My search for the best green tea started around 20 years ago. That was when I made the big switch from coffee to green tea. It was major. I was a serious coffee drinker and loved my morning ritual. What I didn’t love was the anxiety, stomach issues, and the dependency.
“I can’t do anything without my first cup of coffee…” Can anyone relate?
Well, things change. Rituals change. People change. Okay, I’ll stop. Back to the transition. I started with a week of hot water and lemon. Rough, but aside from a headache or two, not terrible. Then it was on to green tea. I’ve never looked back. To be honest, it was definitely an acquired taste. There were some sad moments with the taste of certain types. Some were just too bitter and “twig-like” for my taste. (Sorry, bancha. We’re tried.) I knew it was great for me though, so I learned to seek out types I ended up loving. Matcha edged everyone else out.
I thought I knew green tea. I mean really knew green tea. Turns out, I was missing out. There is matcha and then there is matcha. I signed up for one of Carol Négiar‘s tea workshops here in Paris. Carol was the first to import high-quality Japanese tea in Paris. She first presented it at Tea Expo (Porte de Versailles) in 2000 and opened her store, Chajin, in 2000. Carol knows her matcha.
The tea tasting was fantastic. I learned about “covered teas” (tea plants that are literally shielded during their growth cycle) vs. uncovered teas. Covered teas are more expensive. So are teas higher in theanine, the amino acid that gives you alertness, boosts memory, and promotes calm. Theanine is one of the many reasons why green tea is such a super power.
Some other interesting points:
- Uji, a region next to Kyoto, is the capitol of covered tea.
- Matcha stays in suspension and should be enjoyed sooner rather than later. (Try not to linger.)
- Sencha (an uncovered tea) is the most common tea in Japan.
- The higher the tea leaves on the plant, the more theanine and better the taste. (Less bitter.)
- A major difference between Chinese and Japanese green tea is based on their production methods. In China, they pan fry the tea to prevent fermentation, while in Japan they use a steam method.
- There are more catechins (powerful flavanoids that promote heart health and cancer prevention among other health benefits) in Japanese green tea.
- The perfect temperature for making matcha is 80 degrees. (I used to always make it with water at 100. Too hot!)
Chajin‘s organic matcha is from Shizuoka, a region near Mt Fuji. It is grown in the Chagusaba method. Chagusaba agriculture, literally “tea-grass agriculture,” is a traditional, historical agricultural practice dating back 10,000 years. Very labor-intensive, this growing style means that fields of grass surround the tea fields, which provide mulch and other resources for improving the tea field’s quality.
Translation: the color, consistency, and taste are incredible.
Even though I feel like my quest is done, I know that I’ll still keep searching and learning. There is so much out there. An upcoming post will be about a type of green tea created with the help of a Japanese immunologist that helps alleviate the symptoms of allergies. My husband (who suffers terribly) started drinking a couple of weeks ago. Full report to come, but so far… so good. Amazing.