Thursday, 3 June 2010

Battle of the Japanese Greens: Round One!

I made a trip to the Fuji Mart in Prahran the other weekend - it's at the back of the Prahran Market for those of you who know it, just a little way down from The Essential Ingredient. Fuji Mart is, so far as I can tell, an entirely Japanese grocer, and I was interested (as it will probably not surprise you to know) to see what kinds of tea they might stock.

I cam away with only a couple of kinds, both by the Ujinotsuyu company whose teas are commonly found in Asian supermarkets round here; I hadn't seen these particular ones before, though; I think they are slightly higher end than what you find in a regular Asian grocer. I have had and greatly enjoyed Ujinotsuyu sencha and genmaicha in the past, although I wasn't rapt in their matcha (but I should note that I know very little about preparing matcha properly. For $8 a tin, though, when you can spend up to $50, I think it was probably not a very high grade). 

So, onto the first of my two new teas: Iemon Macchairi Kabuse Ryokucha, which apparently means green tea (ryokucha) that has been shaded for a couple of weeks (kabuse) and combined with matcha (macchairi).

This is powerful stuff. As best I could I brewed it as per the directions - I don't know any Japanese but from looking at the little pictograms and comparing them with pictograms on other packets that also had some English text, I deduced that I should be brewing about a tablespoon of leaf in 50ml of water at 60C, for about 2 minutes. I don't have any teapots that small... (An excuse to buy one perhaps?) ... Anyway, so I brewed 2 tbls in 100ml water in a small drinking glass, figuring that it would be okay at the low temperature specified.

Result was about 75ml of the most radioactive looking tea you ever saw... Godzilla drinks this stuff, I'm positive. It's a cloudy, lurid green:

As for the taste, it's strong and bitter at first, really quite a slap in the face; swallow and you're rewarded with the most astonishing sweetness in the aftertaste. Quite addictive. Don't drink it on an empty stomach though; it's much too strong without something to buffer it.

I'm drinking another small glass of this Tokyo-stomping tea right now, it's cooled quite a bit and there are definite coconut notes... lending yet more support to my theory that coconut and sencha are natural partners. Hmm. If only I had some coconut cake to go with. Never mind, I'd better go and eat some lunch before the tea eats me...


  1. I have heard a lot about the shading processes for various types of Japanese green teas, and they seem integral.

    However, I was a little bit disappointed when I started learning about how the "shade" was actually carried out. I know a lot about shade-grown coffee, and I am very interested in promoting sustainability and ecologically-sound agriculture. I was disappointed to find that the shading was usually carried out artificially, by growing the plants in sun and then placing them under a mesh (as opposed to shade-grown coffee, which is grown under the canopy of a forest).

    There is shade-grown tea which is grown under a natural forest canopy, in Hawaii...but I was wondering if you know anything about if there is anything like this in Japan, or if this is just wishful thinking (or crazy ideas) on my part?

  2. Hi Alex

    I don't know a huge amount about the shading methods for Japanese tea. My understanding is that generally plants are grown in the sun and then covered over with either mesh or traditional woven mats, like you said.

    I don't know if I see this as necessarily 'artificial' though, especially not compared with all the other processing that tea (and possibly coffee, I'm not sure as I know nothing about coffee!) goes through to become drinkable. I mean what about all the other steps of steaming/pan-firing, rolling, shaping, drying, steeping etc that need to be performed to turn the raw leaves into something palatable to drink...?

    I think I have more to say about this but the baby just woke up so I'll have to come back to it. Hold that thought! Thanks for bringing up the issue though, I had never even considered it from your angle...

  3. Whoa! I love the color of that tea! "radioactive" :P

  4. I have tried two or three Japanese teas till now and have not found one which tasted me very well...I still love to find a nice one, but I do not have any knowledge about Japanese tea, got the same problem with Chinese tea. Looking forward to learn more those by you.

  5. I tried this tea in Japan and fell in love with it!

  6. Hello - I love Japanese green tea and this one along with two other variants in the same range (IYEMON Matcha Iri Sencha and IYEMON Umami Koime Ryokucha ) are some of my favourites. I do think you may have overdosed on the tea leaves when brewing this. Two level teaspoons steeped in about 150 ml hot (around 75 C) water for 1 -2 minutes makes a lovely brew, which I can't get enough of. The cheapest of the lot, which is the Matcha Iri Sencha, has a maddening smoky aroma and savoury aftertaste that is extremely addictive!


Thanks for taking the time to comment... I appreciate it!


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