A Work in Progress. Life is always a work in progress, isn’t it? My schoolwork, my job, my students, my photography, my jewelry-making… It’s never quite perfect. Just need a little more practice… a little more time… one more shot… next time will be better… I’m not even striving for perfection… just… better next time! That’s the deal with my DoMatcha!
While living in Japan, I never studied “tea ceremony”, but was a guest in more than I can count. Over the years, my students and friends performed tea ceremonies for me, or escorted me to ceremonies performed in both elegant and rustic tea houses, by ladies in exquisite kimono, or gentlemen in summer yukata. They showed me how to bow at the right time, how to turn the bowl, and how to eat the delicate little sweets. I loved it all! And I loved the matcha! It was always delicious! It was a long time ago. I haven’t had real matcha since I left Japan in 2004 (I don’t count the Matcha Chillers/Lattes/Smoothies from Starbucks and Second Cup).
When Tiffany Picard from DoMatcha offered to send me a free sample, I was giddy with anticipation! When it arrived with a chasen (whisk) as well, I was soooooooo excited! I couldn’t stop smiling! This was going to be awesome! My first REAL matcha in 10 years! I wanted to get it right, so I checked online for some matcha-making tips. I also dug out the chawan (tea bowl) which my pottery sensei made for me in my first pottery lesson, and my mother’s chashaku (tea scoop), given to her in Japan.
The first cup:
I boiled the water and let it sit for a while so it wouldn’t be too hot. I warmed the tea bowl with hot water, and dried it. I put 2 (chashaku) scoops of tea in the bowl. I added a few drops of water and whisked it to make a paste in the bottom of the bowl. When it was smooth, I added more water and then whisked in a zigzag motion until I had a nice frothy green foam on top. It looked and smelled wonderful! But when I tasted it… WOW!!! WAY TOO BITTER!!! I know from experience that matcha shouldn’t be like this, so I went online to figure out what I had done wrong.
The second cup:
My search revealed that bitterness can be caused by a) too much matcha, b) too hot water, c) improper whisking. This time, I tried to reduce the amount of matcha, and wait longer for the water to cool. I don’t know what to do about my whisk technique. I’ve never studied the proper way, but tried to copy the motion from some expert YouTube whisk-ers! This cup was still bitter, but at least it was more drinkable. It would be a few days until I could try again. Oh… I should mention that at this point, I FEEL WONDERFUL! This tea leaves me feeling soooooo calm and relaxed, and peaceful… yet focused… not sleepy or drowsy… it’s weird… it’s like a deeeeeep calm, but with clarity. I attribute that to the tea. You need to experience it to believe it!
The third cup:
This tea is a gorgeous, startlingly bright green; exactly as high-quality matcha should be. It smells absolutely heavenly… fresh, GREEN, and with that unmistakable ‘shortbread cookie’ smell that makes my brain whirl! I don’t think there is anything wrong with this tea. At all. It’s beautiful. So, I’m thinking two possibilities here: a) my matcha-making technique just needs a lot more practice, or b) in all my years of matcha deprivation, I’ve forgotten how it really tastes, and need to get reacquainted with the bitterness. But the problem with this theory is that I honestly don’t remember it EVER tasting bitter in Japan! I decide that my technique needs some work! This time, I use only 1 scoop of tea, and I leave the water to cool for a LONG TIME, even pouring it out between other cups, trying to cool it further. I wait. When I finally whisk this cup, it’s thinner. There isn’t as much froth, although there is a thin layer of tiny bubbles. This time, I can taste the meaty ‘umami’ at the back of my throat (reminds me of pork-chops), but there is still some bitterness too. It’s progress, but I want to try again.
So, on it goes… a work in progress. I KNOW what good matcha tastes like. I’ve had the finest! I have a clear vision in my mind of what I’m trying to achieve. And that’s why I am determined to brew the perfect cup! I WILL get it right!! I believe this is good matcha, and I will continue to experiment with it until I’m happy. Any ‘matcha mavens’ out there with suggestions… feel free to comment. I’ll let you know when I get it right!
Sincere Thanks – Domo arigoto gozaimashita! – to Tiffany and DoMatcha for providing this sample for review.