Why Does Matcha Taste Like Fish?

With its rising popularity in foods and drinks, matcha has become the trendy green tea to know. But some find this vibrant green powder has an unexpected flavor – instead of vegetal green tea taste, they experience matcha that oddly tastes like fish.

Where does this unpleasant fishy taste come from in some matcha powders? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the off-putting flavor and how to avoid it when buying and preparing matcha for the best experience.

What is Matcha?

First, let’s start with what matcha is and how it’s made:

  • Matcha is a powdered green tea made from the leaves of shade-grown Camellia sinensis tea plants.
  • The tea plants are covered to increase chlorophyll and amino acid content during growth.
  • The leaves are harvested by hand, then the veins and stems are removed.
  • The leaves go through a stone grinding process into a fine, bright green powder.
  • When whisked into hot water, the powder fully dissolves to create a vibrant green tea.
  • High quality ceremonial grade matcha has a more intense green color and flavor. Culinary grade is often cheaper and less vibrant.

So real, fresh matcha is simply green tea leaves finely powdered. Good quality matcha has a pleasantly vegetal, umami taste.

Why Does Some Matcha Taste Fishy?

With proper production and storage, matcha has no fishy flavors. So what causes some matcha powder to develop unpleasant fishy or stale undertones?


  • As matcha powder sits, the components slowly oxidize over time. This chemical change alters the flavor.
  • Oxidation also causes fading of the bright green color. Older matcha turns dull yellow-green.
  • Like stale coffee, oxidized matcha loses its fresh taste. Stale, bitter notes come through.
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Heat Exposure

  • Heat causes matcha’s flavors to degrade quicker. Storing matcha in hot conditions speeds oxidation.
  • Baking matcha into goods can scorch the powder if high heat is used, resulting in a slight burnt taste.
  • Exposure to hot water similarly causes matchy to lose its freshness faster and absorb off-putting flavors.

Poor Storage

  • Matcha is sensitive to air, light, humidity, and temperature. Storing it improperly makes it deteriorate faster.
  • Keeping matcha in the fridge or freezer lengthens shelf life but can impart cold temperature odors if unpacked.
  • Open containers allow matcha to absorb other aromas like fish, spices, or smoked foods stored nearby.

Low Quality Production

  • Inferior processing methods may not sufficiently remove stems, veins, contaminants, or pesticides.
  • Lower grades of ceremonial matcha often have weaker, less pleasant flavor to begin with.
  • Cheap matcha is more likely to be old, oxidized stock or improperly stored.

So while real matcha has no seafood flavors, poorly handled matcha can take on fishy undertones or other off tastes with age, exposure, and inadequate storage.

Tips for Avoiding Fishy Matcha

You can avoid fish-flavored matcha powder with these simple tips:

  • Buy from reputable sellers – Purchase from specialty tea retailers known for selling high quality fresh matcha.
  • Check production date – Look for recently produced harvests to ensure freshness.
  • Select ceramic containers – Matcha stored in sealed ceramic retains freshness longer than pouches.
  • Read the reviews – Customer reviews often call out any stale or off flavors.
  • Give it a sniff – Quality matcha smells fresh and grassy without odd smells.
  • Go for ceremonial grade – Higher grades like ceremonial tend to have stronger purity and flavors.
  • Use smaller batches – Don’t buy more than you can use up in a month or two.
  • Refrigerate – Keep tightly sealed matcha powder refrigerated to help slow oxidation.
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With care taken when purchasing, storing, and preparing matcha, you can enjoy its fresh, pleasantly vegetal flavor without worrying about fishiness.

What Should Good Matcha Taste Like?

When fresh, ceremonial grade matcha has a complex flavor profile:

  • Grassy – Fresh-cut grass and vegetal green tea notes.
  • Sweet – Natural sweetness balanced by light astringency.
  • Umami – Rich, brothy savoriness and depth of flavor.
  • Creamy – Smooth, creamy mouthfeel from the fine suspension.
  • Oceanic – Clean notes of seaweed reminiscent of its ocean origin.
  • No bitterness – Well-made matcha should never taste overtly bitter or astringent.

The highest quality matcha delivers a sweet, vegetal, savory flavor with no harsh bitterness, fishiness, or other off flavors.

Tips for Making Good Tasting Matcha

You can also avoid fishy results when preparing matcha powder:

  • Use fresh matcha – Old, oxidized matcha turns more bitter and fishy.
  • Sift before whisking – Sifting removes lumps for smooth suspension.
  • Use pure water – Minerals or chlorine in tap water alters matcha’s taste.
  • Control temperature – Too hot damages flavors and texture. Ideal is 160-180 ̊F.
  • Whisk thoroughly – Aggressive whisking avoids clumping and incorporates air.
  • Rinse whisk quickly – Rinsing whisk prevents residue from altering taste.
  • Drink fresh – Consume brewed matcha immediately before flavors degrade.

With freshly ground, pure matcha prepared well, you can enjoy the authentic sweet, umami, oceanic flavors of Japanese ceremonial grade matcha.

Does Cooking Make Matcha Taste Fishy?

Cooking matcha into baked goods or other preparations can also bring out off flavors if not done carefully:

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Tips for cooking with matcha:

  • Use high quality, fresh matcha. Lower quality matcha has poorer cooking flavor.
  • Sift the matcha first to remove lumps before combining into batter.
  • Gently fold and mix into batter – don’t overbeat air into the matcha.
  • Avoid high heat baking or frying. Gentler oven temperatures keep matcha flavors intact.
  • Balance any astringency with dairy, sweetener, or milk to smooth out bitterness.
  • Pair matcha with vanilla, chocolate, fruits, or nuts that complement the flavor.

When carefully incorporated, matcha adds pretty green color, richness, and subtle flavor without tasting fishy in baked goods and desserts.

Should All Matcha Be Avoided?

While lower quality matcha runs a bigger risk of fishy taste, not all matcha should be avoided:

  • For cooking, cheaper culinary grade works fine since flavors meld with other ingredients.
  • Even ceremonial grade matcha loses vibrancy and freshness within a couple months after opening.
  • If buying quality matcha, get smaller amounts you can use promptly.
  • Proper storage and handling helps retain the freshness – but nothing lasts forever.
  • Trust your taste buds – if the matcha smells or tastes unpleasant, don’t force yourself to use it up. Toss it!

As long as you take care to buy from quality suppliers and use opened matcha promptly in well-prepared recipes, you can enjoy the real flavors of fresh matcha without worrying about fishy taste.

Key Takeaways – Why Does Matcha Taste Like Fish

  • Good quality fresh matcha has no fishy taste, only pleasant vegetal and sweet notes.
  • Oxidation, heat, light, air exposure, and poor storage make matcha degrade into fishy flavors over time.
  • Choosing freshly packaged ceremonial grade matcha from a top retailer helps avoid oxidation issues.
  • Preparing matcha with care for temperature and whisking avoids fishy results.
  • Cooking matcha requires gentler techniques to prevent damaging the delicate flavor.
  • While matcha loses freshness quickly once opened, you can avoid fishy taste if you buy smaller amounts and use promptly.

So with quality sourcing, proper storage, careful preparation, and quick usage, you can unlock the sweet umami flavor of matcha without any unwanted fishiness.