As consumer demand for organic products continues to rise, we’ve seen a synonymous surge in demand for organic Matcha as well, sparking more interest in this USDA certified product than it ever has before. So what’s the buzz about organic Matcha?

First off, certified organic means a product has been grown within USDA guidelines, such as farming without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. But getting a product certified is much more than just what happens on the farm—it’s following all industry standards for storage, processing, packaging, labeling, and even shipping! A simple mistake like putting the certification logo in the wrong spot will deem the product non-organic, even if the product already passed USDA’s rigorous tests.

So what’s the difference between organic and conventional Matcha? There may be more to producing high quality organically certified Matcha than you think.

 

Farming Practices

As pioneers of organic certification in the Matcha industry, Aiya farmers have spent over 30 years perfecting their farming techniques. Although organic and conventional Matcha are both physically grown in the same way (read more here), farmers of the organic Matcha fields must adjust their methods to comply with strict regulations.

The most obvious difference between our organic and conventional Matcha fields is the ban of all pesticides and biocide substances that protect plants from pests in our organic fields. In addition, fertilizer types and amounts are highly regulated. Even though the use of these substances is still regulated for our conventional fields, it’s not nearly as strict as its organic counterpart.

 

Farmers picking tea leaves.

 

Field Location 

When Aiya first pioneered organic Matcha cultivation in the 1970s, it was crucial to find a location that could grow tea leaves that would impart the distinct flavor indicative to the Nishio fields. After endless searching, Shimoyama was chosen for its naturally cooler climate and location just outside of Nishio. Since Shimoyama is located 2,000 feet above sea level, the cooler temperature acts as a natural deterrent to bugs and other pests, as few can survive the weather difference.

 

Taste and Color

Typically, organically grown foods are said to have more flavor and nutrients than its conventional counterparts. This, however, is not entirely true for Matcha. Although both organic and conventional Matcha undergo similar growing processes, the alteration in farming methods actually makes a significant difference in plant component and ultimately taste. Unlike other agriculture products, tea is harvested using the same plant over a span of 25-30 years. And because of Matcha’s shade-growing process, the plants are not able to get their nutrients from direct sunlight. This means that the tea plants must rely heavily on the soil and fertilizer to get its nutrients. Since fertilizer use is strictly regulated for organic Matcha, the tea plant may not fully replenish its nutrients in time for the following harvest. This slight loss in nutrients can cause the flavor of organic Matcha to become lighter and crisper, and the color to become slightly lighter as well.

Let us reiterate, though, that fertilizer use is still regulated for our conventional Matcha, and only great quality fertilizers are used. Although there is a slight loss in nutrient absorption for organic Matcha, the difference in nutritional value of a cup of conventional versus organic Matcha is microscopic. At the end of the day, it all depends on your taste preferences—happy drinking!