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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Matcha Matcha Man!

*Title borrowed from TeaChat thread topic*

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of different events. Firstly, I am official employed. Even though I'm happy I'll no longer be a burden to society or to my parents, it will keep me away from my tea exploits. I'm only working part-time though, so it's not that terrible.

Even though I told myself to wait a month or so before plunging into a new world of tea, I could not resist the allure of new tea-ware; especially when you've studied Japanese art before. So I bought a Chawan off of Rikyu, and the rest of the stuff from Yuuki-Cha. My matcha of choice: The Yuuki Midori, which they promote as their "best-selling matcha." Even though I've heard good things about the Yame, I wanted to give their best-selling matcha a try (plus, the 10% off didn't hurt either).

The rest of my equipment came before my Chawan, which is somewhat ironic since my Rikyu was EMS, and Yuuki-Cha was plain old airmail. My first experience was in a rice bowl (Japanese also), which seemed fitting since the first Chawan were also rice bowls. I picked one with similar dimensions to my Chawan, and it hit me for the first time: Wow, Chawan are pretty small!

I used two scoops, and sifted through a handled-infuser basket. I poured some water in, about 160 F but I eyeballed the measurements and whisked away. I was a little too rough, and I broke the ends of about two tines. I'm glad I got the 100 tine version. By the month's end, it'll probably be a 40 tine Chasen.

It was very creamy and the flavor hit me right away. There was a little bitterness, but in a bittersweet dark chocholate kind of way. It seemed very vegetal, which I expected since I was drinking the entire leaf, not just an infusion. Since there were only two sips or so, I felt a little unsatisfied, and unsure if I was really tasting the right thing. I tried again three more times, until I was a little more satisfied. I was pretty wired by the end of the whole ordeal.

The next day, when my Chawan finally arrived.

Notice the Ensō, more on that later

The kodai, with a glaze beauty mark

I think using a proper Chawan makes a difference in the matcha preperation, but maybe it's all mental. Ensō is a Japanese word meaning "circl," and and is a symbol closely associated with Zen Buddhism. Connotations it carries include the universe and the void, which seem like c
pretty contradictory concepts. Some artists, usually Zen influenced ones, will use it as their signature. I chose this particular piece because I think it represents the philosophical qualities of the Zen, which I studied a bit of when I took a Religions of Asia course at my college.

I'm also reminded of the Japanese character mu "む" or written with kanji, "無" which means "nothingness." I love this Chawan, because it feels so rough in my hand, yet so smooth. It "glistens" when I pour hot water to pre-heat it, although this has lessened recently. I look forward to owning many more Chawan (I'm eyeing a Hagi next), but I promise myself not to purchase one for a few months, until I get a little better at preparing and tasting Matcha.


Bret said...

Maybe try letting your chasen (whisk) soak in the matcha bowl for a few minutes could remedy the breaking if tines. It will pre heat the bowl and soften the tines at the same time. Wet bamboo is stronger than dry bamboo. Isnt a good bowl of matcha sublime?

Maitre_Tea said...

I preheat, but I think the first few times I didn't do it long enough. I'm no longer breaking tines so I guess that's an improvement on my technique.

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