In my quest to try various brands, I was ecstatic that Breakaway Matcha offers matcha “flights” - a long, narrow box containing 4 different varieties of their matchas. Eager to experiment and taste, I ordered 2 flights, allowing me to sample 8 different varieties.
On his website and in interviews, founder Eric Gower says he created Breakaway after being unable, back in 2010, to find high quality matcha in the States, and I am glad he did.
How to best start my tasting experience? I almost sat down and tried all 8 blends when they landed on my doorstep, but I thought that might not be the best thing for my nervous system, so I settled to try two per day. Breakaway offers what they call Hyperpremium Blends supplied from various growers in Japan who are passionate about their matcha. The blends are either numbered (94, 95, 97 98. 99. and 100) or have names. Wanting to test the veracity of their website’s claim that the matcha becomes sweeter with a longer and more umami finish as the numbers increase, I purchased the top 4 numbered blends to compare (97, 98, 99, & 100). Selecting the second flight was a bit more daunting as I wanted to try them all. However, I knew I wanted to try their Hyperpremium Oganic Blend, so that left me with three other choices. Once I realized that I can always order another flight, I settled upon the blends called Rikyu, Hikari, and SE Blends.
Gower likens his matchas to purchasing top of the line wine from award winning vineyards whose premier bottles might sell for hundreds of dollars. While those same wineries may also produce more affordable blends for those who will spend no more than $20 to share with friends a meal, nothing can compare to those of higher quality. After tasting all of the blends in my flights, I agree. These are not your run of the mill, every day, grocery store, pseudo-ceremonial matcha blends, but something special.
I decided to breakaway from my traditional way of making matcha and follow Gower's suggestions - namely, using an electric whisk. I purchased one several months ago and have never been too fond of it. I now believe this has to do with the fact that I use my larger chawan (matcha bowls). Breakaway recommends (and sells) matcha tumblers, which are exquisitely stunning (and I am trying to hold back from purchasing all of them). Gower favors koicha, or thicker matcha, for consuming these blends, which I prefer. I believe the flavor is amplified and the experience is heightened. Making koicha with an electric whisk in my typical wide chawans is not very functional, so for these tasting experiences, I found a narrower bowl, and I lo and behold, the electric whisk worked. For each blend, I used about 1 - 2 grams of matcha for about 1 - 1.5 ounces of water.
Overall, these matchas are all visually enticing. As described on the website, they were all a bright, “hallucinogenic” green. Seeing that shock of bright color starts me salivating, knowing I am in for a quality experience. Nothing is more disappointing than opening a package of matcha to find a dull, flat green or yellowish-brown powder. Such blends never have anything but a pronounced bitter, astringent taste. Using my electric whisk created a nice, rich, thick creama for all of them. I experimented with different vessels and now believe that with an electric whisk, the width makes the difference: the wider the vessel, the more froth and foam with larger bubbles; the narrower the vessel, the more foamlike with sparser bubbles.
I enjoyed the lack of even the slightest astringency with any of the numbered blends, but notice a trace of it with the Hyperpremium Organic, yet I found it delicious. Each had a slight variations in umami, where it hit my tongue, intensity or amount of time of the finish. The mid-notes varied for each,and the sweetness, present in all, was in different levels of intensity. Still, all were excellent.
Choosing a favorite is challenging. Overall, what stands out to me regarding all the blends I sampled was how utterly smooth and creamy they were. Their aromas were light and not overpowering at all. Unfortunately, price point is a factor in matcha selection. Many of the blends are far more expensive than most higher quality matchas on the market. Since taste preference is a subjective and personal matter, cost does not always equate with quality or taste. However, of the numbered blends, I would select #100 ($109 per 30 grams) hands down due to its delightful creamy smoothness and absence of bitterness. The smell was fresh and grassy, with that chlorophyll scent that makes me think of a quiet, unhurried, and lazy summer afternoon. The finish lasted longer, and the umami taste was more in the front of my tongue than the lower numbers. While close in quality, they were less impressive to me only in comparison to Blend 100. I have yet to try Blends 95 ($59), 94 ($49) or 93 ($39), so I cannot speak to those (perhaps that is my next flight).
As for the other blends, a 30 grams tin range in price from $169 for Hikari to $149 for SE and $129 for Rikyu. My favorite, based on my small sampling was SE for its intense bright color, thickness, and creamy umami taste.
I plan to reserve Blend 100 and SE for special occasions or times I plan on deeper meditation, while the Hyperpremium Organic I will use for daily consumption.
The most affordable of those I tried was the Hyperpremium Organic at $59 for a 30 gram tin. Not as smooth as the others, and with a slight bitterness, I would definitely recommend this since it is still smoother and less astringent than many matchas I have tried that were close in price point. Hyperpremium is a great choice, especially for those who demand organic.
Since I only had the small jar flights, I wasn’t able to experiment with contrasting koichas with ushucha with each blend, however I had just was able to do with a few. Now all my jars are empty, so I am currently grounded for now. Once I order more, and yes, I will be ordering more, I hope to take off again.