Teas From Japan And China
A Lovely Matcha From Japan
I got the opportunity to try a wonderful new tea today. It was called Kama Matcha and it is a ceremonial grade green tea powder that I bought online. I ordered it on a Monday and it arrived on Wednesday. Quick delivery; a good sign. When I opened the box, I found a nicely decorated little tin. It held 100 g of matcha powder. The color was a bright green, which is what you would expect given the quality.
I actually thought about sprinkling some on my lunch, but that would be a waste with a tea of this quality. Instead I got out my utensils, my goal, my whisk, my spoon and I got set to prepare my tea. I poured a little green tea powder in the bowl and poured some 80° water over it. I took my whisk and was quick motions I beat the tea to a nice froth.
I couldn't drink it right away because my mouth is very sensitive to heat, so I had to wait a few minutes. The suspense was killing me. When I was finally able to bring the frothy green liquid to my lips, the aroma hit me first. It entered my nostrils and went straight to my brain, signaling the deliciousness that was to come. The first sip of tea that touched my lips and flowed down my throat was amazing. It tasted bitter in grassy was everything a good matcha should be. I definitely recommend this tea to anyone.
For those who don't know matcha is a green tea powder made from the highest quality leaves. Produced only in Japan, is one of the best teas money can buy. In fact, it is the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is one of the most difficult teas to brew, but when done correctly nothing can compare.
This tea comes from several different regions in Japan, but the most famous the Uji region near Kyoto. I had the good fortune to live in Japan for three years and to travel around Japan for many months. I spent three of those months in Kyoto and while I was there I tried a lot of teas. But the best I ever had was on a trip to Uji, where I had the good fortune to take part in a tea ceremony.
The cup of matcha they prepared for me on that day was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Ever since then trying to replicate the taste of my own and I think I've done a good job but I've never come close their tea. If you're ever in the area, don't do what most people do and only see Kyoto and Osaka. Make sure you leave time to go to Uji or at least one of the other famous tea growing regions in Japan.
Check out this Japan travel guide for more on the country.
My first Pu Er Tea
I recently went to the Asian store here in my area and came away with a decently priced Pu Er tea. I heard about this variety a lot but never tried it before, so I was really curious. I was a little worried I was buying the cheap variety and I wouldn't get that idea what this tea should be like. That was probably a valid concern.
Then got home and unpacked the tea I noticed a rotten smell immediately. Not really rotten but just a little musky I guess; either way it wasn't the most pleasant thing I've ever smelled. When I brew the tea and tried the first sip, it didn't taste good at all. It tasted kind of like dirt. It was even a little gritty.
So I did some reading online to see if that's what it should taste like or if I simply got a bad batch. Turns out that's pretty much what it should taste like. What I did wrong was I didn't dump out the first infusion or two. You see, you want to let the tea steep for about 10 seconds then pour that out. I've actually started doing that twice in a row. They know that the third infusion steep for the normal amount of time, about 2 minutes, and that's the one I drink.
This method really works and I end up with a decent tasting cup every time. I recommend you do the same. And after the third infusion you'd actually do to three even four more and they still taste pretty good. Following this method, actually enjoy drinking the Pu Er. Although to be honest, I still prefer pretty much any other variety of tea. This one, from Yunnan province in China, just isn't to my liking. I know many people love it more than any other variety of tea though, so it's really just a matter of personal taste. You should get yourself some and try it. Preferably get yourself a better quality one than I did don't be cheap like me
A Japanese Sencha That Doesn't Impress
My mom came to visit me recently. While she was here we did some sightseeing, did some shopping, and did a lot of eating. Since she knows that I drink tea every day and that I really like sencha, she tried to do me a favor and buy me some.
She was at one of the many outdoor markets here in the area, when she came upon a tea vendor. The woman had a lot of teas on display mostly loose leaf in the appropriate containers. The prices were all apparently very low my mother thought she was getting a good deal and bought me some of the sencha. Let's just say this tea reminded me why I always buy tea online.
When I first opened the little baggie I immediately saw all the stems. That's never a good sign. Good quality sencha is mostly leaves. The second thing I noticed was the made in China sticker. This variety of tea comes from Japan and you don't want to buy it from anywhere else. You definitely don't want from China. They have a lot of great teas there and if you want Chinese tea you should buy one of theirs, not one of their copies.
When I tried to tea it tasted about as good as you could expect. I'm going to use it as my everyday tea meaning I put the leaves in the bottom of a large plastic walk-around cup and keep brewing new tea on top of the old all day long. The simple way to get my tea fix, but not something I would ever do with a good quality tea. Usually I use the generic brand find supermarket, but this sencha my mom bought would do just fine. Brewing good sencha is a bit more complicated.
As I mentioned, I always by tea from online stores, mainly because it's so difficult to find good quality varieties outside of Asia. Unless you know a tea shop you can trust, one that supplies excellent teas for a good price, I would suggest you do the same. Many of the online tea vendors have great suppliers in China and in Japan and the teas you get from them are excellent.
For the differences between the above-mentioned matcha and sencha, go here.