Following on my other posts on the gloriousness of matcha here is a new tea adventure with Fragrant Yame Blend from Naoki Matcha. I tried preparations based on the suggestions on the Naoki website and discovered some new benefits of this powerhouse tea. Let's matcha!
Matcha Naoki Style
Naoki works with smaller tea estates in Japan to source their matcha. One of the things I like about Naoki’s approach is their support of customers finding the matcha making method that works for them. They have many resources on their site to assist their customers' experience. That’s part of what Tea Deviant has always been about. Deviate. Find your own path, your own flavor, your own style.
Like Tea Deviant, Naoki provides information on traditional preparation, but also shares alternatives. That way those new to matcha can ease into the intensity of this amazing tea. The Naoki style of matcha tea is greater water to tea ratio and made simply by putting both in a vessel with a lid and shaking it.
I do this often with matcha when I am looking to take in matcha more slowly. If you have ever had issues with green tea or matcha irritating your stomach a more diluted preparation like this will give you a better experience. Also make sure if you are preparing it hot that you use water at 175 degrees max. Higher temps bring out a nasty bitterness in green tea that feels like it’s exfoliating your insides. Keep the temp low and green tea is a friendly, delicious, healthy experience you will want to repeat.
Traditional Matcha Preparations
Usucha - thin (though this is mighty thick to the uninitiated western palate)
Usucha preparation uses about 2.5 oz water to 1 tsp matcha blended with a matcha whisk called chasen. I have been drinking matcha for a while and this concentrated prep is enjoyable to me. However, even I have to watch when I have it so that my stomach is not empty and I don’t have too much caffeine. Matcha packs a wonderful energetic, focused punch, but can take me over the edge if taken too soon after other tea.
Naoki suggests their Fragrant Yame Ceremonial Blend for usucha. Though they describe this blend as sweet and floral, I tasted a delicious asparagus note prior to the floral kicking in. It was delightfully smooth with barely any bitter notes. As you can see the color of this matcha is a very deep, brilliant green which is indicative of quality in matcha. I made the Naoki Yame alongside a cheaper more every day matcha and you can visibly see in the unaltered image below the color difference.
Koicha - thick
This preparation is for Japanese tea ceremonies mainly and has even less water to tea. It is closer to mud or paste consistency and is also made using a bamboo whisk. Not all matcha is good for koicha. The highest quality matcha from leaves that have been shaded for a sweeter, bitter free taste is used.
Per Naoki’s website their Kirishima Harvest Ceremonial Matcha is good for koicha preparation.
You can discover more about usucha and koicha and other preparations on the Naoki website.
Matcha and Caffeine
It is frustrating to do a search about how much caffeine is in a teaspoon of matcha on average and find so many different amounts. That’s why it is good to cross reference and vet your sources.
Naoki’s estimate is on par with other scientific and tea industry sites I’ve read: around 70mg per teaspoon. It is important to be clear we are talking teaspoon of matcha rather than cup of matcha. The amount of caffeine per cup is dependent on how much tea is used in the preparation. As tea is so customizable this can vary widely. On top of that, the caffeine level of different teas, even in the same category, is affected by terroir, climate, elevation and harvest. Yeah, tea is complicated like that.
There are also all sorts of different guidelines on the maximum amount of caffeine an adult should have in a day. I’m not a doctor, so I will first say if you have any concerns talk to yours. Still, caffeine experience varies person to person based on everything from body weight to tolerance. In my experience there is no hard line that fits everyone.
Matcha and Stomach Issues
Matcha is powerful. Like Naoki suggests, making matcha as a tea with more water or as a latte is a good place to start if you are new to this tea. In addition to a milder prep be careful about when you have matcha. Drinking matcha on an empty stomach may cause stomach cramps or even diarrhea. Not a pleasant thought, but knowing in advance can be the difference between a great experience and an awkward or miserable one having you running for the bathroom mid sentence.
Even with my caffeine tolerance I have caused myself some rough rides by consuming intense tea without enough in my stomach. I’m just sensitive that way. If you know you have a sensitive stomach, go slowly using less matcha or one of the diluted preparations we talked about above.
Here’s more from nutritionist Nicole Castaneda: https://gutadvisor.com/matcha-and-diarrhea/
Quality is Key
I get that not everyone has access to the highest quality teas out there, and if you get together with your Nan to drink a grocery store brand tea on Sundays I think that’s great. The experiences around tea are just as valuable as the tea in my opinion. Two categories of tea where I believe quality is supremely important though are matcha and puerh. With matcha you are ingesting the whole leaf not just steeping it. I feel that warrants the use of a better quality tea. It’s my understanding that matcha sourced from Japan is best as their standards are so high.
Matcha Eases Anxiety
I’ve written about high points of adding matcha to your life in previous posts, but there has been some new research. Kumamoto University did a study in 2019 with mice that revealed “Matcha and Matcha extracts reduce anxiety by activating dopamine D1 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.” You can check out more on that study at Science Daily.
Thanks to Naoki Matcha for supplying the tea for this adventure. Have you taken a deep dive into matcha yet? If not, give it a try and discover a new way to experience the magic of tea.
The first thing I ever did on matcha was a video covering the LA International Tea Festival and you can check that out below.
There are many ways to get your tea on, from simple to geek-level complicated. The best tea brewing method for you isn't just about taste, or even health benefits. It's also about your lifestyle, and what you're looking to get out of your tea experience. We’re going to explore hot brew, cold brew, flow through and grandpa style!
Hot Brew - Classic style
Western hot brew is pretty common: steeping tea with hot water ( preferably at a temperature suiting the tea you're making ) in a pot or cup. In Britain and the US this style is familiar, accessible and relatively easy. For ultimate ease just use a tea bag and a cup, or be classic with loose leaf tea, a teapot, a strainer and go Downton Abbey on that thing.
Hot brewing brings out more of the tannins and caffeine in tea versus cold brew. If you like the astringency of those tannins and getting the most caffeine out of your cup, hot brew is great.
When it comes to a traditional British black tea with cream and sugar I am so accustomed to hot brew that it feels like the soothing familiarity of a favorite cozy blanket. When it comes to green tea though I am a fan of cold brew.
Cold Brew - Progressive style
This method is as simple as putting leaves in water and letting them steep in the fridge (I’ve steeped anywhere from 8-24 hours). The main considerations are water quality and leaf to water ratio. Avoid using chalky water (because it’s gross) or distilled (because the flavor compounds won’t have anything to cling to resulting in a cup of blah). Use filtered or spring water. You’ll be happier, and happiness is what we are aiming for. The amount of leaves to use depends on your palate. Some people use more leaves for cold brew (like with cold brew coffee) others use the same amount as they use in hot brew and are satisfied.
Cold brew differs from hot brew in taste because they are different chemically. (Help me out, Science!) The molecules move around more slowly than in hot brew. This results in fewer of certain compounds being released from the leaves, like polyphenols and caffeine. That’s why the taste of cold brew is smoother with no real acidic bite.
Flow Through - Geek style
Tea blending is truly an art form. One of my favorite blends from Harney & Sons is Eight at the Fort, a blend of eight teas created for a meeting of eight world leaders in 1997. The site mentions silver, black and green teas which you can see when looking at the leaves. How they get them all to play together so nicely when brewed at black tea temperatures, I don’t know. It just works.
When making your own blends, whether with herbs and a base tea or mixing tea from different categories, it may take some experimentation. One way to test and enjoy your blend is using the flow through steeping method.
This is where steeping gets a little more complicated. The idea is that you steep the tea that takes the hottest water first and then steep the other tea(s) in the strained first tea at the temperature best for them.
As an example I made a blend of ¾ Chinese green tea to ¼ peppermint. I steeped both together at green tea temperature (I chose 175 degrees F/ 79 degrees C for this tea) for three minutes as a control. Then I steeped the peppermint in just boiled water for five minutes, as herbs release more of their goodness in hotter water and longer steeping times. After the peppermint finished, I steeped the green tea in the peppermint tea for three minutes.
Though the same amount of leaves was used for both the taste difference was noticeable. In the control tea the peppermint was milder and the green tea was more forward, but to me, murky. In the flow through method the tea was overall more aromatic, with the peppermint being very forward though the green tea still made its presence known.
I asked someone else who I’ve never made tea for which one they enjoyed better. At first they thought they would like the flow through one better, but after multiple sips they decided they preferred what they called the earthiness of the control one. That is the beauty of tea. You can make it to your preference. With this flow through example, I think it depends on whether you want the peppermint or the green tea to be the dominant note.
When flow through is used with blends of different categories of tea, like black and green, it can give each tea it’s due. If steeping the lighter tea in the darker one doesn’t please you, you can also steep each separately at their correct temperatures and combine them afterward. Indulge your tea geekery and discover what works for you.
The unboxing video above shows you an overview of what was in the BRUU tea subscription box. Now let’s talk a bit about the teas. It is my understanding that the types of tea change each month. When you join the service you indicate your tea preferences and they create boxes for you around them. BRUU sent me a box to review, so I did not indicate my preference. This time there were 2 CTC (crush tear curl) black teas, a flavored green tea and one herbal tisane. Let's get our tea on!
The first black tea in the BRUU box was an orange pekoe named Somerset Pekoe. This was a very broken leaf tea that gives flavor over very quickly. It has a fruity nose, floral notes and a briskness taking milk and sweetener well. This orange pekoe tea is from Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon). The card that came with this tea indicates it was grown in a cooler region on the Talawakelle tea estate. That information is interesting because temperature is one of the factors that affects the antioxidants (and flavor) in tea. (Note that polyphenols are a type of antioxidant and catechins are a type of polyphenol. Ugh. That’s it for the science lesson for now. We’ll come back to that in another post.)
For those who aren’t aware, orange pekoe (abbreviated OP) is the name of a grade of tea and has nothing to do with the flavor. There is no orange in it. This one is a broken leaf orange pekoe which is usually without golden tips.
Surianalle black tea, from Munnar
This was the "discover' tea in the box and came with a special large information card. From the town of Munnar in the state of Kerala, India this is a high elevation tea - listed as 1532m above sea level.
Both from what I've experienced and what I've been taught tea grown at higher elevations tends to have a more complex flavor profile. One reason is there is greater carbohydrate content in the leaf which lends a sweeter flavor. This happens because the conditions are so difficult that to grow a plant needs to put more carbohydrates in the leaves.
Other details listed include the soil: sandy loam; season: December-February; and average temperature: 19℃.
This is another very broken CTC tea. I found it to be softer, rounder than the OP, and less brisk but fuller bodied. It would also take milk and sweetener well and be a good morning cuppa in the British fashion.
A simple, but pleasing mix of 3 ingredients: apple, pineapple and lemongrass. The fruit and herbaceous notes work well together. They have a pleasant party (without any actual turkey, though it's a funny little image on the package there.)
The card on this herbal tisane said it is a famous tea. If Turkish apple is a famous tea, I must live under a rock. Not surprising as I'm more of an underground, cult favorite kind of person anyway. I am more familiar with the traditional black tea in Turkish culture, made in a samovar as a concentrate with hot water added to obtain the desired strength.
Per my research Turkish apple tea was introduced as a tea for tourists a while back because traditional Turkish tea, just like their coffee, is very strong and most western tourists weren't into it. So a no tea, caffeine free, herbal version was created of which there are many variations. Some use flavorings as opposed to actual pieces of fruit. It looks like this is a variation on that tourist aimed tea.
This is a flavored sencha tea, a Japanese green from Shizuoka. It has everything in it: flavoring, mallow blossoms, rose petals, freeze-dried strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and freeze-dried yogurt granules (that’s a new one for me).
It is very berry indeed, and the sugar in it means no sweetener is required. The tea took a back seat in my opinion, but I think that was the point. If you like the benefits of green tea but prefer fruity tasting tea this would be a good blend for you.
There are different types of tea subscription services for different types of tea drinkers. BRUU’s subscription box is a low cost introduction to a variety of teas for a tea lover looking to expand their knowledge and experience the fun of getting tea delivered to their door every month. The information cards are a fun addition, though a bit hard to read (but that’s why cell phones have magnifiers). They use responsible packaging from recycled sources too with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol on their box. Yes, they deliver to the US.
This tea subscription service would be good for the tea drinker who is:
Thanks to BRUU for supplying the box for this tea adventure.
I knew I had to do this post just as much for myself as for anyone else out there who might be going through something similar. I’ve found that grief is something that comes in waves. It is a process. It doesn’t have a rule book or manual. It is an individual experience, and it takes however long it takes. Going through it alone however is a kind of self-induced torture.
During this time of covid-19 and human rights atrocities, we’ve lost so much: structure, outlets, human contact, jobs, income, security, respect, freedom. Some have lost their lives or people they love or beloved pets.
In a time where we are asked to stay alone or in small groups our grieving process has been taken too. Funerals, wakes, gathering together to celebrate the life of another, are limited if they are available at all. This makes it even more important to create new rituals and to soothe ourselves. It’s also extremely important not to become emotionally isolated. A phone call or video call may not substitute for a hug and an actual shoulder to cry on, but they’re better than being alone with cycling surges of loss.
I’ve had two personal situations during this time that made me realize how important it is to engage in self-care and to reach out. Someone dear to me thousands of miles away is being cared for in a facility, but no one is allowed to visit. I don't know how much time she has left. The powerlessness. The uncertainty.
Then my beloved cat fell ill and deteriorated. This magical creature that has been a part of my life every day for years was in pain. Not getting better. Having to make a decision when or if to end his life before he was in excruciating pain is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Watching the light leave his eyes felt like light was leaving my life.
Waves still hit me.
Rituals like tea and conversations with friends don’t eliminate grief, but I’ve found they help me process it. That’s the goal. Not to wallow in grief, not to reject it and have it haunt me later, but process it, get on the other side of it, and continue to live.
There have been some days that looking forward to a cup of tea is what got me out of bed. When so much of life feels out of control, making a cup of tea the way I like it reminds me that I do have choices. The calm from the L-theanine and the energy from the caffeine are a feel-good combo. They help my focus when my mind wants to fly away or just put me to sleep.
Video calls with friends over tea (and sometimes something stronger) give me a feeling of connection. To share something positive with those I love and who love me in return does more than ease grief, it builds relationships, continuing the story until the next time we can take hands and breathe the same air.
I don’t believe we are meant to be islands. Though it is difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, handling emotional pain alone isn’t heroic. It doesn’t save the world. Vulnerability isn’t shameful. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust.
Perhaps you feel everyone in your life is currently so burdened you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your pain. I get it. Perhaps you don’t feel you have someone in your life you can be that vulnerable in front of. I get that too. If you’re surrounded by empty platitudes rather than people who actually show up you can still show up for yourself. You can also reach out to a third-party like a professional. Sometimes it is easier to talk about something emotionally heavy with someone who is completely uninvolved. They’re not someone you will see on a regular basis, their opinion of you matters less, and they’re not emotionally attached to the issue.
Now I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I’m just a person learning to manage my own sadness during this time, and sharing what I hope will be helpful to you managing yours. Even though I do have people who are in a good place to reach out to (and who I appreciate immensely for supporting me), I do occasionally use a couple of the resources below. I hope that they are helpful to you when you need them.
Whatever your loss or grief I wish you healing and that love and joy win the battle for your heart.
Grief and Mental Health RESOURCES
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Video resources, therapist directory
No insurance, low cost:
Messaging therapy (fee based/weekly), paired with a therapist
Crisis Text Line
Free 24/7 resource in US, Canada, UK, Ireland
Pet grief resources
Multiple resources including a forum, chat, coping suggestions for children and adults and more
The Rainbow Bridge poem: https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Rainbow_Boutique/Rainbow_items/Poem_upclose.htm
Though I started this in May, I needed time and clarity to complete it. This is not a sponsored post. Resources were just those I've found and/or used.
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