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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Matcha Diaries

After work I drove to my local Japanese Market in search of Matcha. I have asked one of my aunts who works at a home & kitchen store to pick up a mini muffin tin for me with intentions for Mini Matcha Muffins. Having eaten my way through every prefecture of Tokyo, down culinary neighborhoods, legendary to Kyoto for their pickles, I was engulfed in an epicenter for traditional cuisine. Not once did I have matcha.

In Japan, Green tea is everywhere. I developed a severe case of vending machine co-dependency. Stopping Tomoko every 10 feet so I could sample something from the strange little machine on the side of the street. Behind the smudged plastic case were candy colored aluminum cylinders of iced liquids. Oolong, Green tea from the Coca-Cola Company, iced coffee with a picture of an art Nuevo goddess on the side- all of it begging to be sampled. My coins floated away from my pockets at every hour of the day. Tomoko's eyebrow would arch as she politely grumbled (as only the Japanese can) "They have these everywhere you know. We don't have to stop at every one- hey you've already tried that one." Her exasperations fell on deaf ears.

Green tea in vending machines is not the same as the phenomenon that was built upon swirled & whisked green powder in boiling water. The clear green liquid bottled in plastic was my oasis at hot subway station, but a different animal entirely.
  • Gyokuro is less aromatic than sencha and has a sweeter taste with a crisp flourish (which Sara consumed in a plastic bottle)
  • Netto Sencha has a pale yellow-green liquor and is good with meals (again with the bottle)
  • Matcha is thick, astringent, invigorating, and delicious

Tea ceremony is such an expansive concept. It encompasses feudal ritual, Zen Buddhism, architecture, clothing design, hand crafted tools, utensils and textile fabrication. The tea ceremony (Sado) is a relatively popular kind of hobby. Many Japanese, who are interested in this culture, take tea ceremony lessons with a teacher. Tea ceremonies are held in traditional Japanese rooms in cultural community centers or private houses. The ceremony itself consists of many rituals that have to be learned by heart. Almost each hand movement is prescribed.

There I was on isle 9 at the Nijiya market trying to find the most affordable tin of the stuff. I felt an awkwardness in my stomach that was the true sign that I had no business dealing with matcha and even less respect for the substance. I get that same way with swim lessons, no matter how old I am. This sinking feeling that I am about to

. . . s i n k .

In the end, I decided that it was only muffins, not worth a nervous breakdown in the tea and instant miso aisle. Besides, 10 bucks for "cheap quality" matcha that has come from Lord knows where, probably an affiliate company of Coca-cola, was not worthy on my money. So I passed it up.

Also, a book on matcha might be in order. Reading up on what to do with the stuff is a concept. Like, perhaps I might actually be able to drink it instead of creating weird American confections with super deformed cooking equipment.

In the mean time I decided upon an inexpensive brown rice green tea for The Boy, who thinks that it "cleanses ones palate". Shown in the picture above. The Boy also believes miso soup to have magical properties that "reset your tummy". One can't possibly enjoy miso soup and toasted rice tea with out a proper tea cup, and after my panic over $10.00 for powdered matcha I forked of $7.99 for the most adorable bunny cup EVER!

Form over function, baby.


Anonymous suzannearama said...

The cup was definitly worth it,who needs food when a cute cup makes you happy!You are on the right path my dear.

October 21, 2005 5:15 PM  

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