Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Return Of Matcha Madness

A short while back, I had the pleasure of participating in a blind taste testing of a dozen culinary grade powdered teas. I was a bit nervous as I thought I was a little too inexperienced for the challenge. Turns out my insights and opinions lined up fairly well with the more experienced matcha drinkers and bloggers who also participated. So, go me! You can find the original set of reviews here.

Now, a few of us have been given the opportunity to continue on where the first testing ended. There will be three sets of matcha. Each set has been selected to contain similar quality teas, and are intended to progress upward in quality with each. I plan to dedicate one post to each set of samples. The third set may span more than one post. I'll decide about that later. I feel a lot more confident going in to this round.

The Sponsor:
This testing is sponsored by Red Leaf Tea. They supplied all the matcha samples to the testers. At least one of the samples in each set belongs to Red Leaf Tea.

The matcha was divided and packaged in individual aluminum sample bags. A label was affixed to each saying simply "Sample 1",  "Sample 2", etc.. After the testing was completed, I received a file containing the actual product names to match to the appropriate sample.

Each of us is allowed to prepare our matcha as we see fit. It is my intention to treat each in an identical manner (but see below for my mixing goof). My methodology will be the same as I used in the original matcha madness testing:  Measure out 1/4 tsp of matcha into the cup. Add 2 ounces of filtered water heated to 160 F and stir until well mixed.

Testing & Rating Process:
Each dry sample will be examined for color. Traditionally, the deeper green the powder, the better.  Next, I will taste the dry powder. Finally, the matcha will be prepared and tasted.

A rating, will be given  for color, and one for taste, with a rating of 1 being lowest and 10 highest. A third rating is for sweetness /bitterness. Here, a rating of 1 is extreme bitterness, and a 10 is sweet with no bitterness.

Now On To The Sampling:
First, a word about the cup pictures - I changed procedures during the tasting which I should not have done. With the first and second teas, I mixed with a spoon because that is my daily routine when making lattes. For the rest, I used a whisk because we aren't making lattes here, are we? Obviously, the whisk works better at creating a foam. In all fairness the first two will foam nicely when done properly.

The powder is kind of lime green. The dry taste is a good mix of sweet and bitter with a nice leafy taste. The liquor is a murky algae green. The taste is strong and seems a little more bitter than sweet and has some nice grassy hay notes. The aftertaste lingers. This is very inexpensive and a nice latte worthy tea. In fact, this will be my new everyday latte powder very soon. My ratings for this one are lower than my original review, as I am using it as the baseline to compare the others in this set.

Color: 5  Taste: 5  Sweet: 5
Price per bag: $14.99
Price per oz: $0.94

Yes, I recognize this one as Red Leaf Tea Deluxe Matcha. It was my top choice in round one.  The color is a little more green than the first. The dry taste is sweet with floral notes. The liquor is a dark murky algae green. It tastes floral with a nice bite. To me, this is what I imagine a green oolong would taste like if powdered. The aftertaste lingers and is very pleasant with floral and grassy notes.

Color: 6  Taste: 7  Sweet: 6
Price per bag: $24.99
Price per oz: $1.56

This one is very different from the previous two. The dry color is about the same as the first. The dry taste is very dry with no bitterness. I got a nice foam on this one. Tasting this I get almost no bitterness, just a pleasant bite. The taste has a dark green leafy taste. It doesn't make me think spinach exactly but it isn't seaweed either. Kind of in between the two. The aftertaste has a sweet floral and leafy taste.

Color: 6  Taste: 8  Sweet: 6
Price per bag: $19.00
Price per oz: $5.28

Out of the bag, this is the greenest powder I have seen so far. The dry taste had an umami presence, yet reminded me of movie popcorn without all the salt. It mixed well and had great color though still kid of murky. Maybe that is true of all matcha? I have no idea at this point. It isn't bitter or particularly sweet. It is a bit seaweed and again the umami notes. Mostly it is just kind of flat to me due to the lower sweetness, but it is easy to drink. It didn't move me as something I would drink straight but seems perfect for sweetened lattes.

Color: 8  Taste: 6  Sweet: 4
Price per bag: $7.99
Price per oz: $7.99 ($3.99) 

Oooh, another that is very green out of the bag. Maybe this will be the new normal as we go through the remaining sets of matcha. Hope so. The dry powder tastes smooth and malty with a touch of seaweed. Mixed easily. This tastes good. Not very descriptive I know. I get malt, seaweed and floral with a touch of hay. There is enough bite to be interesting without calling it bitter and mixed with enough sweetness to make it easy to drink. My hands down favorite so far from this set.

Color: 9  Taste: 9  Sweet: 7
Price per bag: $29.90
Price per oz: $8.54 

The powder is as pronounced green as the last. The dry taste is kind of a mix between malt and the umami popcorn I noted earlier. Foams up easily and the color is bright jade green. Now, the taste leans more bitter than I expected. It is malty and leafy green vegetal/seaweed. There may be nothing wrong with this one but I wasn't a fan, which is interesting as this is the most expensive of the set.

Color: 8  Taste: 8  Sweet: 5
Price per bag: $32.50
Price per oz: $9.29 

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