Monday, June 9, 2014

Red Leaf Tea: Matcha Taste Testing Adventure

About a month ago on the Steepster forums, much loved tea company Red Leaf Tea sent out a call for people to taste test their new Matcha. I offered my tasting services and in a few weeks a package arrived at my door. I opened it and was transported to Matcha heaven, no less than fourteen different Matcha samples to taste test. I should admit now that I have shamed the tradition of Chado. Years ago a certain someone (cough cough bad roommate) ruined my Chasen, at the time I could not afford to get a new one and lately all I have been drinking is Matcha lattes. Of course now I still cannot afford to get a new one, so I resorted to a plastic fork. *hides in shame* I also used the same amount of matcha and water, at the same temperature for all the tests. Have to make sure I am consistent in my Ghetto Chado! (This is an official term now, I have decided.)

Number One (Manju Matcha)

This Matcha has such a lovely vibrant green color, both in the powder and in the cup. It smells like fresh hay and sweet grass, it is so pleasantly sweet and green. The taste is subtle with notes of sweet grass and fresh hay, with a nice nutty aftertaste.

Number Two (Tofuku Matcha)

This Matcha's coloration was a bit paler but still quite pretty, I would say it lacked vibrancy but still had panache. The aroma is very sweet, almost fruity, the taste, however did not match the aroma. It is grassy and robust, not subtlety, very in your face. I giggled imagining a Sumo drinking this matcha with gusto and pride. It had a bit of bitterness but not enough to be unpleasant.

Number Three (Will not be using)

The coloring manages to be both vibrant and pale, the liquid is quite verdant. The aroma is grassy and sweet with a tiny touch of kelp umami at the finish. The taste of this mMatcha starts off with a bitter vegetal kick that almost immediately fades to sweetness. It is grassy and sweet, a refreshing Matcha.

Number Four (Will not be using)

Well hello bright green Matcha, you are quite green and spring like. The aroma is quite strong and sweet, almost yeasty. This Matcha had no bitterness at all, just light, refreshing sweetness and fresh grass. It leaves a dry mouth feeling.

Number Five (Tenryu Matcha)

This color on this Matcha was moderately vibrant. The aroma sweet, almost yeasty and vaguely reminiscent of cookies. The taste is both sweet and grassy and also bitter with vegetal notes. It is not my favorite but it is certainly tasty...because it is Matcha, and I love it!

Number Six (Kennin Matcha)

Vibrantly green, rich green, verdant Matcha. I was amused by how perfectly this tea sifted, usually there are a few little Matcha balls left in my sifter (they always remind me of Morimo) but this time, no balls! The aroma is a bit of grass, a bit of hay, and really quite sweet. The taste is much the same, a but of hay, a bit of grass, with an added bonus of nuttiness. This Matcha had absolutely no bitterness at all.

Number Seven (Shokuku Matcha)

This Matcha is vibrantly green and quite fluffy, another one of the Matcha samples that sifted with great ease. The aroma is a sweet blend of sweet grass, hay, and sweet cream. The taste is completely different, absolutely no sweetness at all, just vegetal and grassy. There is not any bitterness either, it is is quite tasty.

Number Eight (Classic)

Even with my poor plastic fork I managed to get a good foam with this one, perhaps my technique is improving! The aroma is grassy and a bit bitter, like sniffing a head of fresh kale. The taste is also quite bitter, very grassy and green with a kick of bitter that fades to really gently sweetness. This tea is surprisingly enjoyable for such bitterness, I would describe it as robust.

Number Nine (Royal)

The coloring on this Matcha is bright yet slightly pale. The aroma is green and fresh, a little on the savory leafy green aroma side. This taste of this one is green, thick and green. It starts of sweet and fades to vegetal and lastly a little bit bitter.

Number Ten (Imperial)
My poor fork had an accident

Ah this one is a lovely shade of green, vibrant and rich. The aroma is a very sweet blend of hay and yeasty honey bread. The taste, well, it lacks complexity, but it is delicious. Quite sweet and smooth, and a little thick, with notes of sweet grass, hay, and an almost fruity finish.

Number Eleven (Connoisseur)

This one is so vibrant! From the powder to the liquid, it is such a pretty shade of green. The aroma is very fresh and green, it reminds me of the way the air smells after a summer storm. The taste starts out a bit bitter which fades to very sweet. A nice contrast.

Number Twelve (Emperor)

Another vibrantly green pile of powder, I have loved all the subtle variations in shades of green. The Matcha smells a lot like a sencha, very sweet and like mown hay. The taste is sweet and green, another of the Matcha varieties that have no bitterness. Yum.

Number Thirteen (Still Considering)
And more Matcha piles up on my tray, I am so messy. 

Vibrant, so deeply vibrant green in both powder and liquid. The aroma is very sweet, almost fruity...ok, actually fruity, in fact I can swear it smells a bit like bananas along with sweet grass and hay. The liquid, I should note, does not smell anything like bananas. It does not taste like bananas, it is very sweet and almost floral, like honeysuckle nectar and hay. No bitterness at all.

Number Fourteen (Still Considering)

The coloring for the last sample is pale yet still quite green. The aroma is quite sweet, again a bit on the fruity side. The taste is delicate, sweet and grassy with no bitterness. There is a finish of hay. It is a light Matcha.

At the time of tasting the samples I did not know anything other than their numbers, I have since learned their names, which is good since it means I can order my favorites!


  1. That's a lot of matcha! And yes, a whisk and a bit wider bowl might be helpful in order to get the right consistency. But, as you've tested them all the same, it's a fair experiment.

    1. In a perfect world I would have still had my Chasen and Chawan, but for now this worked...even if the consistency was not perfect.