Much like development of children, growing conditions and preparation turn leaves of the Camellia sinensis into hundreds of different flavours. From the richness of aged pu-erh, the silky smoothness of the White Peony (baimudan), the mesmerizing fragrance of winter oolong, to the umami packed taste of a matcha, I love them all. Although I do have a simple principal for tea that I love, they must all be pure goodness. That is, they are free of flavouring agents, such as sugar, artificial and natural flavours. Meanwhile I do like jasmine tea, additives are used too often to mask low quality tea.
In late years, the matcha trend has finally hit the great white north. The number of tea companies that carry matcha popped up everywhere like mushrooms after an autumn storm. This said, not all of them are created equal. In fact, there are a handful of them that cannot even be considered matcha. One that is often confused with matcha is funmatsucha (粉末茶). Meanwhile they are both powderized tea, their base ingredient differs. The former being tencha (碾茶), which is grown under shades for sweetness, whereas the latter being either sencha (煎茶), which is grown in full sun and develops a slight bitterness. As you are ingesting the leaves as well in a bowl of matcha, the taste and smell of tea is magnified significantly. In the case of culinary matcha or funmatsucha sold as matcha, you might be left rather bitter.
If situation permits, I would ship matcha from tea makers in Japan, as the price-quality ratio is always better than purchasing from a retailer here in Canada even with shipping. However, importing is not practical when it comes to my everyday matcha, so I have been trying out different matcha available in Canada. The following are my key criteria:
- It can be purchased from a local retailer.
- It is not overly bitter prepared as usucha.
- The price is acceptable as an everyday tea (up to $0.45 per gram).
At the time of the review, I had been contemplating Midori-No (緑野) from the Chado Tea House, Yame-no-Ka (八女の華) from Hoshino Seichaen (星野製茶園), Matsu and Grand Cru from David’s Tea, as these are all readily available from stores in Vancouver.
I happen to come across Midori-No when I ran out of my matcha supplies, so I decided to give it a try.
About this Tea
Midori-No is produced from Kakegawa of the Shizuoka prefecture (静岡県掛川). The tea leaves are produced by Jonan Tea Corporation (城南茶業組合), which won several awards from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery of Japan in 2010 and 2012. In my experience, one can often find delicious treats following the list of award winners from the ministry. Besides, this prefecture produces 40% of Japan’s supply of green tea, so an award winner in this area is definitely worth a try. Midori-no is the lowest grade matcha in Jonan Tea Corporation line of matcha. It is recommended for use in preparation of usucha (薄茶), thin frothy tea and for culinary use. Usually a tea like this is only used for practising in tea ceremony classes as they are too unrefined to serve to guests. Let’s see if it is good enough for day to day consumption.
For a everyday tea, accessibility is very important. As easy as it is to import matcha from Japan, it still takes about a week or two for the tea to arrive in Vancouver. Midori-No is readily available in the Main Street Honey Shoppe in Vancouver. Even if I do not make a special trip down to Main, I can always grab my supplies at one of many Japanese festivals throughout the year.
For a borderline culinary grade tea, this has a brilliant jade green colour, which is great for cold sweets preparation. A lower grade is often use for baked sweets because the prolong heating would destroy the colour, therefore, is not as important. This will definitely produce an exceptional matcha ice cream! In an usucha preparation, the colour transform into a soft milky green. I am definitely thrilled with the esthetics this tea presents.
As far as this grade of matcha goes, the fragrance of this tea is rather surprising. It carries a rich smell of roasted green seaweed with a slight grassy scent. The scent is released upon contact with hot water, so this makes for an enjoyable preparation even. However, I think the smell is on the lighter side, so it lacks the ability to create anticipation in guests participating in a ceremony, but this can be overlooked for a day-to-day tea.
This is definitely one of the pleasant surprise. This tea carries enough saponin that it froths up quickly when whisked, which tends to be the case for decent quality matcha. After whisking, the tea has a voluminous and silky mouthfeel. The particles remain fine with the final sip without leaving excessive roughness on the tongue.
As far as imported teas in Vancouver go, the price of this tea is definitely not that steep. It is priced at $12.75 for 30g, which works out to $0.425 for each gram and $0.85 for each bowl of usucha prepared. This is very acceptable for a daily dose of zen in my view.
Usually matcha comes in an airtight jar with soft plastic sealant lining a twist-tight lid. This tea comes with a regular plastic lid. I would not recommend travelling with this canister. Traditional natsume are only for ceremonial use as the lid is not sealed, so the canister is usually where the tea would be stored until just before I perform a tea ceremony. In this case, this would not be safe in the original jar as the lid will likely fall off during travel, if it is not plastic wrapped tightly before hand. A jar like this would also mean you cannot prolong the freshness of the tea by placing the jar of tea in the fridge for storage. The constant change in humidity will probably render your tea useless. However, this can probably be overlooked in an everyday matcha, as it will probably be completely consumed well before the expiration date.
In an usucha preparation, this tea has a slightly bitter aftertaste. There is depth to the taste as it travels across the tongue. However, the flavour dissipates rather quickly. Unlike higher grade matcha which lingers well beyond the time you return the empty bowl. As much as the taste is not exactly preferred, it is definitely acceptable to satisfy my daily crave for matcha.
As much as I love this tea for my own consumption, this tea should only be prepared as a daily drink. There are better matcha selections out there for the purpose of serving visiting friends and family. I personally think that an invitation to tea is a way of sharing good memories and experience, so a more memorable tea should be used in that case.
This is definitely great for making matcha latte, ice-cream, whipped cream and truffles. If you so fancy, dusting this on chocolate cake would also be delicious. Keep in mind that this is a culinary to practice usucha grade tea, so you should never attempt to make koicha (thick tea) out of Midori-No.
Should you buy it?
Overall, this is a great tea for everyday consumption. I would recommend this tea for beginners and for those who need a budget-friendly tea for more casual consumption. As for matcha confectionery fans, go all out with this matcha! I think this will definitely beat any other culinary grade matcha available in North America. Although this is definitely pricier (culinary matcha average at $0.16 per gram), I think Midori-No would work marvelously in a cold dessert, such as the vegan matcha ice-cream recipe by Peaceful Cuisine.