I have been drinking green tea for the past 4 years and upon learning of my inclusion into this trip I immediately thought of the quality of the green tea I would enjoy in Japan. I had only consumed culinary grade matcha up to this point and was excited to try ceremonial matcha from the source. I was also fortunate enough to have had a visit to a ceremonial tea garden scheduled for our group. The reason for my
Matcha is a type of Japanese green tea. Unlike teas that are brewed with tea bags or loose leaves, matcha is unique in the regard that it is ground to a fine powder. Matcha powder is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The name matcha suits the tea as the Japanese translation of matcha is powder. Thus, when western recipes call for matcha powder to be added as an ingredient it could be literally translated as “powder powder”.
Matcha is grown in shaded tea fields. The shade forces the green tea plant to produce more chlorophyll, caffeine, and nutrients than it normally would. This provides the matcha with it’s vibrant green color and powerful nutrients. Due to this method of growth matcha leaves are endowed with a rich, mellow taste unlike other teas that are grown in unshaded fields. Matcha, Oolong Tea, and Black Tea are all made from the same tea leaves of the Camellia sinensis.
On March 29 we went to the Yusentei Japanese Garden. This garden was constructed in 1754 as a resort of the Lord of the Kuroda Clan. Within the park is the Yusentei tea house. Unfortunately, we were not able to watch the preparation of the matcha we received. However, a master of tea was present to instruct on the proper manner in which to drink the tea. The instructions are as follows;
- Bow to show appreciation towards the people who made the tea.
- Eat the sweets
- Grab the tea bowl with your right hand and place it on your left palm
- Turn the tea bowl twice, to prevent drinking from the face of the tea bowl because the face is the most important part of the tea bowl
- With the tea bowl on the left palm of your hand, cup the side of the teal bowl with your right hand and drink the tea
- Turn the tea bowl back to its original position, with the front facing you, and set the bowl down with your right hand
- Bow again
Unfortunately, I was so eager to taste the tea that I forgot to cup the tea bowl when I drank my tea. Fortunately, the master did not witness me make this mistake. The taste of the tea was also amazing, it was sweet and earthy. There was no competition when comparing the taste of this tea to the taste of the matcha when I had grown accustomed to in America.
Another special part of the ceremony was our surroundings. The garden that housed the tea house was the most aesthetically pleasing view that I had ever experienced first hand. Below are some pictures that I took to remember the event.
Tasting the quality of Japanese matcha at the tea ceremony prompted me to buy a few tins of ceremonial matcha from the next mall we visited. I dread the day when the last of my tins run empty. This will be just one of the many reasons that I have to return to Japan in the future.