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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

About Matcha Tea (a pre-review post)

You have probably started hearing a lot about something called Matcha. In my opinion, it's in the category of About to Trend. Hard and heavy.

I've had a chance to try a couple types of Matcha - one sponsored and one that I picked up at my local health food store. Since I'm going to be posting a review of the sponsored product very soon, I wanted to go over some of the basics about Matcha in general. First thing to know is, there's nothing really "basic" about Matcha. I feel like I'm having to learn a new language just to understand this product.

Let's start with a little of what I am coming to understand about matcha:
  • Matcha tea is powdered, but not all powdered tea is matcha. 
  • Matcha is also, I believe, grown in the shade.
  • Matcha is prepped for serving (to drink) than regular tea.
  • Matcha tea is from the whole leaf, the tenderest parts of the leaf, and is often used ceremonially.
To make matters  just a little bit more confusing, in addition to the types of green tea, and types of matcha, there are different grades of the teas. Yikes.

I'm determined to kinda, sorta understand this Matcha tea though. If the terminology doesn't trip me up. Here are some of the different types of Matcha:
  • Usucha - or "thin" tea, is from sprouts younger than a certain age. (source)
  • Koicha - "thick" tea, is usually more expensive because it comes from rarer tea plants.
  • Tencha -  In Japan, this is the only tea that qualifies as"true matcha" and it is made from the delicate shade-grown tea leaf trees. (source)
 So... Tencha = Matcha - though in the U.S., the Matcha we get is most likely never Tencha... Yeah, see? Confusing.

Just to take a break, I took a look at a video of Matcha leaves being processed.

When I applied to review the product that I will be posting on soon, I had never tried any kind of Matcha tea, but I picked up some at my local health food store a couple weeks ago. Since I didn't understand that there are different types of Matcha, I was a little bit confused when trying to choose between the few brands available. I ended up with this one, just because of price and convenience. This brand had three different types so I chose the one that sounded most flavorful.

Then I had to look up what "Genmai" means:
Genmaicha is the Japanese name for green tea combined with roasted brown rice. It is sometimes called "popcorn tea". This type of tea was originally drunk by poor Japanese, as the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the teas; which is why it is also known as the "people's tea".
Okay. So I got a little bit ripped off as the American trying to experiment with a new trend. Let me tell you, at about a dollar per pack - for 12 single-serve packets (0.03 ounces, or 3 grams, per pack), I wasn't getting a "true" (or even near-true) matcha tea.

At least the labelling was honest. The problem was my own ignorance.

This, by the way, is what the actual tea looks like:

The texture is very grainy and leaves very little film on the plate I had it on. It felt like a fine sand.

And, for comparison, this is what a true matcha powder looks like:

The matcha powder is vibrant green and almost as fine as talcum powder
It's hard to tell from the photo, but you can see some of the texture difference between
the Matcha powder and the Genmaicha (paler) product
To be fair, the Genmai wasn't awful. I think that any kind of powdered (or grainy) tea is an acquired taste. The Genmai had a soil-ish/dirt-ish taste. I was able to cover that with some of the Chaga nectar I used as a sweetener. I also learned that I could just put the Genmai into other flavored teas or beverages.

I will be posting more about the actual Matcha powder when I do my product review. For now, I can tell you that there is a huge  flavor difference between those two products. Huge.

Doing a little research beforehand literally pays (or at lease saves) when trying something new. In the case of the brand of Genmaicha I bought, I couldn't even do much checking on it when I got home. The website printed on the package takes me to a domain that is for sale. After a brief search, I couldn't even find images for the product. I gave up because, for one thing, I won't be buying the brand again and, for another, I want to stick with trying better quality products. Maybe that Matcha Matcha brand has an actual Matcha tea available, but it wasn't one of the choices when I was shopping.

The main thing to know when using Matcha is that you have to read the labels. Make sure that you are getting the best Matcha available.

Next: I will be doing the review for the first organic, powdered green tea I've had the chance to try.


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