Why Does Matcha Taste Like Fish?

Matcha, a powdered green tea with a rich history and distinct flavor profile, is generally known for its earthy, vegetal taste. However, in some instances, individuals may perceive a fishy or oceanic taste when consuming matcha. This unusual flavor can be disconcerting and lead to questions about its origin. In this article, we will explore several potential reasons why matcha may taste like fish and shed light on this peculiar phenomenon.

1. Sensory Perception

Taste and flavor perception can vary significantly from person to person. Each individual has a unique combination of taste buds and sensory receptors, which can influence how flavors are interpreted. While matcha is typically associated with earthy and grassy notes, certain individuals may perceive these flavors differently, leading to a fishy taste perception.

2. Quality and Source of Matcha

The taste of matcha can be influenced by its quality and source. Matcha produced from high-quality tea leaves, grown in specific regions and harvested at the right time, tends to have a more pleasant and well-balanced flavor. Conversely, matcha of lower quality or from unreliable sources may exhibit off-flavors, including a fishy taste.

3. Storage Conditions

Improper storage conditions can impact the flavor of matcha. Exposure to moisture, heat, or other strong odors can lead to flavor contamination. If matcha is stored in an environment where it comes into contact with fish or fish-related products, it may absorb those odors, resulting in a fishy taste.

4. Cross-Contamination

During processing or packaging, cross-contamination can occur, especially if the same equipment or facilities are used for handling seafood or fish products. If proper sanitation protocols are not followed, trace amounts of fish-related substances may inadvertently find their way into matcha, contributing to the fishy taste.

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5. Tea Processing Techniques

The way matcha is processed can impact its flavor profile. If the tea leaves are not properly harvested, dried, or ground, it can result in off-flavors, including a fishy taste. Skillful and meticulous processing techniques are crucial to maintaining the desired flavor characteristics of matcha.

6. Oxidation

Exposure to air and oxidation can affect the taste of matcha. Oxidation can lead to the breakdown of certain compounds in the tea leaves, resulting in the development of off-flavors. If matcha is not stored in airtight containers or is exposed to excessive oxygen, it may undergo oxidative changes, potentially leading to a fishy taste.

7. Harvesting Time

The timing of tea leaf harvest can impact the flavor of matcha. If the tea leaves are harvested at an inappropriate time, they may contain higher levels of certain compounds that contribute to the fishy taste. Proper timing and selection of tea leaves are important factors in producing high-quality matcha with desirable flavors.

8. Brewing Technique

The way matcha is brewed and prepared can affect its taste. If matcha is brewed at an excessively high temperature or for too long, it can result in the release of compounds that contribute to off-flavors, including a fishy taste. Following proper brewing techniques, such as using the appropriate water temperature and infusion time, is essential for achieving the desired flavor profile.

9. Individual Sensitivity

Individuals may have varying degrees of sensitivity to certain flavors or compounds present in matcha. Some people may have a heightened sensitivity to specific compounds that give rise to a fishy taste perception, even if those compounds are present in minimal amounts.

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10. Adulteration or Contamination

In rare cases, matcha may be adulterated or contaminated with other substances that impart a fishy taste. This can occur due to intentional adulteration or unintentional contamination during the production or distribution process. It is crucial to source matcha from reputable and trustworthy suppliers to minimize the risk of such occurrences.

11. Personal Associations and Expectations

Personal associations and expectations can influence flavor perception. If someone has previously associated a fishy taste with a particular food or experience, their brain may link that flavor with matcha, leading to a perceived fishy taste. Additionally, if someone consumes matcha with preconceived notions or hears about others perceiving a fishy taste, it may influence their own flavor perception.

12. Rare Anomalies

In extremely rare cases, unexpected anomalies can occur during matcha production or due to external factors, resulting in an unusual flavor profile. These anomalies may manifest as a fishy taste, but they are not representative of the typical flavor profile of high-quality matcha.


The fishy taste perception in matcha can stem from various factors, including individual sensory perception, quality and source, storage conditions, processing techniques, and brewing methods. It’s important to source matcha from reputable suppliers, store it properly, and follow recommended brewing practices to minimize the likelihood of encountering a fishy taste. Additionally, personal associations and expectations can influence flavor perception, highlighting the complex interplay between our senses and experiences.

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