Before I conceived of this blog, I went on an ordering spree and purchased matcha from everywhere. Reading the reviews of fellow tea fanatics, I was drawn to the aesthetics of the Matchaeologist. The muted tones of the website, the simplicity of the chasen (bamboo whisk), the beautiful of the chawan (matcha bowl), the sleek and fragile nature of the glass chashaku (scoop), and the packaging all took my breath away. Little did I know that their matcha would steal my heart and taste buds!
I had purchased my matcha set that contained the Matsu variety several months ago, but that quickly disappeared with daily (or twice daily) consumption. The small glass, hand-blown chawan accompanying this set is a perfect size for a single serving. Personally, I vacillate between preferring koicha (a thick froths concentrated shot of matcha) and ushacha (the traditional thinner form made with more water making a top layer of froth). This chawan is perfect for both. It is easy to hold, the double walls prevent quick heat loss, and the rim allows for all the matcha to make it to your mouth, unlike the lips of some bowls and tea cups. Since the mouth of this chawan is smaller, the chasen (whisk) needs to be smaller, too, and I love their whisk (which I find myself using frequently regardless of the chawan I use). The glass chashaku is beautiful and sleek, yet fragile. I broke the first one quite soon after my initial purchase. With my recent order, I purchased 2 more. However, within a day of its arrival, I dropped one on the counter and shattered it to pieces. Although I still love it, I have gone back to using my bamboo one for safety sake!
I was so excited to compare all three ceremonial varieties - and Matchaeologist, you may have become my favorite distributor yet! This week I posted pictures with a short review of about each on my Instagram account. Yet for this post, I am tasting each of them again (one after another - luckily it is still early in the day), and my opinions have shifted a bit as I am tasting koichas of each. However, overall theme - PURE LOVE!!!
First of all, all three of these matchas have a deep emerald rich green that is stunning to behold. You do not need to sift these matchas since they do not seem to clump even with the smallest amount of water. And the smell - while all are different, my mouth starts salivating from the whiff of the grassy, vegetal aroma.
Let's start with the Meiko. The website describes on their website as brewing as a "deeply rich emerald green cordial with robust body, sweet-savoury undertones and a bouquet of floral notes and delicate tannins." The color is a stunningly gorgeous emerald green. Meiko has a sweet ooika fragrance (an aroma found in shade-grown green tea), which is grassy and vegetal. But the taste! Ahhhhh. It is full, rich and savory, with only a slight note of tannins to my palate and not at all bitter and left that exciting light sensation on my tongue. Yum!
Their website calls this next matcha the jewel in their crown, their creme de la creme of matcha, Misaki. Again the intensity of the color is bold and striking. I found this matcha the lightest and sweetest of the trio, and I definitely prefer Miaski as a koicha (what I am sipping right now). I found no bitter notes nor unpleasant aftertaste at all. My nose detected less aroma for both the matcha or koicha of Misaki than the other two, but that is not to detract from its amazing taste.
Even though Misaki may be their jewel, my favorite might be Matsu. When I opened the package, again it was richly green, but I noticed the aroma was less intense, less vegetal and grassy, so I thought the taste would not be as complex. But I was wrong. I find it the richest and most full-bodied of them all, with the wonderful umami (savory - sweet) undertones. It whisked easily and the flavor remains after each sip.
In all honesty, each of these matchas are exceptional. After each bowl, I feel clear, alert and calm, without any jitteriness or hyperactivity. With clarity of the mind, I can meditate and focus with ease.
Since I am comparing three different teas, my mind is drawn to breath counting meditation. The goal of breath counting is to cultivate skill at attention, focus and concentration. When we concentrate on a singular object, like counting the number of breaths we take, we are able to briefly disrupt any unwanted and intrusive thoughts, and bring the mind back to the moment.
Allow the body to settle into a gentle, easy posture, preferably seated, in which you can rest for several minutes. Begin by observing the air as it comes in and out of your body, filling your lungs, and leaving your lungs. Notice what happens, what you experience, without expectation. Observe the natural movements of the body as you breathe. Observe any impulse to change or manipulate your breath in anyway. Observe this, then practice simply allowing the breath to come in and out at its own pace, rate and rhythm.
For the remainder of the practice, count every inhalation and every exhalation in this manner: 1 in, 2 out, 3 in, 4 out, and so on until you get to 9 in, 10 out. Once you reach 10, simply start over again at 1 in, 2 out.
But here is the catch, every time you find that your mind wanders, start the entire cycle over again. For instance, you might find you experience something like this: 1 in, 2 out, 3 in..oh, I forgot to get something at the grocery store..1 in, 2 out, 3 in…oh, the dry cleaning is…. 1 in, 2 out, 3 in, 4 out, 5 in..did I pay that bill yesterday?… 1 in, 2 out…
Whenever you notice you got lost along the way, start over. Sometimes people loose track of counting and forgot to begin again once they reach 10. If this happens for you, smile inwardly and start again at 1. Bring your mind back to the breath and back to the count.
Mentally try to become the count. When you are counting “one” imagine every part of your being is saying “one” and nothing else. When you say, “two” – everything about you is saying two and nothing else – as if your whole mind-body is saying “two”. Every time a thought comes breaks free and takes up residence in your mind, notice it, acknowledge it, then gently bring your mind back to the breath and the count. If an urge to move arises, notice that, and keep counting. If you feel an itch or urge to blow your notice – watch those sensations. See what happens if you don’t follow every impulse you have. If it is a strain not to move, then do so mindfully. And in the next moment, bring your attention back to counting your breath – 1 in, 2 out…
The goal is not to make it to 10, the goal is to notice when the mind wanders and bring it gently back to the present and back to 1. If you notice that you never make it to 10, then you succeeded in being mindful. Be gentle with yourself and see what happens. ☺