We talk with a lot of people who enjoy matcha in a variety of ways. Almost everyone is in one of these four groups.
1) The "just give me the nutrition, please" people.
These are people who most concerned about getting all the nutritional goodies that matcha offers (to read more about matcha's many health benefits, go here). They want the nutrients. They don't really care that much about taste. They want to put a scoop in their smoothie as a kind of nutritional insurance policy. Our culinary matcha is the most cost-effective choice here. You wouldn't really want or certainly wouldn't need a rarer hyperpremium matcha for this, because the nutritional profile is similar with most matcha, and all the subtleties of the more expensive matcha would be lost amid all the other ingredients. This is also the matcha you want if you're cooking with it. Win win -- great matcha at a great price that makes you feel great. Very cost-effective, as low as 25 cents per serving.
2) The latte people.
People seem to love the taste of milks, both animal and nut, with matcha, and it's easy to see why: there's a true affinity matcha has with all dairy actually. You can make a beautiful hyper-green matcha butter, sprinkle it on yogurt, make ice cream with it, and froth it up with hot milk. Can certainly double as culinary for all the uses above, but its deeper umami and better aromas and color makes it the choice better for enjoying as a drink, both cold and hot. Inexpensive and tasty (with milk) matcha. 40 to 50 cents per serving.
3) The quaffing cold drink people
The cold brew is for you if you want to drink it ice cold. It is surreally good in warmer weather. Nothing, and I mean nothing, quenches thirst like a frosty coldbrew matcha. I tend to sip on it all day long. It's a great accompaniment for lunch. And even though it has almost no calories (3 per serving), it actually sates/satiates. Really perfect for anyone doing intermittent fasting, most people can drink as much as they want. Also keeps you maximally hydrated, especially for men, many of whom don't drink nearly enough water (women seem to be better at this; I know a billion or so couples who follow this pattern). 50 to 80 cents per serving.
4) The hyperpremium, "water-only please" people.
For those who like it warm, unadorned. Youngest growth only, which makes the tea far less bitter and astringent than the others, which is what makes is hyperpremium. Fantastic electric color, strong umami, ultra-fine grind for better frothability, and long, long finishes. You can of course make it with whatever ingredients you like, but it behooves you to try it straight-up, water only. You'll be convinced it needs nothing else. These are the finest and rarest teas in Japan, and really are enjoyed best with water, no hotter than 175F -- more umami comes out at lower temperatures. Many tea connoisseurs in Japan like it at almost-tepid 130F or even lower. water. The sommeliers and the epicures love the hyperpremium for taste reasons and just for pure pleasure ... all the health benefits and nutrition are just a happy side benefit. Prices can range wildly here, from about a dollar a serving up to, say $7 a serving.
Notice you don't see the word "ceremonial" anywhere? It's because it's not a very helpful term in today's marketplace. There are no enforceable or even casual rules about what ceremonial actually means. It sort of vaguely means that it's the tea used in ceremonies in Japan, but, as many of us who have experienced tea ceremonies in Japan and elseswhere can attest, quality has an enormous variance. Much of it is dreadful, undrinkable, even, when whipped up with water only; it's really culinary matcha masking as something fancier, something vaguely related to a ceremony somewhere.
I don't believe any of it is purposefully misleading, let alone malicious. It's just ... uninformed. Sure there are plenty of unscrupulous matcha merchants who actively participate in misleading consumers, but overall I think people genuinely don't know. They think matcha is matcha, and that it has a certain bitter, not-so-appealing taste. This can be forgiven, since almost all the matcha for sale on a marketplace like Amazon fits that description. Nor are most merchants comfortable with paying, and charging, the higher prices needed for better quality matcha. There is simply no getting around it: good matcha is more expensive than bad matcha.
Matcha quality is on a spectrum. It's not an off-on switch, ceremonial or not ceremonial. Many matcha deserve a 1 on a scale of 1-10, if you're lucky you might get a 4. You have to dig pretty deep to get a 7. 9s and 10s are exceedingly rare. They are invariably expensive compared to other matcha.
Which one are you? We'd love to hear from you if you don't fit any of the four .... (actually we'd love to hear from you regardless! Always curious to hear how people create peak experiences with matcha. Send me a note!