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Trader Joe's Matcha Green Tea

Dear reader, you may notice in the coming days that there are changes coming to this blog. Not nearly as dramatic, controversial, or dlfjepotigfjad;lkgjadsf (for my readers not as fluent in internet speak, that was a keyboard pound of frustration) as say, the government, but changes nonetheless. Mostly because there is coming a day where I will not live within a stone's throw of a Trader Joe's store. A sad sad day. But probably a good day for my wallet. :P 




I've noticed that TJ's has been coming out with a number of "made in Japan" products. Yuzu hot sauce (thought about getting it, but haven't pulled the trigger yet). My beloved mochi rice nugget snack. And THIS. I really really did not want to get it, mostly because of the price. But that packaging appealed to my inner minimalist. And matcha is a growing love of mine. My wallet I acquiesced. Let's not blame my wallet like it has a mind of its own. 

A few months ago, I took a break from coffee and instead started my days with a lazy/cheater version of a matcha latte. I found that it not only gave me the caffeine boost I needed to be productive and work well, it also didn't make me jittery. In fact, it made me alert but in a calm, peaceful kind of way.


In the most basic terms, matcha is green tea ground into a powder. I'm definitely not a matcha connoisseur or expert by any means. I have yet to experience the Japanese tea ceremony and I certainly am not the one to consult about the health benefits and whatnot. But I should say that if you've never had matcha before, take that product description with a big grain of salt. Matcha is indeed delicate and earthy. There's really not much sweetness I can detect, but again it's kind of like drinking a cup of coffee and being able to detect flower notes and whatnot. It probably exists in some sophisticated palate kind of way, but for the layman, please don't read this and think that there is actual sweetness here. Unless you add sugar that is. 

Anyhoo. The good news here is that it is a product of Japan. Also, there's apparently no extra things added, like brown rice filler (which apparently exists. Beware of buying matcha powder with stuff added). Also, there's grades of matcha - ceremonial (which is the highest quality and therefore more expensive, typically used for the tea ceremony) and culinary (lowest quality and is further broken down into premium, cafe, culinary, etc). Again, I'm not an expert, but I do know that high quality matcha AIN'T CHEAP. My hunch is that the matcha TJ's has procured here is probably somewhere between culinary and premium grade, probably closer to culinary. Because why would you sell anything better to the masses that probably don't know the difference? Like grades of gas - if you don't know the difference and don't drive a car that needs the higher quality stuff, you go for the regular lowbrow stuff to get by. 

Now as for the actual product - it tastes pretty good actually. Earthy. Delicate. All the things I've come to expect from matcha. I prepared it hot per package directions, and it tasted like any old cup of matcha tea I've had. I also went through the trouble of making a green tea latte. I probably would never ever ever make it according to the cold directions - mostly because I'll bet you that you'll end up with clumps of matcha powder in your water bottle. While matcha tea is delicious, matcha clumps are not. I mean, I end up with matcha clumps even when I whisk it with my very best effort. Perhaps, I should invest in a matcha whisk. 


My main beef here is the price to quantity ratio, which is reflected in my overall rating of this product. First of all, it's $6.99 for 10.5g of matcha. That comes out to $0.66 per gram. Now, my gut instinct is that for a mere culinary grade matcha, THAT IS CRAZY EXPENSIVE. Furthermore, I whipped out my digital scale (if you love to bake, this baby is life changing!). Each packet is supposed to have 1.5g. The first packet I weighed didn't even register 1 gram! Granted, my scale is only sensitive to the gram and not a tenth of a gram, but still! The weight of TWO packets came out to TWO grams (which could be anywhere between 2.1 to 2.9g). BUT STILL. It SHOULD HAVE come out to 3 grams. Even taking into account the calibration of the scale, I am wary that I'm not actually getting the amount of product that I paid for. So if I want to be mean and theorize that each packet only has 1g instead of 1.5g, that means I'm paying $0.99 per gram. That is CRAZY. 

So I went off on a search to research the price of matcha. Because when you like to save money, that's what you do. 

Organic Culinary Matcha: $29.99 / 100g = $0.30/gram
Organic Premium Culinary Matcha: $10.99 / 30g = $0.36/gram
Tmatcha Organic Matcha Culinary Grade: $9.39/ 114g = $0.08/gram (product of Japan, but still kinda suspicious...)
Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha: $24.95/ 30g = $0.83/gram 

In other words, TJ's is selling matcha (that is probably decent grade..nothing higher) at likely two or three times the normal price. And people are buying it. During my most recent TJ's trip, that matcha shelf was nearly empty. All I can say is that somebody is making a lot of money. Which is probably a good thing for TJ's, bad for the rest of us. But who am I to say what you should or should not throw your money away at...


The only circumstances I might find acceptable for this product is travel. To a country where there is no matcha. Or anytime you find yourself at an airport where everything is marked up. But even then, are you really going to whip out a dinky little packet to make 8 ounces of a matcha not-latte (which, in America at least, isn't even the standard size of a small drink)? I used up two packets to make about a 12 ounce, which probably on the more caffeinated side of what I usually make, plus a few teaspoons of sugar, and milk that I frothed by shaking in a mason jar. It was tasty, but I couldn't stomach the price, which ironically is still marginally cheaper than what you pay at a coffee shop ($2 + the cost of milk vs. $3.50, maybe more if you live in a city).  

Please please please, for the love of Abraham Lincoln and frugal grandmothers everywhere, if you buy this, don't use it for baking. Or anything other than drinking. Unless you like spending money more than you like saving it. 

TL;DR: Trader Joe's Matcha Green Tea. Japanese green tea powder, likely standard lowest grade, except TWO OR THREE TIMES the market price. 5 out of 10. 

*7/28/17 Edit*: I have since scoured the market for a comparable product. And yes, TJ's offers a cheaper product when it comes to to-go "sticks" of matcha powder. Admittedly, the TJ's matcha does taste pretty good, but I still stick with my original rating to reflect the price point I would personally pay for a matcha product of that particular quality. And I still think that it's possible to get a comparable product in bulk more cheaply.  
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Comments

  1. Ha, ha, you sure are a saver! I would be OK with the price if I liked the flavor but still thanks for the advice. Shame on Trader Joe's for bamboozling us! Even if their stuff is pretty good.

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  2. I just discovered these packets at TJ's yesterday. I love matcha. Agree that it's too expensive but I wanted to give it a whirl. I did just 10 minutes ago mix up one packet in a 16.9 oz bottle of cool water. It dissolved fine. Nice deep green color. Pretty good matcha taste. Would like to find a cheaper solution, however.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad it worked for you! I'd recommend checking out an Asian grocery store, Amazon, or other reputable online matcha tea retailers for more affordable matcha.

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  3. Please don't listen to this non sense! Trader joes matcha packets are in fact ceremonial grade or better. I have tried many brands of matcha and at 66 cents a gram this is a great deal! You can go with other premium brands like DOMATCHA OR AIYA or even ITO EN's Matcha Love. I drank two varieties of Matcha Love this morning (usucha and organic classic) and I can honestly say that the Trader joes Matcha packets have a superior taste to Matcha Love's varieties. I have bought culinary pale green matcha before and this is certainly not that! Before ranting about the quality of something you should do your research and provide some comparisons, stupid people will read this and form an opinion based on this misinformation.This is your own personal opinion! and you obviously have not had that much exposure to many matcha varieties. Trader Joe's does an awesome job at sourcing quality products from around the world and offering them at the best bang for your buck value! Don't listen to this, I encourage you to do your own taste test and compare with other brands. This is a great buy and is super convenient. If you are a matcha snob and want the best of the best check out offering from Ippodo. It is crazy expensive but it is the best there is!

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  4. I'm on packet number 7 and can honestly say I don't notice anything different. I do not feel great, nor do I have great energy or anything but since I know it has amazing health benefits I stuck with it. Buying a new box tonight to give it another week but so far not impressed at all. Taste's like I'm drinking unsweetened tea, I was told to drink plain to get the most health benefits, which I'm doing but would like something cheaper.

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  5. I googled a review of TJ matcha packets because I wasn't really happy with it and wanted to see if anyone else agreed. I also thought it was overpriced. I didn't realize that I could get this cheaper on Amazon so thanks for researching that. My problem with TJ matcha is that it doesn't dissolve all the way! Even after using hot water from a tea kettle and stirring it vigorously for awhile, the tea still just settles mostly at the bottom with all these tiny chunks of matcha... not what I'm looking for in a tea. For me, this would be better used in smoothies.

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    Replies
    1. I had the same problem with the powder. You probably need to whisk it really well or use a traditional matcha whisk to dissolve it completely.

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