Recently I was asked by Happuan Souen, who is a Omotesenke instructor and Matcha Seller over on Instagram, if I would be willing to try out three mystery matchas and compare them and send my feedback to them. Two of the matchas are low-pesticide and one matcha is for the Japanese domestic market. When I asked what the purpose of this tasting test was I was informed that the purpose of this tasting was centered around pesticide usage when it comes to tea.
Here are some words from Happuan Souen as to why they wanted to do this experiment: ”Each country sets it’s upper limit on pesticide residue on agricultural products imported into the into their country to protect their people’s health and land from contamination. A large amount of Japanese green tea has too much pesticide residue and cannot be exported to many counties a. As a result of a blind tasting in Japan to see if low-pesticide matcha, which meets EU and US pesticide residue regulations, tastes good when made into usucha, it was rated as delicious.”
”If the low-pesticide matcha is well received overseas and the export volume increases, it will reduce the reduction of tea leaf production, the closure of businesses due to aging and lack of successors, and the resulting abandonment of tea fields. Low pesticide cultivation also reduces the impact on our health and the environment. And of course, overseas consumers will have legitimate access to matcha. So, I asked for a blind matcha tasting to see how it would be received overseas.”
Of course I said yes and after I found out the reasons behind this tasting, I was so glad I did. You all know well enough that I love doing comparisons with tea and taking time to a bit more of a tea geek. You all also know how much I champion Japanese tea and want to do as much as possible to promote Japanese tea to a wider audience and help the industry thrive from outside of Japan and up the international export market which the results of this experiment could end up helping with.
After sending off my personal feedback, I felt like this would be a good subject to write a more expansive blog post on, and maybe me sharing how I do my tea comparisons will inspire you do try out doing your own in the future, because it’s certainly something every tea lover out there should experiment with at least once.
So for my first session I measured out 2g of each matcha and prepared them all as usucha urasenke style with lots of froth, using the exact same temperature freshly filtered water and the same amount the water – to make this experiment as fair as I possibly could. For my second session I did the same but rather than prepare my usucha urasenke style I instead decided to prepare it omotesenke style aka pond style. I did this because outside of tasting comparisons like this I drink matcha both ways depending on what I am waiting to experience during different sessions and I wanted to see how these matchas would perform when prepared both ways.
Matcha 1 – Aroma notes: Buttery, like buttered asparagus, cold cream, lightly toasted white bread,rice crispy milk, creamed greens spring time grass on a fresh morning, subtle floral hidden behind the more prominent notes.
As Urasenke style usucha this matcha froths really well and that froth does stick around for a while, but I am sure we have all learnt by now that great froth doesn’t always equal great matcha. From the overall aroma of the dry matcha I expected the froth to enhance the creaminess that was present but that wasn’t the case at all sadly. Vegetal notes are present and a subtle hint of butter. Lingering vegetal (steamed asparagus and wilted spinach) linger in the mouth, leaving a slight dryness. From the aroma I expected a little more from this matcha in terms of depth but I did enjoy sipping on this, however I wouldn’t pick it over other matchas I have had.
As Omotesenke style usucha, this matcha has a medium strength umami, a lightly salted butter, it lingers slightly leaving that creamed green note that was also present in the aroma on the tongue, it’s light in terms of mouth feel and relatively smooth but does leave a slight dryness in the mouth afterwards. There is a really light lemon rind in which adds a touch of citrus zest but not the sourness. I did get that cereal milk hint in this like a fresh out of the fridge soya milk that been poured over rice crispies and sat for a little bit so the flavour of the cereal has made its mark on the milk. That note was quite prominent for me in the aroma and sadly not as prominent in the taste but overall I’m just glad it was present at all. I definitely preferred this prepared Omotesenke style it allowed for more complexity and depth to it.
Matcha 2 – Aroma Notes: creamy, rather sweet, low on vegetals, rice pudding, while the vegetal aroma is less prominent than matcha no.1. The vegetal notes in this one do come across a brighter like springtime grass on a fresh springtime morning sprinkled with dew.
As Urasenke style usucha, this matcha is definitely much lighter in taste than the first one which would make it ideal for the spring summer time. However its aroma offered so much that wasn’t really noticeable at all in taste when prepared this way. There is something in the way that is matcha tastes in particular that reminds me of mineral rich babbling streams, mossy crags and sweet smelling pines. There is a creaminess and a subtle sweetness to it but neither were as prevalent as they were in the aroma however they do work perfectly with the other notes that are more prevalent in the profile. As I said this matcha is on the lighter side so I think it would throw the overall balance off and distract from the best notes in its flavour profile. It froths well and that froth definitely amplifies the creaminess a little, but it’s a thinner froth than the first.
Prepared Omotsenke style, the matcha gives me spring time picnic in the park vibes, it’s light with touches of sweetness, a creamy mouthfeel, no bitterness, and light vegetals with a hint of chestnut. Now I understand that this is not what many people would go for as it’s not the usual umami bomb that matcha is known to be, but I feel like it would be perfect to sip on on a warm summers afternoon having a picnic surrounded by nature. I also feel like because it is on the lighter side maybe this might be better suited to someone who is new to matcha and looking to get started with it, but they just aren’t quite ready for an umami heavy, strong vegetal bowl. While I do enjoy it prepared this way I think I prefer this one urasenke style.
Matcha 3 – Aroma Notes: Fresh country side air, salted butter, kale a sweet creaminess akin to sweetened cream cheese. Freshly made popcorn that still warm, toasted barley, seaweed salt, steamed green beans.
Prepared Urasenke style this matcha froths very well producing a thick creamy light green froth that stands its ground well. It’s rich and a lot more savory than the other two matchas, but that isn’t a bad thing a all and something tells me it might make for a decent koicha and probably be a great matcha for a latte as it would not be overpowered by the addition of something like soya milk. Certainly vegetal heavy with hints of salty seaweed and hints of toasted barley/popcorn but not as prominent as they were in the aroma. Mostly vegetal in it’s aftertaste at the back of my mouth, with the froth making for a smooth subtly creamy mouthfeel.
Prepared Omotesenke style, this matcha I would say is the riches of them all just like it was when prepared, it has a touch more astringency when prepared this way as apposed to how it did when I prepared this same matcha Urasenke style, which it is rich in its vegetal characteristics. It’s much more savory than the other two and has the toasted barley/freshly made popcorn notes that were present in the aroma. It has a lingering salty seaweed note to it as well that I can taste mostly at the back of my mouth, the toasted barley/popcorn notes coat the front of my mouth, tongue and cheeks.
Overall I really think this comparison experiment worked out really well and I’m beyond thankful I was given to opportunity to do this and further my skills with matcha a little more, helping to refine my pallete so I can write even better content in the future.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the matchas for their own specific reasons and it was nice to see just how much matchas can differ from each other and how so many different things that go into their creation can have an effect on their quality and overall flavour profile. Out of all of the teas I drink regularly matcha I find is the most intriguing of them all and I am always eager to continue learning more about it. I hope you enjoyed this comparison post, it’s taken me a while to put together as to not overload myself on matcha but it’s been worth all of the work for me and I’m glad I decided to do it.
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Until next time. Happy Steeping – Kimberley