Reviews

Matcha Superior (40g/1.41oz)

US$17.00

Author Michael Nelson   (United States)
Review Before the review, I am submitting my personal experience and a recommendation, so that anyone who decides to try this level of tea (Matcha Superior) or the grades above this, has a proper frame of reference. This will guarantee your enjoyment of this tea. I will then post the review and a funny story about matcha tea experience in a store.

1.Personal Experience- I have tried many of the best green teas, from all over Japan and China. Spending my money and time, over 15 years, was worth the education in tea. So far, with Hibiki-An, I have tried the House Matcha (2 boxes thus far!) and also the Superior Matcha (1 box). I posted a review about the House Matcha which may help in your own tea research. My experience with the major matcha tea providers in the U.S. is mentioned there also. I have had matcha in Japan. The best matcha I have personally had so far, was at a Japanese culture festival in Atlanta. They were held in the spring and I was lucky enough to get invited to a formal tea house ceremony and i must admit, the experience alone very likely biased my tasting of the tea as an extraordinary tea. There is a deep reverence in the Japanese culture for high grades of tea, especially matcha. Keep in mind, this is what this tea is made for. It is not something that you just go buy, like a "Starbucks tea milkshake" or a "tea latte" for $5. That is fashion tea, high cost=low quality, but they give you high quantity! Matcha, on the other hand, when done right, is part of the Japanese cultures spiritual tradition, dating back many hundred of years, long before "Charbucks" was making "tea milkshakes" or "lattes". It is important to mention this from my personal experience, to pay homage to the culture that has brought us this tea, so we have a proper context of how the tea is used and this relates to the funny story at the end also.

2. Recommendation - If you are here reading this and about to buy this quality of tea, do yourself a favor and ensure you make it the absolutely correct way. First, get the proper implements (a matcha Chawan bowl, and a bamboo whisk(Chasen) at the minimum). Second, use the best water you can, at the right temperature. These simple things will allow you to make the matcha as it has been for hundreds of years in Japanese culture. How can you say the tea is good or bad if you are not making it correctly? I personally spent my own money with Hibiki-An and I have a Chawan(the beginner $41 one), a bamboo whisk(Chasen) and whisk keeper(Kusenaoshi), and a matcha spoon(Chashaku). I guaranteed myself that I can replicate my matcha experience everytime, by getting the right tools for the job. As for water, just ensure you filter out the chlorine! and other stuff that may flavor the water or affect the taste of the tea. You will see for yourself once you start doing this correctly. Chlorine water will make your good tea taste horrible. It looks like it curdles up the matcha powder...i have made the mistake! Just a recommendation if you are going to start making this level of tea, make sure you are enjoying it to the fullest, by doing it properly.

3. REVIEW- This Matcha Superior is clearly "one rung on the ladder" up and above the House Matcha. Taste wise, smell wise and even when making it, the Superior froths up a bit better than the House. The Superior has a very mellow taste when drinking, very subtle. It is also sweet. Not overly sweet like Americans are typically used to, but a very subtle, bright and light sweetness. Not strong sweet but very delicate almost imperceptible sweet. Also, when compared to the House Matcha, which is very bold, earthy and tastes "Gyokuro" like, the Superior is noticably different. It is not earthy, and not bold, with just a hint of high Gyokuro taste. The Superior is the first step away from the House matcha, and headed towards the Premium and Super Premium categories. The Superior has more flavor, almost and invisible floral note to it, when compared to the House. The House is more "green tea" like and robust where the Superior is more flavorful and finer, not as much "green tea" and more mellow.
Also, as a frame of reference, I drink Superior in the traditional style, Koicha (4 Chasaku's worth- or thick and strong) as opposed to Usucha (2 Chasaku's- or thin and weak). Also crucial for this review of Superior is the fact that the L-Theanine content appears to be stronger! Which means you will get a much more pronounced Zen experience, which is part of why the Japanese made matcha and the tea house ritual anyway. I much prefer the effect of the Superior over the House. I drink the house as a daily(monday-friday) tea, as I don't drink coffee, and the house allows me to enjoy the effects and benefits of matcha at a reasonable price,like a table wine. The Superior is something I savor for meditation, weekend mornings or when focusing for writing papers for college or to really enjoy the moment of shared tea with close friends. Superior is an above average tea that offers High quality for the absolute best value on the market!

4. Funny Tea story- So, I walk in to the local Teavana store in Charleston, SC and I was buying my usual two week supply, one of their cans of matcha. I ask the gentleman behind the counter if: 1.He knows how to make matcha and 2.If he has the time to actually make a matcha, as no one was in the store and I thought "perfect timing! I may as well enjoy some matcha!". The fellow says "Yes" to both questions but I notice he immediately scurries over to the manager and asks "What is matcha?". I did feel the "disturbance in the Force" as any Jedi would, but I rested assured that Teavana would have a manager capable of quickly educating and orienting this employee as to what matcha is, how to whip one up and thus the world would be a better place as soon as I had that matcha...
So, I almost cried when I watched the employee take a spoon, scoop and dump a nice large heaping serving of matcha(probably 2 teaspoons or 2 "Koichas" worth...) into one of Teavana's infamous screen-bottomed "tea makers" and then pour boiling water on top of it. I almost screamed "NOOO!" and dove over the counter...but it was too late. He was smiling and I was watching the matcha clump up into a wad of goo on the screen of the "tea maker" as the water just sat on top of it, boiling the matcha into tasteless bitter goo. Of course, the employee did his best to try and get the water to drain through the matcha and out of the bottom of the "tea maker" into a paper cup, but I maintained Zen, already aware of what was occurring. Not being able to get the water out of the "tea maker" due to the matcha having clumped and clogged the screen, the fellow dumped the bitter green tinged water into the cup, and handed it to me smiling. Not the least bit dissatisfied, nor angered, I also smiled and sat the cup back down and walked away. It may seem ignorant, maybe condescending, the truth is that it is merely a matter of principle. What was done with the matcha was dishonorable. Having paid for one thing (the matcha) and gotten another (no matcha), Teavana "lost face" and their business honor. It was for me, a simple matter of honor, a rather archaic but true principle acknowledging what any noble Japanese person may have done as well, at least anyone who really enjoys matcha and knows the cultural importance of something that is perceived as simply "tea making". In Japan, the art of making matcha is considered a living meditation, a way to live the spirit of the moment by making tea and honoring nature (the tea), selfless service (the ceremony) and zen (the ritual of making the tea) at least that's my Western understanding of this Eastern art. It may look like "making tea" but it is not the British or American version I assure you. I'm starting to sound like Anthony Bourdain's TV show here...
This was not the only experience with this store. I had several other "no matcha" experiences just like this one, in the city I originally lived in, Atlanta, and home to Teavana. I have since learned, that I may never find a store that sells "matcha to go", which is a fallacy anyhow....
Bottom line here folks is that experiences like these, although humorous, are an insult to the culture of Japan, and the ritual and ceremony of making matcha. This last one, which occured during the latter part of 2008, made me search to come up with a way to consistently reproduce a high quality matcha experience at home. This is why I posted all of this, so that others may benefit from my experiences!

Enjoy your Superior Matcha!
Rating
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Date March 23, 2009

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