Monday, August 10, 2015

Matcha Showdown Part 4?: A Matcha Monday Special Review

You all might remember in the  Ceremonial Matcha Showdown, I said that if there were enough Matcha suitable for Koicha I would do a little seperate showdown. Well, it turns out there were three (technically four but more on that later) so I thought, what can it hurt? First a little on Koicha or thick tea, it is not really consumed for recreation (ok some people do, The Tea Barbarian himself takes low grade Matcha and makes it Koicha in the mornings, calls it his truck stop coffee *cringe* so bitter) like Usucha is, it is part of the Tea Ceremony and instead of having a private bowl, this one is shared among the participants. I honestly have never heard of anyone who really loves this stuff, even hardcore practitioners of the Tea Ceremony say sometimes it tastes awful, even Koicha made with specially cultivated for that purpose tea plants that costs a small fortune is an acquired taste. I mean, what do you expect from a bowl of Matcha whose consistency is paint, it is a concentrate, even if the taste is good, there is a lot of it, it is like if Segata Sanshiro kicked you in the face, but that kick was in fact tea. Ok, armed with some Wagashi purchased for this purpose, it is time to get started!

First up was Ito En's Koto No Tsuki Matcha, one that is not just suitable for Koicha, that was the purpose for which it was made, read: it was also suitable for Usucha. It is also the least expensive of the Koicha suitable Matcha in my group and from Ito En. Sadly the website does not really tell me a lot about it, I would love to know how old the tea plants were (the oldest make the best Koicha) and just more about it in general. Ok, Matcha sifted, using 4 scoops and 40ml of water (should have used a smaller chawan, but the green is so striking in this one) let's do this. I brace myself for the inevitable horror and...well...it is an acquired taste, but not a bitter one. Ok, there is a bit of bitter at the front but that unripe persimmon punch fades to an umami explosion, so much savory seaweed and greens going on that I am pretty sure I greened out (you know, like blacking out but with the color green, ah synesthesia, you are so fun sometimes) It then fades to a subtle sweetness. The mouth was a little drying, so the juicy Yokan Wagashi helped with that, and the taste of the lingering Matcha and Wagashi were actually pretty fantastic, like a Matcha and Anko Mochi without the extra chewing. If this is what Koicha is supposed to be like I can tolerate it ever so often.

Next up is Kenko: Ceremonial Matcha, I found out it was suitable for Koicha after sifting through all the customer questions, the owner recommends starting out with Usucha of course, and also says this is suitable for making smoothies and lattes. Honestly using it that way would be a waste, this was one of my favorites from the testing and I would not mind keeping this tea in my personal stash. So, same as before, whisked and watered and OH GOD WHY?!?!?! That is one of the most disgusting things I have had to consume recently (not the most, but certainly up there) It is so mouth puckeringly eye bulgingly bitter, that if I didn't know any better I would say this Matcha has no relation the the favorite Usucha. Really, it is like someone stuffed a vibrantly green unripe persimmon soaked ball of tissues in my mouth. Nothing but papery, dry, bitter death remains. Even the Wagashi could not save me, please, unless you like pain, stick to the Usucha with this one.

Lastly two that is one, Red Leaf Tea: Tanabata/Aiya Matcha: Premium Matcha thank you Red Leaf Tea for offering a cheaper alternative to a Matcha I really like...well like as Usucha, the Koicha trial by green fire has yet to happen. So, this was odd, the taste was kinda perfumed...hmm...how to explain, it is like having a mouth full of kelp and vibrantly fresh green seaweed and veggies while having your window open facing your neighbor's flower garden (gardenia?) it is distant but it is there, you are vigorously chewing that mouthful and breathe through your nose, bringing in the taste of flowers to your mouth. There is mild bitterness, but honestly that floral bit made me forget about it pretty instantaneously. I had a hard time focusing on the other tastes because the floral one was ghostly peculiar that I wanted to hunt it down and find where it came from. Maybe testing three Koicha grade? Matcha while being awake 20 hours was a dumb idea, but it was a mostly harmless dumb idea. I say mostly because I got a hellish stomach ache after all of this, I chugged some Pepto Abysmal, which I noticed had a the same consistency, so a suitable finish.

So, what is my verdict, of the three go with the Ito En, it is the cheapest, tastiest, and most straight forward. Next is the Tanabata/Premium, though you might find the floral note too distracting, like I did. Avoid the Kenko unless you are making Usucha. As for me, I am never doing that again...well, except at a Tea Ceremony, or if I get my hands on some of the stuff made from really old tea plants, by masters who are openly named, hand picked, and cost at least $60...because if I am putting myself through that I want to at least have the high end stuff! Side note, this post is not at all sponsored by Red Leaf Tea as the previous posts were, it is just me being a goofball and playing with Matcha, one of the reasons it does not have a standard formula.

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