Monday, May 25, 2015

Red Leaf Tea: Manju Matcha, A Matcha Monday Tea Review

Back from my little break only to discover, it is Memorial Day, huh, time really seems to fly! Memorial Day to many is the official start of summer, to me the start has always been 'when it is warm enough to swim in mountain creeks' so some years in Pennsylvania did not have a summer. It is a beautiful day for a holiday (even if the lack of mail will throw my whole week off) and Ben and I spent it mostly painting, lounging, and partaking of a few fancy sales. I hit the thrift and got a new dress and a pair of really beautiful cups (one is Japanese and the other is possibly Korean celadon, yay for half off sales) and went to Michael's for new paint brushes, because I always need more.

Today marks the first ever Matcha Monday! A showcase of all things Matcha, usually just straight up Matcha but possible also food and of course various lattes. The first one to be showcased is Red Leaf Tea's Manju Matcha, they are currently doing this neat promotion where you pay what you want for, a good old Name Your Own Price kinda thing, which is pretty cool. Manju Matcha is from glorious Shizuoka Prefecture, home to Fujiyama and famous for its teas. For a fun bit of trivia, Manju is a Japanese sweet, similar to Mochi, and often filled and made with Matcha. The color of this Matcha is lovely, I do not feel my photography does it justice, it is the vibrant green of spring growth, like someone distilled the season into a fine powder. The aroma of the Matcha is very sweet, almost fruity (like bananas, but very faint, I kept thinking I was just imagining things) with strong notes of sweetgrass, freshly mown hay, a touch of nuttiness and a tiny hint of distant flowers.

After sifting and then whisking the Matcha, the fruity notes have vanished, what is left is sweet hay, sweetgrass, a bit of robust grassiness, and a finish of distant flowers. It is pleasantly sweet to the nose.

Ok, tasting time! I did my first session with this Usucha or thin style, this is the more familiar whisked into a foam style that Matcha is well known for. It is both sweet and brisk, with a thick and smooth mouthfeel. It starts out sweet like sweetgrass, hay, and a touch of flower nectar. The taste then transitions to slightly bitter green like a blend of spinach and kale, adding a bit of an umami element to the Matcha. The finish moves around to sweet again with a blend of honey and flowers. It is a really good Matcha for everyday drinking, blending sweetness and umami in a very perfect balance.

I decided to have another session with this Matcha, but this time I went for Koicha or thick style, this is the hardcore stuff, usually only specific teas are reserved for Koicha, usually this Matcha is extremely costly as it is made from older plants and is usually hand picked. Manju Matcha is not really suited for Koicha, but I wanted to experiment, so, why not? The taste is...intense, both intensely umami and intensely bitter. Like having a mouthful of kale, grass, and sauteed spinach. This slowly fades to a gentle sweetness and and aftertaste of distant flowers long after the sipping experience is over. How does it compare to actual Koicha? No idea, I have never had it...way too poor for that stuff!

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