Review: Red Leaf Tea Strawberry Matcha – Organic

Green Tea, Matcha Tea, Organic Tea, Red Leaf Tea, Strawberry Tea Add comments
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Strawberries were the first thing I tasted and the last thing that lingered."
Geoff’s Teaview: 7/10
Other Teaviews: Chelsy gave it 8.2/10
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Here's an interesting fact: Strawberries aren't considered berries in the traditional sense by botanists. Reason being, normal berries house their seeds on the inside; whereas strawberries are lined with them on the outside (like sesame seeds on a hamburger bun). I find that a little disheartening since strawberries are my favorite in the plucked-berry pantheon. Learning that was like a Scorpio learning their ruling body (Pluto) was no longer a planet. Okay...maybe the astrological metaphor was a tad obscure - still applies, though.

I bring this up because of a product put out by Red Leaf Tea - my first ever matcha blend. Instead of just being stone-ground green tea, natural flavors of strawberry were added. That's not all. I'm not sure what goes into making a matcha blend - I've never tried one before - but etiquette dictates that there should be mention of additional ingredients. Along with the natural flavors, there were actual strawberry seeds in the powder.

Perhaps it was an aspect that hadn't been added to the product description. After all, there wasn't even a full bio for this matcha yet [as of this writing]. What little there was on the profile stated that this was an organic, ceremonial grade matcha. On first impression, I disagreed with that claim.

There really isn't a set hierarchy when grading matcha. Rule o' thumb is: "The brighter green it is, the better it is." From there, the only two delineations that exist are thickness and powder quality. As far as I know. I tend to prepare my matcha using a koicha ("thick tea") prep, and ceremonial grade matcha is best for this. Mid-grade and kitchen grade matchas are best for usucha ("thin tea") preparations...as well as flavoring agents for food and green tea lattes. This was not a ceremonial grade matcha, at least not from what I've encountered in the past.

The powder was much finer than the usual stone-ground variety, almost reminding me of machine-ground sencha. The color was a faded, earthy green, not the brighter color of truly ceremonial matcha. And then there were the seeds. There was no mention of freeze-dried strawberries being included in the blend. Normally I would welcome it, but these were full seedlings amidst the powder. How would that affect the brew-up? On the plus-side, it smelled delicious - like Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries.

I ended up having to brew this up twice. The first time around, I did my usual pre-sift of the powder with cold water and a chasen. The powder was so fine, though, that it didn't appear necessary. When I finally added 4oz of 165F water, the tiny green granules instantly turned to broth. An attempt at whisking it to froth for thirty seconds turned up nothing. Only a swamp-colored liquor resulted.

On a second attempt, I skipped the pre-sift and added the hot water immediately. I took chasen to bowl again and whisked vigorously. "Some" froth bubbled to the surface but only on the periphery. There was none of the magnificent green foam of high quality matchas past. And again, there were the seeds...

As I feared, after tumbling around as I whisked, the strawberry seeds floated about in the green matcha muck - undisturbed. It was like they'd been sprinkled in after the whisk-up. The look of them in the liquor was quite unappetizing. On a positive note, they didn't affect the taste at all. The blend delivered on its namesake. Strawberries were the first thing I tasted and the last thing that lingered. Only a slight vegetal presence was detected in the middle but not much to elaborate on. The flavor of steeped, freeze-dried strawberries was omnipresent.

I'm no expert on matcha blending, but I gather the seeds were the result of adding stone-ground strawberries to the blend. The seeds probably didn't pulverize. A possible suggestion to avoiding this would be to use cut pieces of berry instead. No external seeds present. The taste would be the same without the unsightliness. Food for thought.

— To purchase Red Leaf Tea Strawberry Matcha – Organic, 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.

Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff
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