Aged matcha

One of the great advantages of drinking matcha, as opposed to leaf tea of all sorts, is that it is faster, much faster.  From start to finish, you’re done in at most half an hour, and quicker if you want to.  I knew today was going to be a busy day of meetings and what not, and that I won’t get a chance to drink a real cup of tea until maybe 8 or even 9 pm, so I pre-caffeinated myself with some matcha.  It also served as an opportunity to use my rarely used chawans, which, in today’s case, is an akaraku I bought maybe a year or so ago.

It is always an experience opening the tomobako (wooden box), with the brocade that comes with a piece and in this case, the artist’s signature as well as the name of the bowl, which is called “Tokiwa” or eternity.  But, before I can get to the bowl, the Safety & Security brigade have to examine the box first

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Now that we know it’s safe, I can take it out for pictures.

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I love raku ware. They have a soft, supple tactile feel and a lightness to them that are the direct opposite of what you’d expect when you just look at them — big, sturdy looking things that are often quite heavy-set. They sound like wood, rather than ceramic, when you tap on them, and I can’t quite find the same feeling with any other kind of ceramics, Hagi included. Kuroraku bowls are serious, whereas akaraku, at least in my own untrained opinion, seems more cheerful.

So it is really rather sad that I don’t have good matcha to go with it today. The only thing I have at the moment is more than a year old, which, as you can imagine, is not an optimal age for matcha. The tea, while it still retained much of the flavour, lost the high, fragrant notes and the sweetness that makes matcha so good. It also gained a bit of an unpleasant side-taste to it that I don’t particularly enjoy. This is a problem with me and all types of green tea — I can never, ever drink them fast enough so that they don’t go bad. I drink green tea so sparingly that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to finish anything in a season. While a can of matcha only costs maybe $20 or $30, a bag of top notch longjing will set me back $100 or more, easily, for a 3oz bag. That’s mostly why I have stopped buying green tea entirely — it’s simply not worth that much to me, especially since half of it inevitably goes wasted.

It’s always fun to play with matcha ware though. I should really do this more often.


Comments

Aged matcha — 9 Comments

  1. Regarding green tea freshness, did you know that Zip-Loc makes bags you can evacuate with a vacuum pump? I have seen them, but they don’t seem to be widely available and I’ve been too lazy/busy lately to actually get my hands on some.

    By the way, I experimented a few years ago with a rigid container that came with a vacuum pump. It didn’t really help, probably because within the big container there was still plenty of oxygen left after I got tired of pumping.

    • That’s too much work for me, for the preservation of green teas at least. What I really want to find out is if there’s a reasonable way to age them that make them taste good. Now, that will get me very interested

  2. Hi Marshall, that’s a gorgeous piece. I lived in Japan for 16 years, and collected quite a bit. I know it’s total heresy to serious matcha people but I find I get better crema by eschewing the bamboo whisk matcha bowl, and firing up a handheld aerolatte frother in a small milk creamer, and pouring the crema-rich matcha into smaller cups. Lots of detail on this process at

    http://www.breakawaycook.com/blog/2010/12/06/how-to-make-matcha-breakaway-style/

    I also sourced some insanely great (and insanely expensive, so it’s probably not for you) matcha for myself and my readers. Here’s how I went about it:

    http://www.breakawaycook.com/blog/2010/02/22/mmmmatcha/

    Not a pitch, just a friendly pointer to some good matcha info. Cheers and keep up the good work!

    Eric

    • That’s a pretty interesting way of doing it, although, why two cups? Why not just whisk in the cup you’re going to drink from? If the point of it is to make a nice, creamy head, then when you pour you lose half of it because it’s still clinging onto the “whisking” cup instead of the one you’re drinking from. I can see it happening in your video too.

      Whisking with a bamboo whisk can produce a very nice head though — even an untrained whisker like myself can do it pretty decently. I think it’s just a matter of practice, and getting the ratios right (and the whisking action correct — not turning in circle, for instance). The matcha I buy is directly from Japan — I generally don’t buy much tea from Western vendors, but thanks for the interesting links.

  3. Marshal’N,

    A few pointers on old matcha:

    If you only drink matcha once in a while, try to find 20g (small) tins of matcha as apposed to the standard 40g size. Always make sure that it was stone ground within the last 3-6 months. In the west you sometimes see matcha with one year or even longer shelf life- matcha sitting in an unopened can this long will start to noticeably loose its freshness.

    When you open a can of matcha know that you will be drinking matcha for the next few weeks/month. If you think it is just a passing craving- find a coffee/tea shop in the neighbourhood that sells matcha and get a bowl of matcha there instead of opening a new tin.

    On making old matcha, you might want to try lowering the water temperature. A lower water temp helps curb some of the bitter, bland, and dirtier notes and allows for what is left of the more subtle flavours to come out. Of course, you’re not going to be achieving anything close to a freshly opened can. The tradition of using slightly cooler water for older matcha goes back hundreds of years in Japan.

    Hope some of this helps.

    Nice bowl.

    Peace

    • Yeah, I definitely used cooler water, and my tin is, indeed, 20g. The idea of drinking the same tea, especially if it’s matcha, for a few weeks, is the primary problem. I don’t like it enough to do that, and unfortunately, in a place like this there’s not going to be any tea shop that sells you anything other than food grade matcha, which is in any case not really drinkable.

      • Marshal’N,

        Yep, figured that you probably took all these precautions but thought that maybe at least some readers might find them helpful.

        Matcha is big here in Victoria so getting a decent bowl of matcha from a local cafe is no problem. Most employees at these shops aren’t in anyway teamasters when it comes to whipping up a bowl of traditional style matcha- still one has no complaints.

        Take care,

        Peace

        • Yes, BC is nice, and the food in Vancouver at least is wonderful (can’t quite say the same about Victoria, sorry). There was one teahouse of sorts here, but it died two years ago, just before I arrived. Alas.

          • Marshal’N,

            “the food in Vancouver at least is wonderful (can’t quite say the same about Victoria, sorry)”

            Hahaha…. so true…

            Vancouver has a puerh scene as well. On the puerh front, it is pretty dry here in Victoria.

            Peace

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