations of knowledge, specialized equipment and unique varieties of tea plants.
Where does matcha come from when it is low quality
So now that we’ve talked about where does matcha come from when it is high quality, let’s talk about the low quality stuff. Of course, low quality matcha can be produced just about anywhere, but a lot of it will likely be coming from China simply because China produces the largest volume of tea.
If you know anything about matcha, you likely already know that matcha can’t be made from just any powdered tea leaves. The leaves have to be shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest, the top 3 sprouts are carefully picked, the stems are removed and then the tea is ground into a fine powder.
If these steps are skipped, you end up with a low quality matcha. This is how you’re able to find those cheap matchas made in China being sold online. They are still made from powdered tea, but they will taste extremely bitter.
History of Japanese Green Tea
The history of green tea in Japan is extensive and captivating. Initially originating in China, it quickly transformed upon reaching the Islands, taking on a distinctively Japanese identity. If you're interested about the topic, make sure to read our article 👉 History of green tea in japan & Tea ceremony
Where Does Matcha Come From when you get it from Nio Teas?
If you want to try premium matcha tea, you can get it from our website, nioteas.com. After traveling around Japan for the past few years, we’ve met with dozens of farmers and sampled hundreds of different matcha teas.
We’ve ultimately selected a small handful of our favorites. These matchas are produced on small family farms in the Japanese countryside, and we’ve had the great privilege to get to know the farmers and their families over the years.
If you’d like to support us and our mission, we would really appreciate it if you could try some of our teas with free worldwide shipping.