It has been a while since I wrote about tea. This time I want to write about matcha. J and I did a matcha tasting earlier this afternoon. The benefits of matcha, including vitamins, antioxidants, providing calmness, etc, have been written in many websites. This is not what this blogpost is about. First of all, I want to talk a little bit about what matcha is. In Kanji, matcha 抹茶, literally stands for ground tea. It does not indicate which type of tea leaves used for making matcha. So a lot of people who visited the tea house trying matcha the first time or a fairly new beginner may not know what matcha actually is. The tea leaves that matcha usually is made from is called tencha 碾茶, which is grown in the same manner as gyokuro 玉露 (king of Japanese tea). Both tencha and gyokuro are grown under the shade for the last 20 days at least (usually between 20 - 30 days). By blocking direct sunlight, it allows a more vibrant green colour to develop, and more amino acid to develop (which leads to sweetness and umami). The difference between gyokuro and tencha is the processing method, where gyokuro is steamed, dried and rolled, tencha is only steamed and dried but not rolled. Not all matcha comes from tencha, sometimes you will see matcha made from gyokuro in the market. Sometimes I suspect, the lower grade matcha, like yellowish colour, bitter tasting, may not be grounded from tencha or gyokuro.
Tasting of matcha today comprised of identifying umami, amami (sweetness), nigami (bitterness) and shibumi (astringency). We did three times this tasting, including two blind tasting. It is such an interesting session. It helps us to create a new board/chart for the tea house to describe flavours for customers to pick their personal preference when ordering drinks (we hope to finish this new board by early next year). At the moment we have five different types of matcha on the menu, ranging from mild to intense. We are also thinking of running this informal matcha tasting to public, especially those who are interested in matcha. If you are interested, please keep an eye on future announcement!