First I'd like to introduce my new chawan, an early birthday present. It is a kuro (black) raku made in Tokoname, Japan by Shoraku.
I was interested in this one from Hibiki-an, but I wanted to continue to pursue my business relationship with Toru-san from Artistic Nippon. I emailed him a picture of it and asked if it was something he could procure for me, and of course he came through for me again. I think he did an excellent job, and I am very pleased with it.
Interesting coincidence: both bowls have the artist's chop in gold paint/glaze; however, the picture I sent Toru-san did not show the chop, so he couldn't have known.
This is my first matcha from Den's Tea and my first from Shizuoka.
Matcha has been the most challenging tea to review so far. The vocabulary isn't as established as it is with most tea. I know from reading blogs and what not that with other teas I can expect notes of chocolate or peach, camphor or muscatel, grassy or nutty, whatever the case may be. Realizing that I can bull shit you with vague talk of "green" and "fresh" for only so long, I tried to find other, more descriptive words.
The obvious idea was to look at blogs, see how others describe matcha, but it turns out that unless I plan to bake with it or make frappucinos, I'm out of luck. (If you're reading this, and I missed your brilliant posts on the complex, umami deliciousness of matcha, please leave a link in the comments). In the end I browsed through a few Japanese sites like Ippodo and Hibiki-an, putting together my own list of characteristics, a bit of a scale to help quantify my results.
Checklist isn't the right word, but its the first one that comes to mind.
Aroma: (7/10) It is rich and sweet but subdued compared to the Uji matcha that I've primarily used thus far.
Sweetness: (5/10) Moderate, towards the end it tasted a bit dry.
Astringency: (1/10) Even when using much larger amounts than is recommended for usucha, which I will get to in a sec, I wouldn't describe it as even lightly astringent.
Taste: (6.5/10) Mild would be the most concise word. Not bad or inferior, but not intense or bold. It was clear early on that the 1.5 - 2 scoops wasn't going to cut it for me, too weak, so I increased it to 4-5, koicha quantity. Better, but still as I said, mild. In a way I think this is a testament to the quality of the tea. A low grade usucha should have been bitter, harsh or unpleasant after that amount.
Ultimately this tea wasn't for me, but only because I have to use so much, otherwise it would be a suitable daily matcha. I will try Den's other Shizuoka matcha, the Miyabi, on my next order. I am curious if other Shizuoka matcha is like this.
Every time I make matcha, I learn something. This time it was Don't prepare matcha next to an open window. That green stuff can get every where. For sure I am still going to find it on some of my books months from now. This is funny given the name. Kaze means wind.