My journey to Matcha: How-tos and How-not-tos

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I have to admit: it took me all the time and dedication to get to writing this blog post. After a longer break in blogging, while searching for inspiration and new topics, the idea to move one step forward suddenly came onto my mind. However… the execution has been much trickier and more complex than I had anticipated.

My journey to enjoying matcha was not an easy one, I wouldn’t deny. It took me significant time to get accustomed to matcha taste, and it took me even more time to start liking it. At first, I was trying to convince myself that I find the matcha bitter, grassy flavour attractive (which didn’t take too much effort, as I am usually into those unusual flavours, which are not everybody’s cup of tea – take wasabi chocolate as an example). Later, when I eventually learned to believe it, I started trying to convince myself to gravitate to matcha more, instead of auto-piloting in my “comfort zone” of green teas. The transition period has taken several years that were broken into periods by an odd cup of matcha latte here and there, which took over the role of a guilty pleasure, secret treat and matcha wannabe replacement.

With the process of “growing up” into my matcha adulthood, I have gotten accustomed to the flavour and started craving matcha, its flavour (believe it or not) but mainly the immediate boost of energy it provided me.

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I’ve been interested in matcha preparation since the moment I started taking this drink seriously. For my birthday last year I explicitly requested a matcha-serving kit, knowing that the art of Japanese matcha ceremony is a complex process that involves – like any other Japanese tradition – patience, sense for detail, and high-quality tools.

I got to learn about matcha slowly but surely, step by step, rather by asking people and applying the “trial-error” method than by extensive googling. I aimed to come to understand matcha naturally, instead of getting overwhelmed by information and opinions. It’s by attending the Japanese festival how I discovered that the matcha powder I had got from a colleague a year ago is hardly matcha anymore: the powder loses its qualities, which include antioxidants and vitamins, within a month after opening. For experimenting with matcha drinks I was advised to get matcha packaged into 2g sachets, which would be perfectly appropriate for everyday use.

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Later on, from a tea shop manager I learned about the differences in tools and discovered the importance of a bamboo spoon. Matcha preparation is a finicky process following the principle “go big or go home”: if you start getting into it, you cannot be satisfied with a generic mug and an ordinary tea spoon. You’ll be going for a ceramic bowl and delicate bamboo tools.

I am still learning, but I’ve already gone quite far in this matcha journey. No, I do not own the traditional bowl that turns the process of drinking matcha into ceremony, and no, not every matcha I make turns into an explosion of flavour, but it’s the journey and experience gathered along the way that counts.

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Matcha is multi-functional, so it can of course be used for baking and cooking as well as in ceremony. This is exactly what all my “old” matcha was going into. Matcha tsuki is also a kind that is recommended for delicious desserts.

An example of my matcha trials: 

Step 1. Pouring hot water  /80 degrees Celsius/ into the ceramic (ideally) bowl is WRONG. Instead the powder should be added first. 

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Step 2.  Dumping the powder into hot water is WRONG. Instead you should sift matcha into the bowl, then pour a few drops of sub-boiling water and mash it into a paste.

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Step 3. Whisking like there’s no tomorrow is WRONG. Instead, slowly add the remaining portion of water into your paste and whisk continuously to prevent clumps. Ideally, like there’s no tomorrow.

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Step 4. Enjoy the lovely, smooth, frothy, energising, pea green (not mossy green like in our case) nectar of life! 🙂

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What is experience with matcha? What lessons have you learned along the way? Do you have any matcha preparation tips&tricks up your sleeve? Have you tried baking with matcha – it’s the next step I’m anticipating!?

Let me know!

x.

The battle of Sencha by Lipton: tea review

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My tea love story began with green teas, and it’s no secret: I talk about it often. Getting into more complex and aromatic tea would not be possible for me, however, if it wasn’t for sencha.

Sencha is one of the most popular and loved variations of Japanese green tea. It is characterised by its strong aroma and deep flavour with light grassiness to it: the flavour, however,  usually depends on the region where, and season when the tea is produced. The sencha leaf is darker than other variations of green tea, and it often undergoes faster fermentation, at a lower temperature (with some kinds even at 60 degrees Celsius).

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Lipton, as one of the major tea trends pioneers, have introduced Sencha into their European assortment and offer in the early 2000s. Around 2010 they came up with Indonesian Sencha, following the new trend of pyramidal bags, which I addressed in several blogposts here. With the most recent content and form update they switched the silk material of their tea bags to the cotton, and the packaging itself has been designed more in-line with their current concept. Being an eager tea collector, I happened to own both variations of Lipton‘s Sencha tea and be able to follow their way from fragrant and floral Indonesian Sencha to sharp and strong Spectacular Sencha.

Indonesian Sencha by Lipton is an invitation on a “journey to Java”, an inspiration for flourishing green tea gardens of “long, stylish leaves”, a promise of unforgettable sceneries and scent of an enchanting island. The freshness of sencha is emphasised by the rose petals introduced to this tea mix, and fruity notes develop through the flavouring for a taste of Osmanthus pear. Light, floral, steamed flavour is the outcome of this blend that kicks off with potent and fragrant aroma. “Sip this tea and sip paradise” – we are already aware that Lipton is a master of merchandising poetry.

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As per the instructions, this tea needs a 2-3 minute brew for the full and flavourful experience – your perfect cup of tea. For me it has never been an everyday tea, rather a special occasion treat. One of those highly aromatic, intense teas that surprise you with light bitterness in the aftertaste.

Indonesian Sencha might not be this typical and favourable Japanese sencha – taste-wise it is less grassy, less deep in colour, but rather more fragrant and deep.

Ingredients: 89% green tea, 9,3% flavouring, 1% rose petals

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The re-designed sencha from Lipton was given a majestic name – “Spectacular Sencha“. Ingredients-wise, it reduced the list only to the green tea and aroma, leaving the floral and fragrant element of the rose petals behind. Accompanied by the call to “awaken the senses” it offers “sharp, strong and deeply exotic” flavour, “a carnival in a cup”.

Spectacular sencha is, indeed, less fragrant and aromatic. At a first smell, it strikes with the intensity, typical for green tea. With this update it, however, loses the depth of flavour and the multi-level taste development. The aroma of pear is still present, but in more light-weight, rather unnoticeable form. This sencha is more reminiscent of the regular, Japanese sencha and its grassiness than its predecessor Indonesian Sencha.

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I always welcome fruity notes in tea, it should be known to the readers of my blog by now, as I praise them in almost every post I write. Hence, it will be no surprise that I favour the older, now discontinued, version of sencha by Lipton. The newer variation – Spectacular Sencha – might be, however, much more suitable for followers of orthodox tea drinking ceremony and Japanese sencha lovers, as it fully develops into the delicacy of green tea with “a little something” in the aftertaste.

What about your experience with sencha? Have you experimented with different kinds, and if yes, which one is your favourite? What brand of sencha tea would you recommend? Let me know.

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