Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wako Thin Grade Matcha from In Pursuit of Tea

Scent: sweet green, not at all like a Chinese green tea…hard to describe, but very fresh scent.
Brewed in: Ceramic matcha bowl
Steeped: No steeping, just whisking.

I know I’m not the only one who watched the movie “The Karate Kid” as a youngster and immediately wanted to try the Japanese Tea Ceremony featured in one of the scenes. It was lovely, mysterious, and so very different than anything I’d experienced to that point, but at that stage in my life, I wasn’t really in any position to go out and buy the necessary things to try it myself (and I’ve never seen matcha here, though one of the tea shops might carry it now).

So many years later, I finally decided it was time. I scraped my pennies together – this tea is very expensive due to the processing it goes through – and ordered a matcha Starter Kit from In Pursuit of Tea. It was about the best deal I could find where the bowl, whisk and tea were all included, and the price was still $56.00. I went ahead and ordered a screen to sift the matcha through as well to get the free shipping (the sifter was $6, shipping would have been about the same, so I broke even there). It showed up on my doorstep last night, and I was eager to try it. But I waited until this morning, since matcha has a high caffeine content, and I thought it might be a good drink to get the day started with (I fully admit to being a caffeine addict).

So before work this morning, I got out my new tools, and followed the directions carefully. I didn’t have time to sift the entire can at once, but I sifted 1/3 teaspoon for one bowl (the directions say 1 teaspoon, but I’ve read online that you should start with less, and work your way up, as it is quite strong…and I’m glad I didn’t start with more). You can see from the picture the difference in the tea on the wax paper (just sifted) and the tea still in the can, with lumps here and there. I probably should have re-measured after sifting, and I’ll sift the whole can before I drink it again.

You’re supposed to pour a little boiling water into the bowl, and soak the whisk (chasen) for a minute or so to soften up the bamboo. So I did that, then poured the water out and dried the bowl with a paper towel, as instructed. Next, you add the sifted powder to the bowl, along with 1/3 to ½ cup of hot water just under boiling. Then you whisk the mixture in a “W” pattern until the top is frothy. Then you drink it, right from the bowl.

Having completed those steps in short order, I raised the bowl, catching a somewhat bitter, very green scent wafting toward me. I knew then I’d made a mistake…as I’d read that matcha is strong, and somewhat bitter, but also sweet tasting at the same time. I sensed mostly bitterness, and when I took a sip, confirmed that it was indeed, very strong, and very bitter. I think my error was in not re-measuring after I sifted the powder…I think I used more tea than I should have.
Even so, there was definitely a strong, sweet aftertaste, a hint of what I think it will taste like when brewed with the correct amount of tea. I gulped the rest down, and rinsed the bowl and chasen before heading out the door for work. The aftertaste stuck with me all the way to work, until I “washed it down” with my morning cup here at work. It wasn’t a bad aftertaste, just much different than what I’m used to. While I was drinking the tea this morning, I remember thinking to myself that it wouldn’t take long to “acquire” a taste for this particular tea…because there is something about the bitter and sweet notes that blend together in a fascinating way. It’s very complex, and while I can’t say I enjoyed it, I found it most interesting (when I wasn’t wincing from the bitterness).

I’ll try it again tomorrow morning – I did feel more alert when I got to work this morning than I normally do, and not in a jittery sort of way, just more awake and ready to start working. So if I can master the proper brewing technique, and acquire the taste, it will be a very nice addition to my morning routine (healthy too – matcha is supposed to be the healthiest of all tea, since you are not just drinking what steeps out of the leaves, but the leaves themselves). This is the “thin” version, which is for everyday drinking…the actual tea ceremony version is referred to as “thick”, and I look forward to trying that as well someday – it’s prepared slightly differently.

All in all, I highly recommend trying it, at least once, because it is a very interesting experience. This starter matcha kit would make a great birthday or Christmas gift, I think, though you may have better luck than I did finding all the necessary accoutrements cheaper if you keep looking.

1 comment:

  1. It's great to find blogs that really inform us about tea the beverage. I linked to you from my blog today.


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