Part 2. Evaluating the tea you have
Part 2: Evaluating the matcha you have (and how to “love the one you got”)
My first suggestion for this next installment would be to go buy two or three different matcha and when you have them all, come back and work through this article. I will try not to keep going on about it, but the only way to find what you like and build up a foundation of descriptors to articulate what you like (think of it like developing vocabulary) is to drink as much as possible, at least in the beginning. This is language acquisition for your tastebuds. To make it easy on yourself, I would recommend checking out the following three: Spoiler alert, I am unabashedly suggesting you try one of ours!
- Kettl | Shinme Matcha, 20g - $32 (Use code “BLOG” until March 31st for 10% off).
- Koyama En | Wako, 20g - Can be found easily online
- Aoi Tea Company | Serenity, 30g - Can be found easily online
Each of these matcha are in a similar price point and this selection will also immediately provide you with tea from three distinct origins of manufacture - 1 - Yame (Fukuoka), 2 - Kyoto (Uji), 3 Nishio (Aichi). Do take origin with a grain of salt as each tea cannot possibly embody the complete spectrum of any one local but this will be a highlight reel of what you can reasonably expect from each place. I will refrain from telling you what you should expect to taste (that will come in the next installment). There are no mistakes! You cannot be wrong! You already got an A on this! Just sit back and enjoy!
How do we evaluate?
Here is an airtight way to evaluate your tea.
- Inspect the packaging - spoiler alert, these are all packed in pull top cans. But see what information is included. Serving size, origin, best by date, oxygen absorber, etc.
- Pop the top and savor the aroma. Sweet? Nutty? Fresh? Pungent? Weak?
- Color test. Looking into the can of matcha can only tell you so much. We recommend taking a small amount of each matcha and spreading it in a vertical smear on a piece of white printer paper. They should be in a row. Spreading so the edge of the matcha becomes thin is the best method (See the top picture in our last post for an idea of what this should look like). Take a look at the colors and contrast. Depth of green color, consistency of color, sheen, texture of the matcha spread out (smooth vs grainy). There will be variances and seeing them all side by side will help. Also, note that color will change over time so check back in with the paper of 30-45 minutes.
- Portion out a small amount (.5g) into a small, white ceramic cup. Add a touch of hot water (10-15ml) and stir each matcha. You are aiming to mix the matcha with water as best as you can WITHOUT creating foam. You want to be able to see the color of the particles suspended in the water without foam.
- Smell test #2. Check the fragrance from the matcha simply mixed with water. Note what you smell.
- Let the matcha slowly return the bottom of the cup (this may take 20+ minutes) and note the color again of the powder after it has had time to absorb water. Always look to the edge as it is much easier to note color when it is contrasted by the white cup.
- Re-agitate the matcha with a spoon and slurp up a sip. This will be your first experience tasting each. It will likely taste stronger than the whisked version will but you’ll get a look at the heart of the tea this way.
At this point, you should be starting to get an idea of what seems pleasing to you. At every point, the more you can do to record your thoughts the better it will be in the long run.
Evaluating tea is a fun exercise and for those you like me who enjoy the mildly “scientific” approach, you are going to have fun. That being said, honestly, just making a simple bowl of each matcha and drinking with an open mind is also a totally great approach to finding what you like.
How to make a bowl of matcha? Check the next installment.