These three matchas are from Uji (specifically the area near Joyo), Wazuka and Nisho. They are high-grade matchas that are suitable for both usucha and koicha and they have been named after the regions they come from Uji Harmony, Wazuka Hilltop and Nishio Bloom. Each of the matchas was shaded for around six weeks. Elevation wise, the Wazuka Hilltop is about 350m above sea level, The elevation of the other two are relatively standard as Nishio and Uji do not have too many high elevation estates.
They are all ”blends” rather than single cultivar and Naoki says that despite that they have still been able to achieve a good balance with them all, which I was eager to experience to see if that rang true. The difference between all three comes down to the type of finish that the master tried to accentuate for each respective blend. Naoki says that whichever matcha they choose from these three to add to their collection will have a signature cultivar that is balanced out by more conventional types like Yabuktia and Okumidori.
Naoki very kindly sent me quite a decent amount of each matcha so thankfully I’ve been able to try each as usucha (thin tea) both omotesenke and urasenke style and koicha (thick tea). Which I like to do to truly test each matcha and see if they perform when prepared differently.
I prepared with the same kind of water at the same temp (85C) using the same chawan and the same chasen. Before drinking each bowl I made with this matcha I used the same chasaku to scoop the matcha and they were all sifted into the chawan to avoid any clumps of matcha forming. I needed to do everything I could going into this comparison to make sure that it was as fairly done as possible so I could give true feedback on each one.
Matcha 1 — Nishio Bloom | Has a thick texture to its powder which took me a while to sift compared to other matchas I have but I was able to make it work using my chasaku to tap it through. Aroma wise in its dry form gives notes of sugar cookies its pure sweetness and not much more. I couldn’t pull out a vegetal or marine note at all which surprised me quite a bit. There is also a creaminess to it but it’s not It’s not a thick creaminess it’s more of a refreshing light creaminess and on a whole when paired with the natural sweetness it reminded me of the way that sugar cookie dough smells out of the fridge.
As usucha Nishio bloom is quite gentle when it comes to vegetal notes and a floral note that I wasn’t expecting at all which works flawlessly with the deep umami flavour. It’s was nice and velvety smooth although a little bit drying towards the back of the mouth which is where most of this matchas flavour notes materialize. To me, this is matcha I think would be best suited to spring because it is a little lighter and that added floral tone brightens up the bowl.
The vegetal notes in this provide notes of asparagus with a glimmer of slightly salted creamy butter-like lurpack and it was naturally more on the savoury side which meant that the floral note was able to stand out as it didn’t have a natural sweetness to contend with. While it may make for a good bowl of koicha for me the flavour profile of this particular matcha is suited more to omotesenke or Urasenke style usucha. Nothing much changes with this matcha aside from the loss of that touch of creaminess that is added when you have the froth. I find though that pond style matcha is consistently much more aromatic as the froth isn’t there to suppress the subtler notes.
While didn’t get to try this iced for this particular comparison I have a feeling it would work well iced and I’ll be holding on to some of this to enjoy prepared that way outdoors on hotter days in spring. As Urasenke style usucha, it froths pretty well but remember froth is not the be-all and end-all and while it does add a delightful creaminess and airiness to some matcha, a pond style bowl with much less froth is just as wonderful of an experience if froth is not your thing.
Matcha 2 – Uji Harmony | As urasenke usucha this was I would say the lightest of the two, the aroma of the dry powder had a hint of roasted hazelnuts ad chestnuts, along with a nice fresh creamy note and a note I can only compare to fresh all-butter croissants, again the texture of the matcha was quite thick in its dry form so it did take a little more work to get it sifted. Across the board, the flavour profile of this one is dominated by a mellow vegetal note, with little to no bitterness until it reaches the back of the mouth/throat and some bitterness does emerge.
It took little to no time for me to build a thick almost latte like froth with this matcha that was much denser than I expected it to be. The vegetal notes of this particular matcha remind me a lot of bok choy with its spinach-like taste and mild levels of mineral bitterness. Omotesenke style/ pond style not much about this matcha altered, aside from the fact that there was less of an airy creaminess to it as the froth wasn’t present and the vegetal notes were a touch more prominent as a result. I would drink it both ways again in the future but If I had to pick a favourite way to drink it I would say urasenke style. Just like the first matcha, this one has a thick, velvety smooth mouthfeel, with the vegetal notes and creaminess lingering for a while.
Matcha 3 – Wazuka Hilltop | The aroma of this matcha in its dry form gave notes of freshly baked pastries, matcha creme patisserie, slightly browned butter and alike fresh vegetal note reminded me of the way that spring morning air smells when nearby grass has been freshly cut. As Urasenke style usucha, it had a froth that was a little bit brighter of green than the previous one and seemed to look a little bit glossier as well.
in terms of mouthfeel, it was much still smooth but much more light and airy than the previous matchas and didn’t coat the mouth at all, with a much shorter finish than both Uji and Nishio but there was a slight lingering tartness and a subtle nuttiness at the back of my mouth and on the sides of my tongue. Again there was not much bitterness to this matcha aside from the centre of my tongue but it was short-lived and was overtaken by the crisp freshness of this matcha.
The umami vegetal notes in this matcha reminded me of fresh edamame and fresh garden peas there was much more of a crisp freshness to it than the other two matchas and it stands out because of that. I was astounded that the intense sweetness from the dry powder was not present at all and also that there was little to no creaminess present even with the amount of froth I was able to create with it. I do think that Naoki hit the nail on the head with this one because when I take sips of this and close my eyes I can imagine sitting on a hilltop with the fresh springtime breeze blowing through my hair and the sun shining on my face.
Not much at all changed when prepared omotesenke style aside from the vegetal notes being a touch stronger. I can see this making great iced matcha because of fresh and crisp it is so I’ll have to give that a try soon maybe for a future outdoor tea session when the weather gets warmer.
As always I thoroughly enjoyed doing this comparison tasting and I’m so thankful to Naoki for sending me over these matchas to try out. They told me I had no obligation to post and that they just wanted feedback on the matcha, but for me, they are such a source of tremendous quality unique matchas that every matcha lover in the community needs to know about and that’s why I decided to do this post. For me, it was quite hard to pick an overall favourite from this session because they were all so different and varied in what their flavour profiles had to offer. I think due to never having matcha with such a floral note before Nishio Bloom would have to be my pick but that would be followed very closely by Wazuka Hilltop as well.
Should it be back in stock soon I highly recommend picking up the sampler that contains all three of these matchas over on the Naoki website and doing a comparison tasting like this. It will help you to learn just how different each of these matchas are overall and just how varied the world of matcha truly is. You can find the Naoki website here and for those of you in the UK, you can find their matcha on their amazon here.
I still have quite a decent amount of each of these matchas left so I’ll be experimenting with them and preparing them in lots of different ways especially with the warmer weather coming up. To make sure you see any content featuring them + more be sure to follow me on Instagram and Tik Tok (@kimberleyskyusu) as I post mostly on these platforms outside of my blog.
Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley