Thursday, August 13, 2015

Matcha Madness - The Final Chapter Part 2

Below are the final 12 contestants in the set 3 challenge. For the first half of this blind tasting review of high grade matcha see Matcha Madness - The Final Chapter Part 1.

The Sponsor:

One more time, I would like to thank Red Leaf Tea for sponsoring this challenge. They furnished all the samples including those of their competitors. Each was generically labeled so I had no idea what I was drinking or to who it belonged. The information was made available after the reviews were completed then added to my notes for this post.


I used 4 ounces of water heated to 160 F. To this, 1 tsp of matcha was whisked into the water. The whisk I am using is not a proper bamboo whisk. Instead I am using a small plastic kitchen whisk.

I will be using the same rating system I used in Part 1. A score of 1 is bad. A score of 10 is excellent.

 On To The Tasting:

Sample 22

Beautiful vivid spring green powder with a fresh cut field grass scent. The dry taste is lightly malty and buttered popcorn. As with all these higher grade matcha this mixed easily and foamed well. What I perceive as different is how tiny the foam bubbles seem - and this was using a kitchen whisk. The tea is dark green. This is not a negative comment, just my way of describing the tea, it looks thick like paint. The taste is very smooth and thick like drinking a mostly melted milkshake. I am getting no bitterness while hot and only a slight amount as it gets cold. The taste is spinach, corn, and malt. Savory and refreshing. This one I am finding really pretty tasty.
Aroma: 8  Color: 8  Taste: 9 Sweet/Bitter: 6/9

Price/oz: $23.54 
Size: 1.06 oz
Price: $24.95

The company furnished descriptions on Amazon are usually a turn off and concentrate on outlandish health claims. This one made me laugh. Most of it is OK selling points, but the last one "Makes you even sexier!" Now come on, who doesn't wan to be sexier? Still like the taste.

Sample 23

Once again a really good looking powder. The dry scent to me is slightly paint and fruit with grassy undertones. The dry taste is very robust. It is malt and buttered popcorn but with a nice bite. Mixed easily and foamed well. This one, like the last, reminds me of looking at green paint. It is thick and consistent in its color. Tasting, I notice a good bite. It is a nice change from the smoothness of the last one. It feels thick and creamy. The taste is so fresh and green. I get spinach and celery. Starts sweet then umami becoming bitter at the end, but it is an enjoyable bitter. Lingering vegative aftertaste. Completely different from the last. Different but good different.
Aroma: 7  Color: 8  Taste: 9  Sweet/Bitter: 7/6

Price/oz: $23.54 
Size: 1.06 oz
Price: $24.95

After learning what this was, I don't have anything to add, except I am happy to see I am noticing differences in tastes again.

Sample 24

Spring green powder with a light field scent. The dry powder tastes like unsalted butter. It is savory and dry. Mixed well. Foamed easily. I noted this in an earlier review, but as I move up in price, I am noticing how tiny the foam bubbles have become using only a kitchen whisk. I can only imagine how it might be with the proper tools. The tea color is the same deep thick green I have been seeing with the last few samples. Tasting this feels thick like syrup yet is very dry and savory.  It has kind of a lettuce taste mixed with much darker greens. Interesting. I would probably like this more with a little sweetener.
Aroma: 7  Color: 8  Taste: 8  Sweet/Bitter: 6/9

Price/oz: $23.58 
Size: 1.06 oz
Price: $24.99

Sample 25

The powder is maybe just a tick darker than the last couple. The powder has a nut and hay scent.  The dry taste was butter and nuts with a bit of bite. Mixed easily but was a little harder for me to build a foam. The bubbles were larger but they did last. Nice green cup. Wow, there is almost zero bitterness here. Thick and creamy. Has a kelp and spinach taste. Not sweet, leans more toward umami. What bitterness I'm getting comes in at the end and lingers in the vegetive aftertaste.
Aroma: 7  Color: 9  Taste: 8  Sweet/Bitter: 6/9

Price/oz: $24.29 
Size: 0.7 oz
Price: $17.00

I tried the matcha LOVE Ususha earlier and liked it a lot. Classic is another winner with me.

Sample 26

Deeper green but still vibrant spring. Dry scent is like the others lately - nuts and hay. The dry taste is butter and nuts with a touch of good bitter. Mixed well. Wanted to foam before the whisk even hit it. The tea is deep rich forest green. The aroma as the water was added jumped out at me. It was the butter and nuts along with an egg scent that was like something you would find in a mixing bowl getting ready for the oven. The taste is really hard to describe. It is definitely umami. No real bitterness in the sip. It is thick and creamy and mixed with the mixing aroma has me thinking batter (only the impression, it isn't that thick). Savory kelp maybe? The aftertaste is green and viney.
Aroma: 9  Color: 9  Taste: 8  Sweet/Bitter: 5/9

Price/oz: $27.86 
Size: 0.7 oz
Price: $19.50

Another from Ito En that appeals to me. More because of the roller coaster sensory ride than necessarily the taste. I prefer sweeter matcha but then that's why I have sweetener.

Sample 27

The powder is duller than any since the first part of this set. The dry scent is paint fading to fruit. The dry powder is bitter but has a fresh green taste. Mixed well and held the foam. The color of the tea is a more drab deep green. The bitterness of the first sip will open your eyes wide. That said it is kind of an enjoyable bitter. Remember when you were young and you would pick dandelions and taste the stem? You would flinch, but always did it again. Yeah, it kind of tastes like that.
Aroma: 6  Color: 6  Taste: 7  Sweet/Bitter: 6/5

Price/oz: $28.27 
Size: 1.06 oz
Price: $29.97

While I kind of liked the intensity, it is simply too expensive in comparison with the others in this set. I did notice Epic says to use 1/2 tsp in 6 - 8 oz of water. I am using a full tsp in 4 oz, which is what the matcha websites recommend. My opinion is 1/2 tsp is plenty but I am too far down the road to switch lanes.

Sample 28

The dry powder is a tick darker and duller than the previous ones but is still spring green. The dry scent is fresh field hay and a touch of malt. The dry taste is nutty buttered popcorn. Mixed easily and held its foam. The color is an emerald green. Tasting I first notice the absence of bitterness. Its kind of sweet and vegetable. Leans umami. Very easy to drink. Either the flavor isn't as intense as most of the others or it doesn't have as much depth. Still, this is clean and refreshing
Aroma: 8  Color: 7  Taste: 8  Sweet/Bitter: 6/9

Price/oz: $29.60 
Size: 1.0 oz
Price: $29.60

Well, interesting. This is the same matcha as Matsuri Matcha by Red Leaf Tea (sample 20 in part 1). My notes are similar. I did reverse the ratings on color and taste. Since they are the exact same tea, save yourself $10 and go with Red Leaf Tea Matsuri Matcha.

Sample 29

The powder is vibrant green and smells of hay and fruit. The dry taste is intense of unsalted nuts and buttery popcorn with maybe a hint of malt. Mixed well and held its foam. The color is jade green. Based on the intensity of the dry taste I was expecting bitterness but it isn't present. It is kelp and kale with melon undertones. Very fresh leafy aftertaste. Nicely sweet. I'd give this straight 10's but I'm still learning - maybe there is something more spectacular, but I'm not sure how.
Aroma: 9  Color: 8  Taste: 9  Sweet/Bitter: 8/9

Price/oz: $30.16 
Size: 1.06 oz
Price: $31.97

Wow, we are getting into the nose bleed section with the price now. It is really, really, good though.

Sample 30

Solid deep summer green powder. The dry scent is filled with sweet summer hay and fruit. The dry taste to me is like most of the others - nutty, unsalted buttered popcorn, and a touch of malt. However, once a little water hit the matcha there was an explosion of malt released. Mixed easily and held the foam. The color is deep hunter green with that minty foam on top. Bitterness is absent. The taste is highly umami. Not sure what that means? Grab some of this. Or, I could try and explain what it means to me. While this is sweet, it tastes more dry and savory. It makes your mouth water for more. The flavor isn't overly intense, but it is deep. Deep green vegetables. Think kale and uncooked green beans. There is almost an earthiness to the rich taste. I'm willing to commit to 10's on this one.
Aroma: 10  Color: 10  Taste: 10  Sweet/Bitter: 7/9

Price/oz: $34.99 
Size: 1.0 oz
Price: $34.99

My mouth is still watering from this one.

Sample 31

Hmmm. This tastes exactly like the previous sample. Checked the sample and I have the correct one. Willing to bet this is the same excellent matcha.
Aroma: 10  Color: 10  Taste: 10  Sweet/Bitter: 7/9

Price/oz: $48.00 
Size: 1.0 oz
Price: $48.00

Yes, this Aiya Premium is identical to Red Leaf Tea's Tanabata Matcha. The price of the Aiya version is almost more than my first car payment. You can save yourself $13 and buy the Red Leaf version.

Sample B

Nice summer green color. The dry scent was floral and vegative in the bag, once it hit the cup it smelled like bananas. The dry taste was dry, slightly bitter, nutty, and buttery. Whisked easily and easily held a good foam. The color is emerald/jade. The taste is slightly bitter and leafy. This actually pleasant enough. The trouble with it is it just doesn't stand out compared to the previous teas.
Aroma: 9  Color: 8  Taste: 7  Sweet/Bitter: 6/7

Price/oz: $24.43 
Size: 0.88 oz
Price: $21.50

Well, that explains it. This is half the price of the previous sample. It goes to show price is often a good indicator of quality (not always). This one is not bad in its price range but pails in comparison to the big dogs.

Sample C

Last sample people! Awesome; This smells of banana right out of the bag. Not heavy, in your face, scent. Just a light sweet fruity scent. The color is a beautiful summer green. The dry taste is very much just like sample B without the bitterness. I am willing to bet this is the same company as previous one but a higher grade. Whisked easily and made a nice lasting foam. Deep emerald green color. Tasting, I get savory, umami. I am not noticing any bitterness. There is almost a roasty note in the background. I like this one quite a bit. I would probably add a touch of sweetener. I don't think it needs it. I just like mine a little sweeter.
Aroma: 9  Color: 9  Taste: 9  Sweet/Bitter: 6/9

Price/oz: $28.30 
Size: 0.88 oz
Price: $24.90

Ah, I was correct. Same company higher grade than the previous sample. This was a good one to end on as I enjoyed every drop.

Conclusions from Part 2

In the first half of this round there were two that stood out a little above the others for me - Manju Matcha from Red Leaf Tea and Matcha Love Usucha from Ito En.

Now moving on with part 2, man I'm having a tough time choosing. Without question, if you are willing to pay more, the top spot goes to Tanabata Matcha from Red Leaf Tea. It is the same as Aiya Premium at a substantial discount. It is extremely good.

I would also choose Matsuri Matcha by Red Leaf Tea over Aiya Ceremonial. Same tea at a reduced price.

So it turns out the sponsor did well in this round. I would also note that I like every sample from Ito En that I tried. Another personal favorite was  Uji Hikari Matcha by Yunomi.

Restating my conclusion from part 1, price and quality really do seem to run hand in hand with some notable exceptions. In part one, I hit a temporary saturation point at around $17/oz. At this point, and up to around $20/oz, it was really difficult for me to note the difference from one to the next. With this last half of the samples the difference in quality became apparent once again.

I have been told before that westerners generally won't pay the price for quality tea. I think it is the upfront price. $34.99/oz sounds pretty steep, but let's break it down. One ounce of matcha is roughly 28 grams. If you use 2g per cup, you'll get 14 cups per ounce. $34.99/14 = $2.50/cup. Still sound expensive? How much did you pay for that last mediocre cup you ordered in the coffee/tea shop? Probably at least that much.

By first deciding what you are willing to pay for a cup of tea, you can find the per ounce price by multiplying the per cup price by 14. You can then use your per ounce price and the Matcha Madness reviews found on this blog to help you choose.

1 comment:

  1. I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article. I enjoyed every little bit part of it and I will be waiting for the new updates. domatcha