Americans are not generally speaking very sophisticated tea drinkers, but matcha, a finely powdered, high-quality tea from Japan, has achieved something of a small cult following as a result of its successful marketing by a number of widely franchised companies, including both Jamba Juice and Starbucks. For those unfamiliar with matcha, the best analogy to something in your experience may be this:
matcha: green tea :: expresso: coffee
Intense, concentrated, bitter, slightly medicinal in flavor, both matcha and expresso have an immediate effect on the drinker because they pack so much into such a tiny volume. I am not a regular matcha drinker, but I do appreciate matcha as a means of amping up the flavor, texture and, of course, caffeine of green tea.
Today's brew is just such a matcha-infused tea, coming from Muzi:
Muzi is already a high-quality, organic sencha tea (not a blend), but this particular batch has been dusted with matcha as well. My first matcha-dusted tea experience came by way of Stash, perhaps unsurprisingly. For a while, their matcha-dusted Premium Green was my go-to green tea. Unfortunately, they appear to have ceased production of that splendid blend, as it is not available anywhere--not even at Amazon, where I used to buy boxes of 100 bags (which generally last me a month or two).
The problem, I believe, is that true matcha comes always from Japan, and there have been lots of issues with products coming directly from that lovely archipelago since the tragic nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011. Many consumers have been paranoid about radiation of anything being produced in Japan since then, and I confess that I was too, which is why I called the Stash company to ask whether their Premium Green was affected. They assuaged my worries by revealing that for a while now they have been sourcing their green tea from Brazil. So that was good in one way (though we naturally prefer Japanese Japanese products!!!!), but the matcha was still being sourced from Japan, so it may be that it became prohibitively expensive or difficult. I know that companies continue to subject their products to rigorous radiation testing, and all of that has got to take a toll. Stash probably just decided that it wasn't worth it.
What to do? Well, it turns out that I happen to have a decent supply of matcha on hand:
A while ago, when I started to realize the potential for matcha--not only for dusting medium-grade tea, but also for cooking--I bought a couple of large bags of the silken peridot green powder. I store it in airtight jars (such as the one above), and it holds up well.
Matcha has a bitter, alkaloid taste similar to cocaine or Vicodin. (Yeah, I know what they taste like.) But it makes a fantastic flavoring for ice cream (which you'll know, if you've ever experienced green tea ice cream at a Japanese restaurant), and also for baked goods. Basically, you can turn any humdrum recipe for vanilla or sugar what-not into a matcha masterpiece by simply throwing in a spoon or two of the magical powder. Major yum.
I bought two bags of matcha powder. One is "culinary grade"; the other is "drinking grade", which is more expensive and produced under very rigid conditions, because it is consumed directly, with no filtering, by "whiskers". I don't produce matcha that way, with a whisk and a bowl. I only use it to improve the taste of other teas, and I have found that the culinary grade works perfectly fine for my tea infusions. (Matcha snobs may snicker, but it's simply the truth.)
Once again, on reflection, I realize that when I told Jalé the other day (on Facebook), that I do not mix my own blends of tea, I was wrong! In fact, I was also wrong when I claimed that I never add anything to sencha. I add matcha! I was thinking of course about "condiments" such as sugar and cream and lemon, added to brewed tea. Matcha, in contrast, I mix into the dried tea before brewing. With the following effect:
As you can see, the tea is thick and brothy as a result of the matcha. I also use a medium-grained mini-colander-type strainer, which lets the smaller particles through:
This means that the tea which I end up drinking is fairly opaque:
But it tastes delicious!!!! Maybe I am closer to the "whiskers" than I think, given that the small tea particles and matcha which pass easily through the filter ensure that my final beverage has quite a bit of oomph to it! One thing that this juice is not, however, is bitter. The intense bitterness of whisked matcha is not found in matcha-dusted sencha, in my experience. This method simply produces a good, hearty, broth-like brew. Perfect for cold winter days!!!!!
Kim mentioned in a comment on the previous (sencha) post that she starts the day with a green tea latte, and I have to say that I love that beverage, too! I accidentally began drinking green tea soy lattes when I purchased some Kikkoman green tea soy milk. It's basically indistinguishable from a prepared green tea soy latte.
To my consternation, I recently learned that the matcha at Starbucks is a sweetened powder. I learned this the hard way, because when I ordered a green tea soy latte with half the syrup and double the matcha, it was still way too sweet for me. Upon Googling "Starbucks matcha powder", I learned that each scoop has 25 calories! Pure matcha powder has no or negligible calories, so I basically sabotaged my effort to reduce the sweetness level by doubling the matcha powder. (The issue for me was not calories, but sweetness...) Oh well, next time (if there is a next time for that drink...), I'll request ZERO syrup and a couple extra scoops of matcha and see how that goes...
Now it's your turn. Please share your matcha stories and experience!!!! As for me, I believe that it is time for another cup of matcha-dusted sencha...