Matcha Tea - Picked in Spring 2021 and produced by Kenji Tofuku in Kirishima Chuou Garden, Kagoshima, Japan
Combining centuries of tea tradition with a radical approach to organic tea craft, our latest batch of Organic Ceremonial Matcha tea brings to life the flavour and character of Kirishima, Japan, in a single bowl.
Origin: Kirishima, Kagoshima, Japan
Terroir: Grown at fairly high elevation among the mountains of Kirishima, which has a particularly seasonal climate being very cold and dry in the winter with hot and humid summers.
Picking Season: Spring 2021
What is matcha tea?
Matcha (meaning ‘rubbed’ or ‘ground’ tea) is a style of powdered green tea from Japan which has been revered for centuries due to its use by Buddhist monks in the chadō or Matcha tea ceremony. It’s crafted using a process of shading the tea bushes used to grow matcha, known as tencha, for 20-30 days before harvesting the leaves. This helps create a deep, umami-rich taste. The leaves are then steamed to lock in their green colour and flavour, before being ground into a very fine powder using traditional stone mills.
When whisked together with water, matcha creates a very rich, fragrant and smooth green tea. As well as this distinct flavour, matcha is also popular due to its high levels of naturally occurring chemical compounds, such as L-Theanine, which, when combined with the natural stimulant caffeine, can help to create a state of calm-focus – something Buddhist monks would use to help their long periods of meditation.
What makes tea from Kirishima so different?
In the far south of Japan’s Kyushu Island is the city of Kirishima. This small city sits on the volcanic bay overlooked by the towering Sakurajima, an active volcano that can periodically cover the land in a fertile layer of ash. North of the city and heading inland, the area turns into vast green space with lots of green mountain forests, thanks to its volcanic landscape.
Kirishima and its wider prefecture of Kagoshima have a growing reputation for organic tea cultivation, which is quite progressive among the tea producing regions of Japan. Normally the demands for yield and production have led many Japanese tea farmers towards chemical fertilizers and pesticides over previous decades, making it difficult to source high quality and organic tea, but this is changing in places like Kagoshima.
Due to its higher elevation and expanding tea industry, Kagoshima has been able to carve out its own identity in Japanese tea. The emphasis here is on organic production, so tea farmers are willing to experiment with their gardening techniques, which has led to a variety of styles being produced here, rather than one single particular focus. That means we’re more able to source Organic Matcha and even our most recent batch of Organic Hojicha too.
Who produced our Organic Matcha tea?
This batch of Organic Matcha was produced by Kenji Tofuku in the mountains just outside of Kirishima City. His tiny, organic garden, a fraction of an acre in size, sits at around 450m elevation, which is a fairly high altitude for Japanese tea and is surrounded by luscious, green pine forests. Tofuku decided to use organic methods in his garden as he considered a much safer way to produce tea. Being among the mountains also means that the landscape is naturally broken up into small pockets of isolated gardens among the forests and hills, which protects the plants from potential contamination of any pesticide sprays by neighbouring plots.
It hasn’t been an easy journey though; Tofuku admits it has been many years of trial and error to create an organic tea of such high quality. One of the keys to getting it right he says, is a method called Fukagari or ‘deep pruning’ of the garden after the second harvest in the late summer. The tea bushes are cut right back rather than being picked for a third time, which naturally controls the pests in the garden while giving enough time for the bushes to recover from the harvest.
When crafting tea, Tofuku aims to highlight the fragrance of Kirishima, which he considers its special feature. This is thanks in part to the regions altitude and seasonal weather – cold winters and an early, dry spring make the perfect conditions for slow growth and time to develop a distinct aroma. Tofuku has also chosen to grow a variety of tea bush cultivars in his garden, from the classic Yabukita to the unique Okuyutaka and of course, Okumidori, which we selected for our matcha. Each of these cultivars has a particular taste and quality and the Okumidori tea bushes, which are quite common in Kagoshima, are recognized for their rich flavour, deep green colour and particularly high yield – perfect for creating matcha. Once the Okumidori leaves are picked, Tofuku chooses to steam them Fukamushi style, which means a deeper steaming than usual of around 1 minute. This is key for creating the rich taste in the final, ground matcha with a balance of high sweetness and a deep, vegetal umami flavour.
How Does this Matcha Tea Taste?
The aroma from this matcha is deep, slightly vegetal and grassy, but the taste is actually quite sweet. You may find a tiny hint of bitterness if you are not used to green tea, but it will quickly transform into a sweet, even floral taste, with an underlying umami quality. What I love about matcha is the thick texture that’s unlike any other green tea and adds to the creamy mouthfeel – watch out for any matcha that is flat and dull with a strong bitterness, this will mean the powder is old, stale or low-quality.
How do I make it and how easy is it to get a good taste?
For the best experience with our Organic Matcha, we recommend making it the traditional way with a chawan (tea bowl) and chasen (bamboo tea whisk). It’s a really simple way of creating a focused, richly flavoured tea with the fullest expression of the terroir and tea cultivar – the taste as it should be. Also, you’ll probably know by now green teas taste better when made with cooler water, usually around 80˚C. This cooler water will help bring out more of the sweetness from your tea and highlight the thick, creamy textures, especially with matcha. Here’s how we like to make it:
- Start by preheating your teaware with freshly boiled water, then discard.
- Add 1.5 - 2g matcha (2 level teaspoons) into your preheated chawan. *Top tip: to get an ultra-smooth taste you should sift your matcha using a fine mesh strainer.
- Slowly pour over 60ml water cooled to 80˚C.
- Using your Chasen, whisk the water and powder together in a ‘W’ motion for 15-20 seconds to form an even crema on the surface for added texture.
Our Top Tips
- If you’re struggling to form the foamy crema on your matcha then you may be adding too much water. If you’re finding it too strong but still want that texture, then add less water at first, whisk your matcha to form a crema and then dilute with more water.
- Once opened, we recommend consuming your matcha within a month for the freshest flavour. For prolonged freshness you can also store your matcha tin in the fridge. Be careful not to store it where there are other contaminating odours though and keep away from harsh sunlight as these can easily degrade the quality of such a finely powdered tea.
- Because matcha is a powdered green tea, when you mix it with water you’re getting the full effects of the whole leaf. This means more of all the beneficial antioxidants and natural compounds, but also more caffeine too. Compared to a regular tea infusion, our recommended matcha recipe could have about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Who is this Matcha tea for?
This is a must try for those who enjoy a deeper flavour from their tea, so if you enjoy our other Japanese greens like Sencha and Gyokuro, which have a particular boldness, with intense floral, grassy and umami notes, then this organic matcha will certainly impress. Also, if you’re seeking out a new daily ritual, then the traditional method for making matcha with a tea bowl and bamboo whisk could be the perfect morning or afternoon routine to help achieve a clear and focused mind, as well as a great tasting tea.