Zarai, Single Cultivar vs. Blended Cultivar - What's the hype?

For the longest time in my life, I thought matcha didn't have varieties and the taste differences would be from different harvest seasons and methods, or maybe the length of shading. Matcha is actually like any other plants that has different cultivated varieties which determine the taste and flavour of its end product. Another example is wine; it's all made from grapes but there are different kinds of grapes, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot etc... those grape varieties determine the flavour of the wine.

Non-cultivated variety is called Zairai, which means planting from seed. There're so many different genes & possibilities (be it good or not so good) in a tiny seed, and it's like a lottery ticket for farmers. It can be amazingly strong and flavourful, or the opposite. That's why nowadays tea farmers don't like to use Zairai method because of the risks and contingencies.

Most of the tea farmers choose cultivated varieties and they usually buy from a renowned "tea breeder" who sells those ready-to-plant tea trees. Similar with the time you go to Home Depot and buy those little tomato plant in a little pot, and move them to the ground afterwards. They'd also like to choose different kinds, maybe 50 of Yabukita, 50 of Samidori, 50 of Asahi etc (in the Tomato case, people may choose some Beefsteak, some Roma). After harvest, they have two options: group them according to their cultivar and sell as single cultivar tea, or they blend them together. You may ask: why do they blend them together?

There're two main reasons:

1. Taste
Each cultivar has its own distinctive flavour - similar to wine, some people love Merlot and some people love Shiraz. When blending them all together, the tea farms are creating their own "flavour" that other tea farms cannot duplicate. Some tea farms even blend over 5 varieties to create something that's hard to copy.

2. Production
Each cultivar produces unequal amount of end products; for examples, Yabukita is a very strong and frost-resistant cultivar, so it tends to produce more than other ones. To ensure an average and steady supply, the tea farmers like to blend Yabukita in other lower-production cultivar, so the total yield can be more consistent. In a mass-production factory, you'd rarely find single cultivar tea (unless they only grow one variety).

Some famous Japanese tea companies such as Ippodo, Marukyu-Koyamaen, Hoshino-Seichaen, buy tea from other tea farms (instead of owning and maintaining their tea farms). Companies in-house tea master will grade those tea and blend them together to reach a unique taste, and name them differently. 

Do you like blended matcha or single-cultivar matcha? While most of our matcha is single-cultivar, can you guess which of our matcha is blended cultivar?

 

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Why choose Organic Matcha?

How much does ORGANIC mean to you?

Non-organic matcha (conventional matcha) is cheaper in prices, brighter in color, and richer in taste due to fertilize manipulation. Interesting enough organic produce is not popular in Japan - you could hardly find any organic apples or bananas in their supermarkets in oppose to here in North America. Why?

People are easily attracted to larger, plumper, and sweet-tasting fruits; the more expensive yet smaller ones are left behind. This discourages farmers to grow foods organically and Japan is a very chemistry-advanced country that they invent all different kinds of artificial fertilizers to support plants' growth. The land is also scarce comparing to its dense population so they will have to use pesticides to ensure the crop production is consistent every year.

Matcha is a very delicate and expensive tea. For those top grades matcha, you rarely find it grow organically. The two most reputable matcha producers, Ippodo Tea & Marukyu Koyamaen, only carry one to two kinds of organic matcha, and the rest of ten grades are all conventional. Here're the reasons:

1. matcha is shade-grown (and this is what sets it apart from regular powdered green tea). During the shading process, matcha plants couldn't get enough energy from the sun, and it needs extra nitrogen to support its growth. Organic matcha farmers are restricted to using those industrial-strength fertilizers, so they buy those organic-certified fertilizers instead; however most of the time those are not strong enough to make their matcha taste as good as conventional ones. 

2. High grade matcha are very limited in quantity (we're not talking about those $1/g ceremonial grade - we're talking about $2 or more per gram high-end grade), and matcha production depends on many uncontrollable factors such as weather. In addition to those factors, pest is another farmer's enemy that possibly will reduce matcha production. Conventional matcha farmers will have to use toxic pesticide to ensure pest-control is in place.

BUT... is Organic matcha really inferior than conventional ones?

Not necessarily! Before we tell you why our organic grade (especially our competition grade and Ultra premium Ceremonial grade) is on par with conventional grades, let's take a look at the benefits of Organic farming in general. By choosing certified organic products, you're helping to

1. Minimize toxic chemical consumption
Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of chemical poisons present in commercially grown food.The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person every year. Many of these chemicals were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before extensive diet testing. 

2. reduce pollution, enhance soil & water quality
Agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers are contaminating our environment, poisoning our precious water supplies, and destroying the value of fertile farmland. Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity. 

2. improve habitats
Preservation of soil and crop rotation keep farmland healthy, and chemical abstinence preserves the ecosystem. Wildlife, insects, frogs, birds, and soil organisms are able to play their roles in the tapestry of ecology, and we are able to play ours, without interference or compromise.

3. conserve biodiversity
The rampant loss of species occurring today is a major environmental concern. It is estimated that 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost in the last century.

4. Support Organic Farmers
Every dollar you spent is a vote. By buying organic produces, you're giving confidence and credits to organic farmers so they can continue to supply the best and healthiest foods.

5. A brighter future
This is not political slogan; this is a fact. If we all start to contribute little by little, we will see a collective impact for the future.

Back to our organic matcha.

Personally I had such a hard and long time finding great-tasting organic matcha, because 99% of organic matcha farmers use the similar organic-certified fertilizers resulting in poor taste. I guess those organic fertilizers are more cost effective. Our tea farm owner formulates his own natural fertilizer so it's very unique to our matcha, and you wouldn't find a similar one even closer to ours.

Are you supporting organic farming? Your thoughts are welcome!

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How to Make Matcha Ramen

Matcha powder is so versatile that can be added to many dishes. This year when I went to Japan in June, it was steaming hot; I literally had cold soba/matcha noodles every single day for a whole month - some were from restaurants and some from convenient stores such as 7-Eleven & Lawson. When I'm finally back to Vancouver, I suffer withdrawal of my daily cold matcha noodles! During our trip we learnt how to make ramen from scratch, and now we just add our everyday grade matcha powder making it matcha ramen!

Store-bought noodles often are highly processed and contain additives/chemicals. Making noodles from scratch is not only natural and healthy, it's also super fun!

OK let's get to it:

Noodle Ingredients (serving 2-3):

300g flour of your choice

Salt water (150g warm water + 8g salt)

1 tbsp Whisk Everyday Organic Matcha

Step 1:

how to make matcha ramen noodles

Sift 300g all purposes flour (or wholewheat flour if you prefer), then sift 1 tbsp of Whisk Everyday Matcha for a standout green colour. We did try with some store-bought lower grade matcha powder and the colour becomes yellow/brownish, which is not very appetizing. 

Step 2:

Slowly add salt water to flour a little at a time, and loosely mix them together, then put everything into a large ziplock bag/foodsafe plastic bag. Let it rest for 20min - 1 hour.

Matcha Ramen Noodles

Step 3:

Knead the dough for 10 minutes either by hand or by feet (on top of the plastic bag - it's the traditional way of doing it), the more you knead, the stretchier the noodles are. After kneading, let the dough rest again for 1 hour to overnight. 

matcha ramen noodles

Step 4:

Spread plenty of flour on surface. Roll the dough to 2mm thin.

matcha ramen noodles

Step 5:

Fold the sheet into 4 layers and sprinkle more flour in between.

Step 6:

Cut as thin as possible? then open up and arrange the noodles together.

Now you have your dry matcha noodles! At this stage, you can choose to freeze them for future use, or cook right away!!

Step 7:

Cook them in boiling water for 8 - 9 minutes, take it out, and rinse under cold water thoroughly for 20 seconds or so. I like my noodle stretchy and a bit chewy, so if you like softer noodles, cook 10 - 12 minutes! However try not to overcook.

 

Soup Base:

So for cold noodles, Japanese people don't typically put the cold soup WITH the noodle. The soup is usually set aside and you dip the noodle in. 

Feel free to use your own soup base recipe. I will share our two soup base recipes (one cold and one hot) through our e-newsletter, so if you'd like to learn how to make plant-based noodle soup, please subscribe to our newsletter!

Give it a try and comment below how you like it, or if you have any questions!

Happy Noodling!

Kimmy Xiao

kimmy@whiskmatcha.ca

cold matcha ramen

cold matcha ramen

Hot matcha ramen

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Matcha Chia Pudding by Dr. Julie Zeitlhuber

by: Dr. Julie Zeitlhuber, Food Scientist, Certified Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, & Arthur. 

Ready To Nourish

My Matcha obsession is a little bit out of control lately so even my chia puddings get a nice dosage of the magical green powder. This pudding is one of my favorite breakfast options at the moment. You can make it ahead of time or the night before, it is a nutrition bomb, tastes incredible and is pretty too. You have to try it. Prepare the chia base the night before and you don't have to hustle in the morning to find a healthy nutritious breakfast. Just add some fruit, granola, nuts, nut butter, seeds, coconut... You can even store it in the fridge for up to 3 days!

Matcha is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. There is hardly any food that contains such high amounts of antioxidants, which fight free radicals and benefit our health immensely. Another nutrient called L-Theanine makes matcha a superfood. Thanks to the subtle caffeine and the amino acid L-theanine, matcha calms the mind and relaxes the body, it enhances mood and aids concentration. Make sure you purchase a high-quality matcha powder, it will be worth it! My personal favorite is Whisk Premium Matcha (use discount code "READYTONOURISH" for 10% off) 

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Matcha Chia Pudding

Serves 2

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used homemade almond milk)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1-2 Tbsp Maple syrup

1.5 tsp Matcha Powder

 

Toppings of your choice

(Homemade Granola)

 

Add all ingredients for the chia pudding into a jar, put the lid on and shake

Put into fridge for about 10 min

Shake occasionally, divide between two glasses and add toppings

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The Art of Chasen

Chasen, also called bamboo whisk, is an essential tool used for making matcha in Japanese ceremonial style. In this blog, we will talk about the material used, how-it's-made, varieties and how to care for chasen. 

1. Different Types of Bamboo

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There're 3 major types of bamboo used for making chasen: Yellow bamboo (Hachiku), Gold bamboo (Susudake), and black bamboo (Kurodake). Yellow bamboo is the most common and economic material for making mass-produced matcha bamboo whisk; it's smooth and soft in texture and  it's easy to carve, but meanwhile it has low durability and breaks easily. Golden bamboo is known for it's added durability, and aged golden bamboo makes more durable chasen but the supply is very limited. Black bamboo is the most heavy-duty material for making a matcha whisk, but it's high in density making it extra difficult to carve. Black bamboo chasen can last 3 times longer than regular yellow bamboo chasen.

There's also SMOKED golden bamboo, which is not to be confused with black bamboo. Smoked golden bamboo is extremely fragile and commonly for display and aesthetic purpose only.

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2. How chasen is made

Making chasen is a traditional art handed down for the past hundred years and made with the spirit of crafting without compromising. Most of hand-crafted chasen is made in Takayama, located in Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture. Only top quality bamboo can be made into chasen. Bamboo is harvested in the winter and will need to be boiled before the sun-dry process. The photo below show the development of chasen making in process.

chasen making process

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Step 1: Raw materials are usually soaked in warm water for easy carving.

Step 2: Peeled side of bamboo is cut vertically and divided into 16 individual pieces.

Step 3: The inner part of each piece removed leaving only the hard outer layer.

Step 4: Each of the 16 pieces tip is further sliced into 4 similar wide individual pieces summing up to 64 pieces of tips at this stage.

Step 5: Each 64th tip is further separated into two, creating a total of 128 tips with less than 1mm width each.

Step 6: The wider tips are pulled outward while the thinner ones pushed inwards to create two layers of tips: The outer layer and inner core.

Step 7: Each sharp corner of the wider tips are shredded and polished with knife for whisking matcha tea more smoothly at the Tea Ceremony.

Step 8: Each outer tips is further shredded until extremely thin to maximize flexibility.

Last step: Threads will be weaved onto each bristle to tighten them all together.

3. Chasen Artisan

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It takes about 2-3 years to learn how to make chasen, and 10 years to become a Chasen master.

Depending on how complicated the design is and pondate counts, one chasen takes about 2 - 5 hours to complete.4. Use of Chasen

There're different kinds of Chasen for different uses. The more tips (prongs) it has, the better froth you will get. Typically Chasen with more prongs is meant for Usucha - thin tea, and the one with less prongs is meant for Koicha - thick tea.

CHASEN.jpg 

 The ones with chubbier and shorter handle are for traditional matcha bowl, and the ones with slimmer and longer handle are fit for coffee mugs or glasses.

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whisk long05.jpg

If you still have any questions about your bamboo whisk, please email us: info@whiskmatcha.ca

 

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