Although this post is a supplement to the November monthly box, it's worth a read for anyone looking to enjoy Japanese teas, including matcha, the way the tea-maker intended.
We've been sending tea subscription boxes for almost 3 years and this November Monthly Box is easily one of the most exciting tea boxes we've put together. 3 of the teas featured were found while we were in Japan and carried back in our bags! While we were there, we had an organic matcha specially blended for our subscribers and we found a very cool "twig" tea called Gyokuro Kuki Hojicha (curious, right?). It's made from the stems of premium, shade-grown Gyokuro. We also found a more modern blend of Japanese black tea, green tea, lavender and Japanese mugwort. Mugwort! a.k.a. Yomogi. We thought these selections warranted a little more info than we could fit on the card in the tea box.
Not a Monthly Box subscriber? If you're fast, you can still snag a November box. This is the only way to try the Japanese Yomogi tea. It's very limited quantity. Subscribe here.
STEEPING YOUR LOOSE TEAS, JAPANESE-STYLE
Japanese tea is processed differently than most other teas. In Japan, tea leaves are steamed during production, instead of pan-fried or roasted. This, as well as other factors such as plant cultivar and growing conditions, makes Japanese tea quite unique. So, to enjoy it best, Japanese tea should really be steeped differently. Here's what we were taught in Japan:
Japanese teas (greens and blacks) steep optimally with lower temperature water and a shorter steep time. It's a little different than what you're used to, but very simple!
Step 1: Boil water
Step 2: Cool the water. Boiling water is too hot for Japanese tea. I learned this very handy trick while in Japan: every time you pour from one vessel to another, you reduce the water temperature by 10 degrees celsius. So, pour boiling water into the cup you'll be drinking out of (8oz of water only! That's 2/3 the size of a tall Starbucks). As a bonus, you're warming your cup :)
Step 3: Add 1.5 tsp of Japanese tea to a small tea pot.
Step 4: Pour the water from your cup into your teapot over the tea leaves.
Step 5: Steep for 30 to 60 seconds. A short steep, but long enough to extract a lot of flavour! That short steep allows you to steep the tea leaves a second and a third time! Doing a short 30 second steep means you can wait right there while it steeps. No need to set a timer or walk away and forget about tea.
Step 6: Re-steep! After you finish your first cup, fill your cup(s) again, pour into the teapot, steep a little longer than before and enjoy. You can re-steep it at least twice.
What happens if you use boiling water on your Japanese tea? Your tea will become bitter and you'll lose a lot of the complexity typical of Japanese tea. This is especially true for Yomogi, in the November box, which is a mixture of Japanese black tea and green tea (sencha).
I drew these on the flight back from Japan. It was dark on the plane and I'm not an artist, but I hope it helps clarify the words.
Steeping for two people? Use the same amount water, but two smaller cups:
PREPARING YOUR MATCHA
When given matcha powder for the first time, many before you have thought "awesome, I have always wanted to try matcha!" and at the same time wondered just how to prepare it. Sound familiar? Or maybe you've made it before and ended up with clumps or a whole lot of bitterness. With the right advice and a couple hacks, you'll be whisking up frothy matcha in no time.
The matcha in the November Monthly Box is latte-grade matcha, so here's a few options for making a matcha latte. The matcha is always the base, just like espresso is the base for a regular latte.
Step 1: Bring your water to a boil and let it sit until the temperature is 80ºC. (Or, use the trick outlined above to cool your water!)
Step 2: Heat your milk on the stove. We like almond milk, but you can use other milks. Froth it with an electric frother!
Step 3: Sift 1 level teaspoon of matcha through a small sifter. (optional, but helps make a nicer matcha foam)
Step 4: Whisk your matcha
Option 1: Whisk with an electric milk frother.
Add matcha to a mug. Add 1-2oz of hot water (80ºC/175ºF). Use an electric frother to whisk the matcha for 10-20 seconds.
Option 2: Whisk with a traditional bamboo whisk.
Add matcha to a tea bowl. You can also use a small bowl (like a rice bowl). Whisk in a W shape. Keep the end of the whisk under the water, but don't press into the bottom of the bowl. Whisk for 15-30 seconds. Check out the video we shot in Kyoto, Japan, demonstrating how to whisk matcha traditionally.
Option 3: Add the matcha to a mug and add a tiny amount of water, just enough to form a paste with the matcha. This will get the clumps out. Then it's easier to whisk with a kitchen whisk or fork. If you use a kitchen whisk, you'll likely have to make this in a bowl and transfer to your mug.
I highly recommend investing in an electric frother if you fall in love with matcha lattes. That way you can froth your milk and your matcha :)
Step 5: Pour hour hot frothy milk over your matcha in the mug. If you're keen on sweetening your latte, add it now or you can add it to the milk before combining.
Want to learn more about the teas in the November box? The teas will be fully revealed on November 25th. We'll dive deeper into what makes the Gyokuro Kuki Hojicha unique, explore the health benefits of Yomogi and tell you how you can get your hands on that custom organic matcha. Stay tuned!