Review: Hibiki-an House Matcha

Green Tea, Hibiki-an, Matcha Tea Add comments
Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!""This matcha is robust, smooth, slightly astringent, with a touch of sweetness and just the right hint of bitterness. Given that it's a house grade, it really exceeded my expectations.""
Lynn’s Teaview: 8/10
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hibikimachaHibiki-an is located in the Uji region near Kyoto, Japan, where they grow and process their own teas, which are unfailingly fresh. Their website offers very specific directions for their care and brewing, which have really enhanced my enjoyment of the delicate greens they sell.

Of special interest are their matchas. Hibiki-an carries five grades, from Pinnacle ($45/30gm) to House Grade ($27/80gm) Having previously enjoyed their Super Premium ($33/40gm), I decided to check out the least expensive grade so my matcha habit wouldn’t send me to the poor house.

Those who think that strong bitterness is a fact with matcha have probably only experienced poor quality matcha badly prepared, so I’d like to take a moment for a little Matcha 101.

It’s not hard to whip up a good chawan of matcha. The two most critical (and easiest to overlook) factors are water quality and temperature. As with any tea, poor-tasting water affects the flavor of the tea itself. As with greens in general, water that’s too hot brings out bitterness. That being said, start with the best tasting water you can get, bring it to a boil, and then let it settle to around 185F. A thermometer is worth the trouble.

The House grade does not lend itself to the thicker koicha and Hibiki-an is up front about that, so I made the thinner ususcha version. While I waited for the water to boil, I sifted two chashaku (about 1 tsp) of the matcha powder onto a sheet of parchment paper and set it aside. When the water was the correct temperature, I used some if it to warm the chawan (matcha bowl) and to wet the chasen (whisk). I then poured out the water, dried the bowl, put the matcha into the chawan and added 70 ml of the hot water and whisked it with a brisk back and forth motion until the surface was foamy. It only took a few seconds, a good sign.

The House grade matcha powder is a bright spring green and very finely ground, with a fresh aroma reminiscent of young green shoots with a touch of cocoa. It froths as quickly as the Premium, and the foam lasts through a leisurely sipping. The brew is a pleasant medium jade green. (Tea masters often recommend black or red chawan, which set off the green color the best.) Grainy, dull green matcha is a sign of inferior quality.

The aroma of the House grade is much like that of the powder; green shoots and a bit more cocoa, nicely sweet. While the flavor is not quite as smooth, intense, and thick on the tongue as the Premium grade, I didn’t expect it to be. But it is still robust, smooth, slightly astringent, with a touch of sweetness and just a hint of bitterness to add zing. Because matcha is made of the ground whole leaves, it is a suspension rather than a brew and this grade, surprisingly, left very little sediment in the bottom of the bowl, and no lumps. In short, it is a very satisfying matcha experience and great quality for the price. Highly recommended.

**Note: Hibiki-an sends the tea in two 40gm sealed packets. Be sure to store the unopened one in the fridge, and the opened one in a tightly closed canister at room temperature (Their higher grades come with a container; this one does not.) The refrigerated one will keep for a year, as long as it remains unopened.

— To purchase Hibiki-an House Matcha, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

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