So much happening in the world of Breakaway Matcha, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. For those who don’t know about my quest for the world’s best matcha, here’s a post that will shed some light.
Tins are sourced and designed and redesigned and ordered, labels are designed (by design diva Stephanie Sawchenko, naturally, who’s also designed a fabulous new logo for me), shipping supplies are sourced, UPS account is set up, a tiny but very cool office space is secured, and — most importantly — the teas are being stone-ground as I type. It takes more than an hour to granite-grind 40g of tea, so it takes a while for this kind of hand-made, artisanal product to happen. All four teas I’ll be sharing are custom blended for Breakaway Matcha — they don’t/won’t exist anyplace else, and I consider myself very lucky to have been alloted the absolute finest tier of the finest matchas on earth.
It took me many years to hunt these down. The quality is life-changing; it’s shocking how good these teas are. They are unlike anything available in the marketplace, most of which is culinary grade; a different animal altogether.
So besides quality, what makes these beautiful teas “breakaway?” Lot of things:
- style of preparation: you can get a much better crema with a handheld electric milk frother than you can with a bamboo whisk, so that’s what we do. I’ve tried a bunch, and will be recommending one or two.
- served in smaller cups: I find the big matcha bowls too heavy and clunky (though they’re fantastic for soups). It’s much more pleasant to drink matcha out of smaller, espresso-like cups.
- make your own ritual (or none at all): Japanese tea ceremonies, where matcha is served, have so many rules and stipulations that most people are too terrified of making a mistake to actually enjoy themselves. I’m encouraging people to make up their own, or bypass it altogether if you wish. Mine is pretty simple: I turn on the kettle, get out the sieve, matcha scoop, frother, smaller creamer/pitcher, and cup, sieve about a gram (two normal scoops, or about half a teaspoon) into the pitcher, and wait for the water to boil and then slightly cool (to about 190F) for a minute or two. I try to notice my breath during this time, to notice the incredible color, texture, and aroma of the matcha, to notice the active bird life outside my kitchen window, and to realize how absolutely fortunate I am to be alive in this moment. I might do a minute or two of yoga. When the water’s ready, I pour a half inch or so into the pitcher, turn on the frother, and create the magical crema. It then gets poured into my cup, with some additional hot water swirled into the pitcher to get all the green goodness, which tops off the cup. I then sit down someplace and drink it somewhat quickly, usually in three or four noisy slurps. I marvel at how good it tastes and how good my body and brain feel, and go about my workday. This happens three or four times throughout the day.
- it’s a tea for espresso lovers: the thick, electric green crema REALLY is a lot like espresso crema. Same exact mouthfeel.
- breakaway matcha culture is probably closer to Italian coffee culture, with its joyous yet obsessed ways, than it is to Japanese tea culture, whose history is incredibly rich — it is is simply awesome in its beauty and relevance — but sometimes quite heavy and laden with too much . . . weight. I believe that it can be, indeed must be, lightened, brought up to contemporary times, to be more suited to the way people live and work today. So I feel we’re honoring that tradition, paying homage to it, yet basking in its beauties in whatever way we like. There is no need to drink matcha exactly as the Japanese tea teachers say we must, any more than we must cook food exactly as Japanese culinary instructors and chefs say we must. We do whatever works. And man, does this way of drinking matcha work!
I’m going to have limited quantities — there is only so much of this stuff. I expect that long-term readers of this space, and my other writing, will want to experience it and make it part of their daily routine, as I have. I know that many of my close friends will. I will do my best to secure a long-term (as in: as long as I’m alive) supply from these incredible farmers.
I’ll talk about the health benefits of matcha another day, but I do look at my daily enjoyment of this matcha not only as epicurean delight along the lines of an especially great Burgundy (with the added benefit that it promotes wakefulness, not drowsiness), but also as a preventive health measure, a daily practice kind of like yoga or meditation that I know is very, very good for me. Its concentrative properties are legendary, too. The ability to focus, to not be distracted, after a cup of matcha — thanks largely to the combination of caffeine and L-theanine, the amino acid that not only gives matcha is incredible umami, but which is also proven to enhance cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine — can make a massive difference in one’s personal productivity.
I also hope to share some delightful ceramics made specially for this matcha, but that might take a little longer. More on that later, too.
Mid to late September is our target date for the arrival of the matcha. We’ll definitely be holding some tasting events in the SF Bay Area, details of which will be outlined here (or, more accurately, in the matcha pages Stephanie is creating now — we’ll roll out the new website, complete with a gorgeous new section on matcha, sometime this fall). The new vegetarian book is coming, too, this fall; we shoot the last video session this coming Saturday in SF – if anyone wishes to help out with prep and clean up, and to see how we do it, I’d be hugely grateful. Wish me luck with all of this, please!