Matcha: What is it made of?

As many prize pu-er and start collecting them, I have a habit of collecting matcha. When its the right quality it has beautiful chocolate notes that vary from make to make. I was lucky enough to have Kono-en as my first matcha. David’s tea had opened their first shop on Queen Street here in Toronto and they had it!
 I was a poor student at the time but I quickly grabbed my first whisk (chasen) and asked for a can. Then got out. The first sip of this Jade brew changed how I feel about tea and pushed me to try different kinds, meet other tea people and learn more. I would not be where I am without this experience.
Recently I have been coming across posts stating matcha is made from Gyokuro. Another fine Japanese tea that was my push to try matcha. Even a company handbook I read stated the same thing. This I mentioned my previous post.
   The truth is that this tea is made from “Tencha”. This is made by first shading tea bushes for thirty days, this concentrates the theanine amino acid (to put it simply, its one of the many antioxidants). It gives the tea its full bodied flavour.

 Once Hachijuhachiya (88 days) after spring has begun harvesting begins. This marks the beginning of the first harvest which lands in early May.
   When the leaves are taken back to the factory, they “kill the green”. This is a great process that will prevent the leaves from oxidizing and (oh noes!) become a different kind of tea. For this the leaves are steamed for 15-20 seconds within the first 12-20 hours of plucking.
    My favorite part is drying, because the leaves get blown around in a multi-chamber air machine. Before they completely dry they pass through a special drum like machine where stems and veins are removed. The tea is now “Tencha”, aka. pre-matcha.
   The fun part starts, the leaves are ground by a stone grinder, but before that the tea is aged. The leaves are packed up and stored for 6 months to a full year. The taste over time rounds out to become smoother and develops the harvests unique taste for the matcha being made. Then in the stone grinder,once its time to take the leaves out,  the slight heat created from the friction of the stones grinding together give the tea its unique smoothness.

 Matcha is a wonderful tea with a very unique practice for creating just the tea  to be used to brew. I enjoy learning and making this fabulous tea because of the process involved, that may be due to my being an artist. If you have not tried matcha before I highly advise you give it a whirl. Keep an eye out on my youtube and here for a simple step by step matcha making video. Till next time, keep steepin’ on~

 Photo credit to: Mr.Randazzo  also Thank you to Dr.Ralph Fareber for answering my questions and allowing us to become friends.

Review: Camillia Sinensis- Da Hong Pao, Gyokuro and Sencha

Camillia Sinensis is a company that is based out of Quebec. I originally discovered them online and knew my partner was visiting there in the coming days. This was back in 2009, when I got the tea from her upon her arrival  I was blown away. Back to current day, I have been loyally looking at their website. Continuously making shopping carts then changing them over many days.  There are so many teas to choose from that I can never decide what to buy. 

This seems to be the case for any online or store front tea purveyor. To assist their buyers and also familiarize myself with their teas more I approached them with a proposal to try out a few teas and write about them. Win-win situation. So here we are now, はじめましょう!(Let’s start!).

The three teas I received were: Gyokuro Hokuren, Da Hong Pao and Sencha Kaori Hokuren. 

Gyokuro Hokuren

     Their website describes that this tea is from the Shizouka region of Japan, on the top three regions with in the country. As we can see the leaves have a beautiful needle shape and a vibrant dark forest green hue to them.

      The wet leaf smelt of sweet beans or peas, it reminded me of my grandfathers vegetable garden. Very nostalgic scent.
   The actual tea had a typical green colour. It smelt and tasted like string beans (why am I thinking of beans? ), cut grass and broccoli. It was very smooth in the mouth and had a lingering dark chocolate taste once it was finished.
     This is very much my type of tea as I originally began with Japanese teas years ago. I am already intrigued to find out how the Sencha is.

Sencha Kaori Hokuren

    This is another tea from the Shizuoka region of Japan, we can tell now the the similarity in the names from the previous tea. The leaves are styled in a similar manner to Gyokuro and as we can see have a similar colour to them as well.

Typically sencha has a fuller taste in comparison to a Gyokuro. This was the case with this one but it was accompanied with a nice hint of  mango. It was very smooth in the mouth and did not disappoint me.  I will point out it still had the vegetable notes to it but I was taken back by the mango. It made the evening very interesting.

Da Hong Pao

         This tea has been a favorite for quite sometime now, that may be due in part to the history behind it. The leaves are from the Wu Yi Mountains in Fijian, and have a classic dark colour to them. A sweet woody smell comes off of them before I begin to brew.
   I decided to enjoy the pre-infusion, the smell of the wet leaves has a a light smokiness from processing.  The leaves at this point have a nice “hookers green” colour, I am still not sure why I could not get away from this description but it is a paint colour.  The actual brew has a lovely amber hue to it in the white cups.
     Upon tasting it it warms the body up, the taste of …mango’s in the background?  I am still confused why this was the taste I identified. The second infusion the taste changes to biscuity- freshly baked bread.  Very lovely.    This tea always surprises me, I once tasted cooked sugar. Which was a nice perspective of this fine tea.

To finish I want to thank Camillia Sinensis for sending me these teas to try. I truly enjoyed the chance to try more of their teas and to see the other side of there adventures through the leaves. I hope that we can continue this friendship through tea.
                      Thank you again!