71 Special Online Feature
Ado About Matcha:
Appreciating the Taste of Powdered Green Tea
by Lauren W. Deutsch, Sochi
You’ve seen her about town, demurely coifed and impeccably dressed
in a shimmering kimono of a refreshing hue of green upon which
seasonal grasses and a single flower bud blossom onto her obi.
Perhaps you know her by her stage names, poetic impressions conjured
up by her esteemed patrons, among which she counts many of Kyoto’s
elite – the current grand masters of traditional hospitality and
those for over 16 generations before. She is invited to be present in
complex rituals that honor the most noble of Japan’s warriors.
Her renown is jealously guarded as one would a fine songbird of rare
voice. A sweet confidence marks her beguiling gestures. Even after one
chance meeting, one is left with an impression that is deep and full.
She is, of course, “Matcha-sama” – Japan’s
beloved emerald empress of high traditional culture, the national muse
whose substance is the finest powdered camellia sinensis. Even
in Kyoto, the undisputed center of the Japanese tea world, wherever
she goes, she is in a class by herself. Her reputation is impeccable,
albeit “Old School”; she is outnumbered by the likes of
upstart “Punky Poky Bobacha-chan” and “Frappalattechino-chan”.
If you think that chanoyu, the Japanese tea ritual, is primarily
about enjoying the flavor of matcha ... I have a bridge to
sell you! Let’s call it the ultimate Japanese “urban myth”.
Making matcha – mixing of hot water and a tiny bit of carefully
selected, hand-picked young green tea leaves in powdered form –
is merely the premise for a refined social gathering. Unlike oenophiles
who can wax poetic about the taste factors of their beloved wine, chado
practitioners, folks who make the Way of Tea their Way of Life, are
hard pressed to discuss the distinct taste characteristics of dozens
of comparably prepared teas from each other of the same grade.
So what’s the fuss about a tea ceremony? Why are there so many
different products marketed if there’s no discrimination? Why
has making and sharing a bowl of matcha been one of the prime markers
of Japanese culture for over half a millennium? Does one have to study
10+ years and make thousands of bowls of tea to get a handle on the
taste? Maybe. Maybe not.
The Taste of a Bowl of Emptiness
Tea is not a game and not an art;
one taste of tea refreshes and purifies
and gives enlightenment to the universal law."
–Murata Shukô (1423-1502)
– enjoyed in powdered leaf form – was imported to Japan
from China along with Rinzai Zen Buddhism by Yosai in about 1192 A.D.
and was first planted at Kozanji Temple in Toga-no-o in the northwestern
region of Kyoto. Other temples began to plant tea for their own consumption,
as did the imperial palace in the early 9th century.1
Tea was popular among the monastic set for its medicinal effect; its
high level of caffeine kept them clearheaded and awake during long periods
of sitting zazen meditation. In China, back then, tea was relegated
to the “bitter” category of the Five Element Theory2
of Traditional Oriental Medicine, thus good for the heart. (Only recently
has the West adopted pungency as the official fifth taste sensation.
Umami as its known is a signature Japanese flavor projecting
a broth-like, pungent “heartiness” sensation associated
with fermented and aged foods. More about umani to come!)
Priest Myô-ei Shonin went to the trouble to delineate “10
Virtues of Tea”3,
but none were about the taste.
Has the blessing of all the Deities.
Promotes filial piety.
Drives away the Devil.
Keeps the Five Viscera in harmony.
Wards off disease.
Disciplines body and mind.
Destroys the passions.
Gives a peaceful death.
than also bring back methods of cultivation of the plant, they told
us how to cultivate the mind: there is ... no ... discrimination ...
no ... nose, tongue, body ... smell, taste ...” in emptiness.
It may be a good recipe for enlightenment, but not for gourmands. Murata
Shukô (1423 – 1502), renowned among his peers for dozing
on the zafu meditation cushion, one day finally woke up, jumped
up, declaring, “Chazen ichi mi" – “Tea
and Zen are the same taste!” and exchanged the dark, smoky zendo
for a life of tea drinking in the secular world. He got points from
his iconoclastic teacher priest Ikkyu, also a proponent of chanoyu.
Tea, the medicine and the Chinese-inspired ways to prepare it ritually,
began to make its way out of the monastery into the Buddhist-influenced
secular world of warlords and merchants, particularly through Takeno
Jô (1502-1555), and his famed student Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591).
Shoguns from the late Ashigakas through the Toyotomis, especially the
egomaniacal Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi, became patrons of chajin tea
practitioners and the latter became formal members of their courtly
retinue. Tea utensils trumped the plant in value, and these objects
often were coveted more highly than real estate as spoils of war victories.
There are tomes written about the crafting and collecting of Chinese
tea caddies and Korean tea bowls, as well as the rise of domestic craft
production in ceramics, metal, fine fabric, lacquered wood, bamboo and
other materials for the performance of the ritual.
Elaborate tea gatherings were refined compositions of hospitality that
demonstrated the host’s skills in incorporating fleeting seasonal
elements into ichi go ichi e ... “One time. One meeting.”
The practice became a living embodiment of the cultivation of wa,
kei, sei and jaku, harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.
Everything about tea – the architecture, landscaping, culinary
histories and more – has been fair game for meticulously-researched
connoisseurship ... except the taste of tea itself. While never completely
disassociated from temple life, the preparation of chanoyu morphed into
chado as a secular vocation, now 16 generations long, of folks with
impeccable taste, and hundreds of thousands of their followers.
The Earth’s Gifts: A Matcha Primer
Like wine and perhaps even more like beer, creating fine matcha has
everything to do with rootstock / plant, the soil and its geographic
placement, weather, techniques of growing, manufacturing and storage,
all of which will impact its taste. Here are some hints about such variables
as encountered in tea production today.
Location. Location. Location.
Fine matcha is usually associated with the town of Uji in the southern
end of Kyoto, near Byodo-in Temple. With a deep bow to the history and
tea commerce, today it’s a lovely tourist town full of little
tea shops situated along the river that shares its name, once considered
a source of potable water excellent for chanoyu. Outside the “downtown”
are the tea plantations and processing and storage facilities. Matcha
that bears the distinction as “Ujicha” may have been grown
in Kyoto, Nara, Shiga and Mie Prefectures and “finished”
in Uji. Ujicha is most associated with the more conservative, formal
tea schools that were patronized by the elite chado families and Shogunate,
such as Ippodo (founded in 1717), Kanbayashi (1500), Koyamaen (late
1600s), and relative newcomer Ryuonen (1875).
On the other hand, Aiya Saijoen, founded in 1888, obtains its tea leaves
from 850 year-old family farms in Nishiio,Aichi Prefecture..These tea
plants enjoy a terroir benefitting from being near three rivers and
the soil is characteristically less “heavy” with minerals
than that of Uji. Yet, to all but the most experienced tea tasters,
terror influence is imperceptible, unlike, for example, the impact of
limestone in the soil nourishing a fine pinot noir, for example. While
Nishio claims to have hosted the largest tea ceremony4,
Shizuoka Prefecture, which hosts a large international tea exposition5,
boasts being the largest tea-growing region in Japan, having been producing
for over 650 years.
The tea growing cycle goes from spring through fall. Unlike wine and
fermented teas which improve with age, and like beer which is best enjoyed
fresh, matcha is usually consumed over a single year’s time. Its
taste declines with age and improper storage and handling.
Stock and Soil
According to Atsushi Yasui-san of Hibiki-an6,
gokoh, samidori, and komakage varietals of camellia
sinensis are best suited for producing gyokuro, the finest
grade of tea from which the youngest (top) “two flags and a spine”
(two leaves and a bud) are hand-selected to be dried, sorted and finely
ground into matcha. Koicha, matcha prepared in “thick”
concentration of powdered leaf to water, is from root stock of about
200 years of age; usucha, “thinly” prepared matcha,
comes from younger plants. Good drainage is critical as well, so tea
plantations tend to be on slopes.
High quality gyokuro tea trees need to be fertilized (fish meal, bean
meal) about three times as much as other teas, such as those for sencha.
The soil’s nitrogen content (whether natural or increased through
fertilization) impacts the amount of L-theanine, an amino acid that
is source of the “sweetness or its deliciousness” umami
taste. “Perhaps what gives tea its is the way that L-theanine
stimulates the taste-buds.”7
Pesticides are hardly ever used, even on “non-organic” products.
Organic production is of great current interest. All matcha was originally
organically produced. Today, Japan strictly regulates its production
of agricultural products labeled as such. With modern fertilizers, there
can be “super” matchas, ones especially high in nitrogen
in which the taste more “grassy”. The organic teas are less
sweet, according to Shiro Nobunaga, sales director of Aiya America,
Inc8. There are ways to challenge
nature to produce a more broadly pleasing product, balancing bitterness
and sweetness in the most pleasing proportions.
The history of weather – most notably rainfall (about 1,500 mm
/ year) and high day and night temperature contract (with high expectancy
of mist) – will affect the quantity of tea available. Nobunaga
noted that in 2007 and 2008 the volume was less due to rainfall issues,
but the quality was maintained.
Finished in Darkness and Hand-Picked
For the last 20 – 30 days prior to picking, mid April to May –
traditionally 88 days after the festivities of setsubun a late-winter
holiday, the fields of gyokuro plants destined for matcha are covered
with progressively applied shades made of reed, rice straw or fiber
to a height of about seven feet9,
one layer per week for three to four weeks depending upon weather. According
to Mr. Nobunaga, "When you shade the tencha fields, the leaves
try to collect more sunlight, thus becoming wider, thinner and softer.
This is why when you hand pick these top, young shoots, you get the
most resilient green color and also it becomes the finest in particle
size when you grind them with the granite wheels. The finer the matcha
in particle size, more smooth and creamy the taste and texture (not
grainy like the lower grades).”
This unique growing method forces the plant to produce more chlorophyll
as it strains to absorb whatever light there is. It also reduces the
tendency of L-theanine from turning into catechin, a component of tannin
that is connected with shibui, astringency. Both L-theanine
and tannin have calming properties, yet matcha has the capacity to stimulate.
More L-theanine, an antioxidant, more umami flavor. Modern science has
recognized L-theanine to be effective in the treatment of high blood
pressure, cancer, heart disease and other ailments. (Remember, the Chinese
medicinal system relates the taste of “bitter” with the
major organ of the “heart”.)
As noted, tea for matcha is always picked carefully by hand during May,
about 88 days after setsubun, the festival marking winter’s end.
Like the grape crush, the entire field is picked through until all the
leaves appropriate for matcha are picked. There is no second or late
harvest. The leaves undergo a variety of manufacturing processes that
steam (arrest oxidation and maintain color, flavor and aroma), dry (air
and heat) and cut them. The leaves are separated from the stems and
veins, with the remaining 10 percent of the plant called tencha. Finally,
it is graded by size through a number of winnowing activities and allocated
to be suitable for koicha or usucha. Tea for matcha is not rolled like
sencha and other infusing teas. Tea for matcha is never rolled, as is
common in the processing of gyokuro.
Tea “sommeliers”, as Nobunaga-san calls them, are in charge
of carefully blending the tencha plants grown in different types of
soil according to “secret formulas” to create blends that
are consistent over time, expertly recognizable and which are assigned
various product names. No one that I spoke with indicated there being
any premium attached to drinking the product of a single tea plant type,
or as in the wine world, where vertical (vintage) comparisons are much
discussed among connoisseurs and the quality plus quantity of which
impact the price.
The first grinding occurs in November. Today, as in Rikyu’s time,
the tencha is still ground between two horizontal granite stone mill
wheels, the only contemporary change is that the wheels are turned by
machine at a speed (55 rpm) equal to that of human power. It is estimated
that it takes an hour of grinding to produce one ounce of matcha. Not
all the tencha is ground at once. Mr. Nobunaga explains that Aiya stores
its tencha in refrigerated facilities and grinds it throughout the year
based upon the market’s demand. In the “old days”,
grinding was done by the tea master prior to serving it.
As would be expected, even in the best storage, fresh tencha destined
for matcha will decrease in intensity through the course of the year.
For this reason, the chanoyu preparation techniques, especially koicha,
will take into account the intensity of flavor; the temperature of the
hot water will be allowed to drop before being added to matcha in the
late spring through early fall when the strength of the sensitive leaf
has diminished. Matcha is usually sifted about three times to render
it as fine powder without clumps just prior to placing it in a ceremonial
The First Tea Gathering of the Year
In the most formal of settings, such as those observed by the elite
chajin families, their empty chatsubo ceramic tea jar is delivered
to the chashi tea producer who puts small bags (75 gms) of
appropriate variety of koicha (finest grade for the formal, thick presentation)
into the jar and fills the rest with tsumi-cha (tea leaves)
for the informal, usucha (thin preparation). He puts on the lid, seals
it and marks it with his hanko stamp. The chatsubo is placed
back into its box to which is affixed a list of its contents by the
chamei poetic name of the tea. The jar is returned with a gift of thanks
to the owner and arrives with much anticipation and fanfare.
The arrival and opening of the chatsubo is the commencement of first
private chaji tea gathering of the new year, coinciding with the opening
of the tea room’s ro sunken hearth. In Chado: A Tea
Sasaki Sanmi, a journalist and Urasenke household intimate, says that
it is a lifetime’s greatest honor to be invited to witness the
kuchi-kiri breaking of the seal of the chatsubo and tasting
the first chanoyu. The opening of chatsubo tea container is done in
the presence of guests, who admire the container and wrappings. The
chaseki tea ceremony meal is then served and eaten in silence
so that the sound of the milling wheels grinding the new tea may be
heard. Only then will the temae ritual presentation begin, first with
kencha ritual offering of thick tea to the ancestors, Buddha, etc.,
followed by a single bowl of koicha shared among several guests, followed
by individual bowls of usucha, thinly prepared tea.
Much Ado About Matcha
Concerns (or lack thereof) by the general population about the agricultural
and manufacturing processes of tea are no different than any food these
days, but, because of the tea ceremony, there has been much ado about
matcha that rivals, and arguably, exceeds, that of the West’s
obsession with wine. To that end, our dear Matcha-sama might be considered
the ultimate “guest” of a chaji formal tea gathering, with
the humans merely there to extend the welcome and adore her. But, at
the conclusion of the hours-long event, we will know very little about
her, save her name.
What’s in a Name?
The finest matchas, both as koicha and usucha, are given chamei
tea names, often awarded together in pairs, by a renown tea master or
temple. Rather than hint at the taste, they serve merely as marketing
ploys. These identifications function much the same as names of perfume:
Channel’s #4 or #5, for example. Without our having prior experience
of comparisons, as it regards the taste, these names don’t help
any more than Shukô’s describing the taste of tea as “Zen”.
Tea students are taught the names of their affiliated school’s
preferences and are encouraged to purchase these products. The tea’s
chamei, however, will be taken into consideration when planning a a
tea gathering’s poetic framework (including the sentiment of the
scroll displayed in the tokonoma, the poetic name of other
Particular blends that bear chamei may be produced over several years
and even through several generations of tea masters, such as the following
list of currently available teas11
names may reference an auspicious occasion, specific poetic reference,
make matters even more confusing, a single tea blend may be given several
names, by each of several different grand tea masters. Examples from
In addition, special matchas are often created in limited “editions”
and quantities for special events, such as Ippodo’s Shin Shun
Wakamatsu-no-mukashi koicha, and Shin Shun Seiun usucha were
available only from December 2007 until mid January 2008, as long as
Names often have distinguishing terms that identify koicha from usucha.
Mukashi, in the former, refers to “tradition” or “classic,”
and hints at the older root stock, are selected to create the highest
quality koicha. In the case of usucha, the word shiro, literally
“white”, is nuanced to conjure up a sense of freshness or
renewal, a characteristic value of Japanese Shinto, as in the reference
noted above to Chigi no Shiro.
According to Murai Yasuhiko13,
“The occurrence of tasting “contests”, recorded as
early as the Kamakura period (1192–1333), were known as tôcha,
emerged as a result of the great expansion of tea cultivation. In contract
to the Chinese practice of judging tea by its quality, the concomitant
spread of tea drinking in this age, the tôcha of Japan were competitions
aimed at distinguishing among teas according to the regions where they
were grown”, usually comparing Toga-no-o and to others, similar
to that of the popular incense contests.
As tea culture grew increasingly more popular among the secular classes
and distanced from the internal discipline of the temples, things got
wildly out of hand with heavy wagering and extravagances, associated
with entertainment, crossing social boundaries. Shukô admonished
against turning the ritual preparation of tea into a “game”
around the same time that a growing profession of tea master was emerging,
as was noted earlier. Tasting “rules” were incorporated
into cha-kabuki, more formal, conservative tea gatherings
Omotesenke’s VII Grand Master Joshinsai Tennen, 1705-1751) and
his older brother, Urasenke VIII Oiemoto Yugensai Itto (1719-1771),
adopted into the family to continue the lineage, created “contests”
for tea tasting pastimes within the context of the Zen teachings of
Daitokuji’s Priest Mugaku Soen. Still practiced today as one of
the training exercises of tea students, chakabuki is a formal exercise
to help develop one’s sensitivities to discriminate one tea from
another14, but still not
to describe the taste per se.
Cha-kabuki procedure is done in a large tea room among at least four
guests, a host and a recorder. The challenge is to distinguish the identities
of three koichas in a blind tasting after having sampled two of them
with their chamei, poetic names revealed. The third, unknown tea, is
literally called kyaku, guest. While there may have been verbal
discussions afterwards as to why one taster was confident in his/her
selections, the written records simply record their guesses. there are
no hints as to indication of specific flavors that contributed to the
Yasui-san of Hibiki-an, an Uji tea company, advises that, “There
were certainly the flavor distinctions not only vertically but horizontally
on matcha a long time ago. The vertical distinctions just depend on
the quality. Today, there is almost only vertical distinction on matcha,”
as opposed to sencha and gyokuro types. “Therefore, today, it
is not easy to enjoy "matcha chakabuki".
On Our Own
After all this, we’re back where we started. What is the taste
of matcha? How can we distinguish the difference from one product to
another? Does it really matter?
A survey of English language matcha websites – retailers / wholesalers
and producers produce a consensus that better quality = better taste
= higher price. The higher priced matcha have a more complex, smoother,
rounded flavor and a gentle, natural sweetness, but that’s about
it for descriptors. Bitterness, the original medicinal quality associated
with the health of the heart – is completely missing. The difference
in flavor among the blends of matcha is more subtle than with steeped
teas. Compared to sencha, matcha is weak in astringency and strong “mellowness”,
due to its being shaded during the final weeks of growth.
Koicha can be made thin with very satisfactory results, but usucha is
not usually prepared in koicha concentration as it is a bit more bitter.
Tea shop owners have suggested that a “beginner”, whether
formally a student of chado or someone who just wants to drink matcha,
should try the lesser expensive grades first, perhaps feeling that the
most subtle taste notes (?) would be lost and money wasted.
The chakabuki section of Urasenke’s multivolume encyclopedia of
temae (AKA the “green” books -- Japanese language, only)
the first taste of koicha should be with the tip of the tongue, noticing
the burst of flavor and then one must recollect the impression it leaves
in the hara, the depth of center of one’s being, two
fingers below the navel. A similar sentiment was expressed by the late
(as in deceased) “Tea Man” in his online blog15,
who suggested developing a personal set of parameters, an alphabetic
collection of constant points of reference which, when combined, create
a glossary and, ultimately, new a composition narrating an experience,
“as though tea talks to one as it allows itself to be drunk.”
Everyone says it’s subjective, but why go to the trouble if there’s
no distinction? Flavor it is well known, is a factor of many variables
not yet discussed. The “Tea Man” waxes poetic about influence
of “nose”, volatile aromas, vs the nonvolatile, action in
the taste bud department.
Even without the fanfare and fuss of the kuchi-kiri, opening up a new
tin of matcha, is a sheer delight: The “whoosh” of breaking
the aluminum seal bursts forth with thesweet aroma of young mowed grass,
perhaps full meadow sparkling with a freshness of summer rain. In the
winter, when the tearoom air is driest from the heat of the ro sunken
hearth and the ko incense is heavier, the tea is relatively fresher
and brighter in taste than in the summer, full of humidity and a breath
of sandalwood incense mixes with the fresh air of the open window. This
is why no perfume (or scented anything) should be worn when drinking
Matcha is definitely the flavor of green ... but which one? The answer
remains elusive! No matter what grade of matcha one buys, the deeper
/ brighter the hue, the fresher the tea. When it starts to take on a
brownish trait, it is no longer fresh. To insure that tea remains fresh,
it should be stored away from heat, light and dampness, about 59 degrees
Fahrenheit. Matcha should be stored in the freezer until it is time
to open it, then taken out and left to rest for 24 hours until any possibility
of moisture will settle before it is opened. What is open should be
enjoyed within a month at the longest. The color, flavor and aroma diminish
almost immediately upon exposure to light and oxygen.
Ingredient-grade matcha is also being marketed by producers who export,
in the hope of getting a piece of the popular matcha colored / flavored
products being sold as having additional nutritional benefit. The forthright
producers will label their product accordingly. Because one eats the
tencha leaf, there is significantly more value than if tea is steeped.
Like all foodstuffs, however, the fresher the product and the finer
the grade, the better it will be. The quality of this lesser grade is
not suited for even an usucha experience.
I once purchased a tin of matcha from a Japanese market, sitting on
the shelf next to several types of leaf tea. (It clearly hadn’t
been well stored – in the freezer), and the price reflected a
“bargain”. I used it for practicing temae, one of the many
chanoyu procedures, on a night of the full moon and ended up doing a
calligraphy of tsuki moon rather than drinking it. This is not to say
that higher grades of matcha couldn’t be used as an ingredient,
but if the taste is insignificant, there’s no point to the added
Other Variables Influence Taste
Water: If you’re going to experiment with a variety
of matchas or to enjoy one to its fullest, there are a number of variables
related to the water that can significantly impact the taste. After
all, the beverage is nothing but providing the yu hot water for the
cha tea. Water temperature determines whether you taste more of one
over the other16. Soft water
(i.e. with less mineral content) is best to use for making matcha or
any tea, to reduce the influence of mineral / metallic impressions overpowering
the tea taste itself. Tea lore informs us that it is best to draw water
(fresh from a sacred well, of course, in the wee hours of the morning.
There is even a water “tasting” opportunity within some
of the tea procedures. There is a method of preparing usucha using a
muzusashi freshwater container that is a tsurube, wooden well bucket
draped with shimenawa with gohei a rice straw rope and white paper cuttings.
This indicates to the guest that the host has gone to trouble to secure
special water about which she or he might inquire.
Water Temperature: The kama iron kettle used
to heat the water – its will also impact the taste of the water
and thus the tea. Even the speed in which the water has reached its
boil will make a difference. Using sumi charcoal during the
tea ritual (with its replenishment mid-way) will have the water boiling
at just the right speed and thus temperature: emitting the sound called
matsukaze “wind in the pines” at just the right
moments. Electricity, however, is consistent and creates large bubbles
and too rapid a boil. If the water is too hot, the bitterness will be
more apparent than the sweetness. Water should be brought to a boil
and then simmered for about five minutes to about 75-95 C before adding
it to matcha. Over-boiled water is depleted of oxygen and creates a
Shape of Drinking Vessel: Taking another lead from
wine, the shape of the tea bowl may have something to do with the experience
of taste. The Riedel glass company has designed wine glasses that are
shaped to deliver a specific varietal of wine (e.g. pinot noir vs.
merlot) into one’s mouth to land at the appropriate place
on the tongue where the taste receptors are most sensitive to that particular
nuance. In the winter, tea bowls tend to be taller while in summer,
wider. One reason given is that the beverage stays warmer in the winter,
but in effect, the diameter of the lip affects the embouchure, the shape
of the mouth.
Condition of the Palate: Unlike wine, however, matcha
is not best enjoyed with food. It is served after kaiseki the special
multi-course meal created for chaji formal tea gathering. The final
“course” is a “moist sweet”. Afterwards the
guests take a break, leaving the tea room. Upon return, they are served
a bowl of koicha prepared to the consistency of melted ice cream, and,
whether another break is provided or not, they enjoy a “dry”
sweet and a bowl of usucha, one per guest.
In these days of Green Tea Mousse Pocky, jars of iced decaffeinated
matcha spiked with lemon grass and pomegranate essence, and bobba-ed
chai lattes in fat-straw pinioned take-out cups and Tea Ceremony
kits sold next to Zen Garden kits in gift shop windows under hot spotlights
... the effort made to find fine matcha and to take care in its preparation,
will reward you with a wonderful benchmark with which to expand your
experience and make up your own mind.
Perhaps the author of The Book of Tea, Okakura Kakuzo (aka.
Tenshin), the aesthete who is credited with bringing the deepest sentiment
of chado to America at the turn of the 20th century, said it best writing
The Book of Tea: “There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea
which makes it irresistible and capable of idealisation.” The
fact that tea, especially matcha, like any muse, has captured the imagination
of an entire culture through time and space is reason enough to explore
its storied past and its availability in our time from any vantage.
I pukku sashiagemasu!
1 Varley, Paul and Kamakura, Isao (eds.) Tea in Japan:
Essays on the History of Chanoyu.(University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu,
3 Sadler, A.L., Cha-no-yu: The Japanese Tea Ceremony
(Tuttle Publishing, Boston, 1962, p. 94)
4 According to Guinness Book of Records, the
largest simultaneous tea party consisted of 14,718 people drinking matcha
during a single Japanese tea ceremony was arranged by the City of Nishio
and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nishio on October 8, 2006.
This is definitely a far cry from the 1.5 mat tea hut of Rikyu’s
is the North America outpost for the Japan-based corporation.
9 Urasenke Midorikai student Eric Dean has posted on
his blog website a great video tour of Koyamaen tea production, from
the plants to the grinding and other information: www.ericdean.org
10 For a full description of the kuchi-kiri
see Sanmi, Sasaki, Chado The Way of Tea: A Japanese Tea Master’s
Almanac, Shaun McCabe and Iwasaki Satoko translators. (Tuttle,
2002, Boston). p 551-2. In all its 742 pages, however, there is a significant
lack of any reference to how matcha actually tastes! See Kyoto Journal
54 (2003) for a review of this otherwise remarkable book of seasons
by this article’s author.
11 Translated by the wonderful folks at www.teatoys.com.
Other sources of fine matcha via the web include www.tea-circle.com
(Ippodo, Kanbayashi, Marukyu-Koyaman-en), www.matchaandmore.com
(Marukyu-Koyamaen and Shorai-en). All are impeccable in their sources
– all Ujicha, insuring fresh, high quality matcha. The following
plantations have English language websites through which one may order
are just a few.
12 Kakuzo, Okzakura (Tenshin), The Book of Tea
13“The Development of Chanoyu” in Tea
in Japan, ibid
14 Urasenke International Association, translators.
Tankosha Editorial Department, eds. (Tankosha Publishing Company, Ltd.,
Kyoto 2007). Similar exercises were developed to develop a sensitivity
of distinction for ko incense.
He passed away in 2001, but the site is maintained by the “Tea
Lady” in his memory.
held by the author
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