|"The taste delivered what I hoped it would, at least; a sweetly vegetal cup."|
Unlike other teas, matcha - literally, powdered green tea - was a proverbial powerhouse of hippie healthy goodness. And I liked preparing it. I always looked for more opportunities to hunt down new matcha. As a result, I consumed it daily; cold-brewed for on-the-go, or as a quick morning pick-me-up. Joy's Teaspoon's Izu Matcha grabbed my attention just from the byline: "Matcha is way cooler than Karate Kid II made it out to be!"
If you haven't perused the Joy's Teaspoon site before, stop reading this and do so. It's not that their site is shinier than any other tea vendor, but rather the non sequitur wit that accompanies their wares. And any tea merchant that mentions the only good Karate Kid movie (my opinion) deserves a second glance.
Izu is both a city and province, part of Shizuoka prefecture in Japan. The region is quite known for its tea cultivation, mainly in the sencha department. While most of the top-o'-the-line matchas are produced in Uji City, Kyoto prefecture, it isn't a stretch to believe it could be produced elsewhere. Joy's Teaspoon mentions that gyokuro leaves were pulverized to create their matcha powder. I can imagine the tea snob response, "Nu-UH! Matcha is made from tencha. Tencha isn't gyokuro."
"Ah, shaddap," would be my response. To argue that gyokuro and tencha are different would be like harkening back to another drink-related debate - the whole "tastes-great-less-filling" debacle. Truth is, there really isn't much of a difference between gyokuro and tencha. The steaming, shading, and processing are near-identical. I have yet to find a sommelier to say anything lasting to the contrary.
The appearance of matcha can be an indicator of quality. High-grade matcha from Uji has a vibrant, bright green color and a kelp-sweet scent. Low-grade matcha is a more faded, forest green color, prone to clumping, with a "sandy-leaf" smell to it; like an ordinary green tea. Joy's seemed to fall somewhere in the middle - not exactly bright green, but still retaining a seaweed-like scent. Vegetal but berry-like, a positive sign. At $14 for over 2oz, I wasn't expecting imperial-level, ceremonial matcha. That stuff runs almost a dollar a gram.
I prepared this as I would any new matcha. I used 2g (or roughly a teaspoon) of matcha powder and put it in a bowl. (The bowl was not of the traditional variety; it was for miso soup. Don't judge me.) A splash of cold water was poured into the bowl, and then I took my bamboo whisk (i.e. chasen) to "de-clumpify" the powder. Once that was done, I poured in about 4oz of 160F water and frothed this puppy up.
Well...rather...I tried to froth it up. Top quality matcha usually froths up pretty easy, loads of foam forms the moment you vigorously whisk it. I did so with this for about forty-five seconds and came up with "some" bubbles, but not a lot. The color was also pond green rather than "radioactive turtle" green. However, the aroma was nice and kelpy. The taste delivered what I hoped it would, at least; a sweetly vegetal cup. This it did in spades. It reminded me of the first matcha I ever tried two years ago, which I have also come to know as mid-grade.
That said, even mid-grade matcha is good matcha, at least in my book. Y'know, my book? The one I haven't written yet? It's kind of a big deal.
*Cue matcha-sipping noise*
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