by The Republic of Tea
(Order it online at their site.)
Like a loyal citizen, I subscribe to The Republic of Tea’s TeaChing e-mails. They feature new or popular teas and give a description, health benefits, and steeping instructions. When I saw powdered green tea leaves, Matcha, I was hooked. (This post turned into a long-winded monologue. Fair warning. There’s a special offer for anyone who reads the entire blog. Keep reading to find out.)
Matcha is made by grinding Japanese Tencha tea leaves into a fine powder. You’ve heard of Sencha leaves, the Tencha isn’t actually intended for direct tea consumption. It’s the unused leaf product from batches that are prepared for making Matcha. So Tencha tea would be a little more rare. Harney & Sons sells it packaged for drinking, but it’s quite expensive. Tencha leaves are grown in shade, as opposed to the direct light given to Sencha leaves. Supposedly, it gives the leaves a deeper, darker appearance and a sweet taste. Matcha is used to flavor and color additive to some Japanese foods, including Matcha ice cream. Are you now thoroughly confused by all Japanese words ending in “cha”? Good, so am I. Moving on.
Matcha is definitely green. Green tea leaves are a dark green color, and when you brew it, it has a light green tint. But Matcha is GREEN.
It’s unlike any other tea I’ve prepared. Green tea is typically steeped in water that is hot, but not fully boiled (because of the tender leaves). Matcha should be prepared the same way. Because you have a powder, instead of leaves in a strainer or a tea bag, it will need to be mixed in to the water. Heat the water until boiling, but not a rolling boil. (If it’s in a kettle, the kettle shouldn’t whistle.)
It’s conveniently stored in a plastic bag inside the tin, so you can keep it dry.
Then pour the water into your cup and add a teaspoon of matcha. If you’re using a bigger cup—not sure why you’d want a huge hot-chocolate-sized mug of matcha, but just in case—you’ll need to use about 1 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water. I’ve given you a close-up of the powder, so you can really see the out-of-this world green powder (at least, out of this country). It looks like you’re going to make yourself a nice cup of green cocoa. (Remember green and purple ketchup? Those didn’t last long. I knew kids who wouldn’t touch it because it was a different color.)
Then you’re supposed to use a tea whisk to froth it up before drinking. Well, I don’t have a tea whisk. I don’t usually drink traditionally prepared Japanese tea or hold tea ceremonies. When I read about Matcha, I knew I had to try it because it looked strange. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I perused Republic’s offerings of the powder. The regular size (what most people would order from Republic) is a little more expensive than bagged or loose. I didn’t want to spend $16 plus shipping if I didn’t know what I was getting into. I chose the $7 sample size: the price to satisfy my curiosity. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to find myself a tea whisk just to try this tea.
But what was I supposed to do? I had a large balloon whisk (not going to fit in the cup) and a smaller whisk attachment from the blender. I chose the blender whisk. Instead of whisking in the cup, I boiled the water in a small pot and added the powder into the pot after removing it from heat. (I filled my cup with water and added a little extra to decide how much to boil—in case I lost some as it evaporated—but you can also measure 6 ounces.)
After all my whisking efforts, I wasn’t able to get it exactly frothy. I’ll have to look into this tea whisk thing. I’m sure you could use it for chai lattes, etc., too (in my American way of repurposing things). Here’s the tea whisk I ended up ordering.
The taste of matcha is grassy and slightly sweet and what you would expect from green tea, but it tasted grassier. Maybe it was a psychological combination of smelling the powder, dropping it into a pot, and whisking it that made me think I was eating soup or some kind of soupy sauce instead of tea. (Frothing with a tea whisk will produce better results, and what is intended.) Regardless, it tastes like a health drink. (You don’t eat whole grain wheat bread because it’s the sweetest, fluffiest bread you’ve ever tasted. You eat it because it’s healthy. Although, I do like whole grains. As a kid, I liked eating things that made me feel like a rabbit foraging for food, or a cow chewing something tough—I did eat compact sticks of grains meant for cows on a ranch once—but that’s another story.)
I would urge you to try Matcha tea, if nothing else, to satisfy your itching curiosity to try a powdered, bright green tea. It has less caffeine than regular green tea (which is less than black tea) and it has high amounts of antioxidants.
Drink to your health!
P. S. (Like I’m writing a letter to my pen-pal.) I thought I’d comment on the Republic’s choice of packaging.
I opened the box and found, to my delight, a bunch of cardboard triangles. The Republic’s usual shipping fodder consists of the trimmings from their tea bags, so this was something new and exciting (probably because I’m a geek). As you can see in the photo, they’re called ExpandOS. I’m guessing they come in a flat cut-out and are assembled before packaging to make little triangle air pockets (preferable to plastic air pockets or Styrofoam peanuts). I had to know what this was, so I checked out their Web site (yes, they have a site). Using tea bag trimmings is an eco-friendly way to avoid extra manufactured packaging, but made-from-post-industrial-waste ExpandOS is also a good option.
I’ve been pondering what to do with these guys. If I were artistically inclined, I would use them to build some kind of sculpture, or use them in a found-object project. But, alas, I’m not artistically anything. So….if you want these, I’ll send them to you. It’s my first reader giveaway! (Don’t get too excited.) If you’re a reader and you’d like these ExpandOS for an art project, or something else creative, leave a comment below. First person to comment can have the box full of ExpandOS—under one condition. You have to do a guest post on Tea Notes with a photo showing how you used the ExpandOS. This could be fun and an awesome way to promote reusable materials.