While we can wax on all day everyday about ice cream and waffles, we haven’t forgotten about another crucial part of our menu offerings: the drinks that we serve alongside our sweet treats. From teas and coffees served neat, to iced cappuccinos and mango smoothies, we have dedicated a whole third of our menu to our drink selection.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, we recently gave one of our drinks, Matcha Made in Heaven, a little face-lift. To up the quality of this latte, we taste tested countless matcha powders before finally choosing the winning matcha from Genuine Tea.
Curious to learn more about the tea we chose, we sat down with the founders of Genuine Tea, Sarah and David, and talked all things matcha. Read on!
Hi David & Sarah, what prompted you to start Genuine Tea?
Sarah and I lived in Taiwan for nearly five years, and while we were there we started drinking a lot of tea. They say Taiwan is the champagne region for tea, especially Oolong teas, and they also make a lot of nice teas with cut fruit and everything – really fresh. We thought ‘how come people don’t appreciate real tea like this in the same way in North America?’ There’s a lot of feminine branding here [for tea], a lot of artificial colours and flavours, and no transparency. They never talk about where the tea comes from, how it’s processed, the farmers, the cultivar or anything like that. So our idea was to do the same with the tea industry as to what’s happened with the coffee industry in the last twenty years, with a focus on transparency, quality, and freshness.
How does Kato Matcha figure into all of this? What made you decide to enter the matcha market?
We were the first company in Toronto to start offering authentic Japanese ceremonial grade matcha for wholesale to cafes. The majority of matcha on the market was either heavily sweetened – with 80% sugar in the ingredients – or it came from China. Chinese teas are great, but they’re not known for their matcha, which is [made through] a refined process that’s been specialized in Japan. So we started introducing matcha about 2 years ago, and then went over to Kyoto last spring for the spring harvest, where we spent two weeks with the Kato family. We discovered [that] the head farmer plays Mozart to the tea leaves, and we thought that was a cool story and wanted to share it. And we also thought “What’s more genuine than actually naming the product after the farmer?” So Kato Matcha became a Genuine Tea product.
How does Kato Matcha, a ceremonial matcha, figure into the entire matcha landscape?
Generally speaking, in Japan, ceremonial grade just means anything that is considered good enough to be used in a tea ceremony. They’re not as strict about the definitions, but usually it’s either a spring or summer harvest. We only carry the spring or summer harvest. Another requirement for growing matcha is that it has to be shade-grown for up to 2 – 3 weeks before harvest. That process increases the chlorophyll output of the leaves, and then after they harvest it, they steam it to stop the enzyme activity. Then they bake it and create what’s called tencha – it’s very similar to green tea, but it’s basically just little green tea flakes without the leaves or the stems. Finally they mill those flakes into a powder, which is matcha.
When you mention that shade-growing increases the chlorophyll output, is that to give the matcha a bright green colour?
Yes and it makes the leaves very soft as well. If you look at any plant that is under direct stress from sunlight, they often get very thick and leathery, which is quite common for an Assam tea. So what happens is you get a lot of bitterness. Whereas with shade growing, the sun’s not in direct contact with the leaves, there’s a bit of a breeze, and the leaves can stay cool. Then they turn this dark greenish colour and they’re very very soft. This creates a flavour called umami in Japan, which is a savoury sweetness.
What are the benefits of drinking matcha compared to other types of teas? Is there a noticeable difference?
There is a difference because you’re ingesting the whole tea leaf. Rather than just infusing it in water and extracting the oils that way, you’re actually ingesting it. So you get 14 times the antioxidants of regular green tea, and 60 times the antioxidants of spinach, so it’s very very healthy for you in that sense.
People are increasingly drinking it because it’s not as acidic as coffee so it doesn’t cause any inflammation. The caffeine doesn’t hit you in the same way that coffee does, it’s more of a clean energy. You get energy for about 6-8 hours, and you don’t get that rise and crash like you do with coffee. The main reason is because you’re digesting the tea leaf, so it takes a while to go through your system, and that’s why you can get that energy for an extended period of time.
Thanks for speaking with us Sarah & Dave (and baby Jake)!
To highlight this matcha, we are also incorporating it into Matcha Obliged, a new iced matcha lemonade that’s available until August 31st. While the bright green colour may indicate a strong matcha flavour, it’s actually quite subtle and a good way to test the waters if you’re concerned about the bitterness of matcha.
We hope that you enjoyed this field trip! Tune in later this week for an exclusive recipe straight from our test kitchen, and remember to check out our Instagram (@demetres) for your daily dose of dessert.