Yame, located in western Fukuoka Prefecture, is one of the oldest tea producing regions in Japan. It is renowned for its tea famous shaded green teas. The micro-climate there is perfect for kabuse sencha, gyokuro, and matcha. And its small-scale production is conducive to quality.
Matcha was brought from China to Japan nearly 1000 years ago where it has been adopted and perfected. Quality is determined by the following factors - when it was harvested, which cultivars were used, how it was processed, how it was ground, and the color. Ideally the matcha was harvested during the first harvest of the year (April/May), before the leaves get too large and lack umami flavor. Ideally it is made from an umami-rich cultivar; however a blend of cultivars can be good. Common matcha cultivars include gokkoh, saemidori, okumidori, asatsuyu, and komakame since they are good plants for shading. The next important factor is the processing. Ideally the tea is shaded and fertilized prior to harvest to promote the production of amino acids. From there it should be deveined, ground using stone wheels, and rested or aged for a short amount of time to "set" the flavor and maintain its prized umami character. The finished product should whisk up easily with a vibrant green color.
Our Yame Matcha is a blend of two cultivars, okumidori and yabukita, which give it its signature color and flavor. It was harvested from the tender leaves from the April (first) harvest that were shaded for several weeks, and fertilized with naturally high in nitrogen organic fertilizers to boost its umami flavor. It has been painstakingly ground a kilo at a time for more than an hour on stone wheels to decrease the heat from friction that could ruin the teas delicate flavors. It was rested for 9 months to “set” the flavor. It has bright, vibrant green color indicative of both quality and freshness.
Matcha that originated in Uji and Kagoshima have the flavor that most people associate with matcha since Kyoto, located near the Uji growing region, is where the matcha latte originated. Yame matcha in comparison is about balancing flavors of umami with both sweetness and bitterness, and ours exemplifies the profile. It has slightly brisk character, and smooth creamy mouthfeel.
I prefer this particular matcha one of two ways, either as thin tea (koicha), or served cold. To prepare as thin tea, whisk 2 grams of tea with 4 ounces of water until fragrant and frothy. For iced tea add a teaspoon to cold water and either shake vigorously in a 16 ounce water bottle, or use a cocktail shaker with ice and water. For more details visit our previous post on making iced matcha.