Have you been browsing for matcha online or at your local shop and been shocked by the price? Don’t worry, we also think the price of matcha is insane! However, matcha producers aren’t sitting around concocting a plan to exploit consumers. There are some key reasons why this lux green tea is expensive, check them out below!
Why is matcha so expensive? Matcha is so expensive because producing the powder is very labor-intensive as the leaves are hand-harvested, producing just 30 grams takes 3 hours! Also, only the finest leaves are used to make matcha, it has to be shipped from Japan, and global demand has radically increased over the last 10 years.
Now you know the basic reasons why matcha is very costly! Let’s dive into each factor more deeply so you can truly understand the matcha market and, unfortunately learn why the price of matcha is not going to drop anytime soon.
1. Making Matcha Is Very Hard Work
It takes hours and hours to produce matcha powder. It isn’t as simple as picking the leaves with a big harvesting machine and then throwing all of the leaves into a grinder. To produce lovely high-quality matcha powder, farmers have to take these steps:
1 month before harvest, farmers cover the matcha plants known as camellia sinensis. Covering the plants causes them to produce high levels of chlorophyll which gives matcha its vibrant green color and makes the leaves softer.
Traditional Japanese matcha is always harvested by hand! Farmers closely inspect the leaves and only take the highest quality leaves. The leaves that didn’t make the cut are left on the bush. As farmers spend hours studying the leaves and handpicking them, they expect to be compensated for all this hard work, and matcha’s high price reflects this.
- Steaming the Leaves
After the matcha leaves have been handpicked, they need to be steamed otherwise, they can lose their bright green color. The matcha leaves must be steamed for 30 seconds!
During this phase, all of the matcha leaves are run through an oven over and over again until they are completely dry. A single batch of matcha leaves takes 30 minutes to dry.
- Separating and Deveining
After the matcha leaves are dry, all the stems and veins are removed, and the leaves are cut. This is in preparation for the grinding process.
- Stone Grinding
The farmer then sends the raw matcha leaves to the producer, who then stone grinds them. The farmers don’t grind them as once ground; they need to be packaged immediately. Otherwise, they can turn bitter and lose their color.
After all these steps are completed, the matcha is finally ready to be packaged and shipped to your home! It is estimated just 30 grams of matcha takes over 3 hours to produce. With so much time and effort involved in producing matcha, it becomes clear why this tea is so expensive!
2. Only the Very Best Leaves Are Used to Make Matcha Powder
A major reason why matcha is so expensive is that farmers are very selective about the leaves they use. Farmers study the matcha leaves and only choose the very best. Farmers take the selection of matcha tea leaves so seriously that they hand harvest and closely inspect all of the bush’s leaves prior to pruning. It is estimated that only 10% of green tea leaves are suitable for matcha. As matcha is made from only the very finest green tea leaves, you to end up paying for this privilege.
You can reduce the cost of your matcha by purchasing culinary-grade matcha. Culinary grade matcha is still made from high-quality green tea leaves, but they are not as fine as the leaves used for ceremonial matcha. Culinary grade matcha costs between $0.25 and $0.5 per gram, while ceremonial grade matcha costs between $0.75 and $1 per gram.
3. Matcha Bushes Have A Low Harvest
The harvest season for matcha leaves is only around 2 months! Matcha leaves must be harvested during the Ichibancha season, which starts in April and ends at the beginning of June. The Matcha bush is also a very fragile bush, and weather that is slightly too hot or cold can drastically reduce the number of harvestable leaves. Farmers are very selective with the leaves that they harvest as they want to preserve quality and do not use stems or twigs, which are used in other teas, which further reduces the harvest.
Japan is a small country in terms of physical space and is densely populated. Land in Japan is also very expensive. Farmers do not have the luxury of setting up huge sprawling operations and can not easily expand their matcha growing operations which puts a cap on harvest sizes.
4. It Takes A Long Time Grow Matcha Leaves
The price of everything is governed by demand and supply, and matcha is no different. Farmers are not able to keep up with the demand for matcha because it takes years to cultivate matcha bushes. It takes the average farmer 5 years from the time they prepare the soil and grow their bushes and start harvesting matcha leaves. 5 years is a very long time and a lot of work. The price of matcha has to incentivize farmers to invest all those years and time into growing matcha. The price of matcha will naturally rise to the point where farmers can grow the green tea leaves profitably and are fairly rewarded for their effort. If matcha could be grown in 1 year, the price would be much, much lower!
The price of matcha could decrease if farmers figured out a way to reduce the time it takes to grow matcha leaves. For example, they may be able to genetically modify the camellia sinensis bush and make it grow faster. The price of matcha could also drop if other countries started growing matcha leaves, however, currently, Japan is by far the top producer, and Japanese matcha is prized for its flavor, freshness, and lovely color.
See also: Why Is Matcha So Popular? The Real Truth
5. Matcha Has To Be Shipped From Japan
The best matcha in the world undoubtedly comes from Japan. Nishio city and Uji city produce 80% of Japan’s matcha, and the Asian powerhouse produces 70,000 tons of green tea every year! Japan’s matcha is known for its bright green color, fresh vegetal taste, and amazing health benefits. If you want to enjoy the finest matcha and you don’t live in Japan, you have to pay extra to cover shipping costs.
Even though advanced global transport networks have reduced the cost of shipping, it is still expensive to send matcha around the world. Also, when matcha hits your supermarket stores, the final price doesn’t just include shipping costs. You also have to pay for import taxes and profit margins for producers, importers, and finally, the supermarket. All the added cost as your matcha passes through the supply chain adds and results in matcha being very expensive!
6. Global Demand For Matcha Has Radically Increased
The global matcha market is growing at almost 10% per year and is predicted to do so up to 2026! The North American market alone is expected to be worth $1 billion by 2027, and the global market is already worth $3 billion. This explosive growth in the matcha market is thanks to the tea’s amazing bright green color, rich flavor, and incredible health benefits. Now matcha has become mainstream, and you can find it in all major supermarkets and in Starbucks. As demand continues to rise and as nearly all of the supply is located in one country (Japan), you can expect the price of matcha to continue to increase!
See also: What Milk Goes Best with Matcha?
Matcha is very expensive. High-quality ceremonial grade matcha costs between $0.75 and $1 per gram. In comparison, culinary grade matcha costs between $0.25 and $0.5 per gram. Matcha is so expensive because it is hand-harvested, matcha bushes have a small harvest, and only the best tea leaves are used. Matcha’s high price is also caused by strong global demand, which continues to grow, and nearly all matcha is produced in Japan, where land and labor are expensive.