If you had told me last year I would soon be running a Japanese matcha tea shop, I would have thought you were crazy. You see, unlike a lot of other Japanese tea enthusiasts I know, I haven’t spent years studying the finer points of Japanese tea ceremony. I don’t have any family connection to Japan. In fact I have never even travelled to Japan.. So why the hell am I running a matcha tea business?
But first, a little story about myself.
I spent the last ten years working in cafes and restaurant here in Melbourne, Australia. My passion lies in food – cooking, inventing, creating and experimenting with it. But after so long in the restaurant industry – I was burnt out. Long hours, high stress, and drinking a LOT of coffee to get me through the day. I was overwhelmed, overworked and unhappy. I realized I couldn’t keep this lifestyle up forever. I began looking for ways to de-stress while searching for alternatives to coffee. I’d heard good things about the health benefits of green tea and began experimenting with different types – sencha, genmaicha and whatever was sold at the local shops.
I had heard a few stories about this special green tea called ‘matcha’. Everything about matcha intrigued me: The intense vibrant green powders I saw; the incredible antioxidant levels and other health benefits; the fascinating history behind the tea and its use by Zen Monks and Samurai Warriors; the intricate and painstaking method of production involved in matcha – from shading, to hand picking, drying, de-stemming then being milled on granite blocks (the same method that’s been used for centuries). All this fascinated me – and I KNEW I had to try this tea.
I headed to a local tea shop that was known to stock matcha. It was a bit pricy, but I HAD to have it. I got my matcha, an electric whisk, and headed home for my first matcha experience.
The first thing I noticed was the colour. It wasn’t at all like I’d seen on the internet. No ‘bright’ green powder: more like a dull, murky, hay-like substance. There was no fresh, grassy aroma that met me when I opened the tin. But what about the taste?
After sifting the tea into a glass, adding some hot water (not boiling), and whisking it up, I took my first sip…It was bitter, unpleasant and a big let down. I’d just wasted $30 on a tin of crap! I wasn’t happy. But I knew there had to be good matcha out there somewhere. I started ordering online, from several suppliers. Again and again I was underwhelmed.
Was good matcha just a myth? Was this what matcha really tasted like? I couldn’t accept that. Finally I ordered from a highly regarded Japanese supplier. I waited patiently for three weeks for my package to arrive. I unpacked the box and opened the matcha.
Firstly – the colour. It was GREEN. Really green. No murky ‘army’ green. Secondly, the aroma leapt out of the tin and hit me. The smell was fresh, grassy, vegetal and inviting. The taste? It wasn’t at all bitter like the other matchas I’d tried. It had a faint sweetness, grassy, earthy vegetal flavour. With an almost creamy like consistency, and a layer of froth on top.
Finally I’d found ‘real’ matcha.
I ordered more of this tea, this time a few extras for some friends. Before I knew it friends of friends and other acquaintances were asking me for the tea. Apparently I wasn’t the only one in Australia that wanted GOOD matcha. I sensed an opportunity and negotiated a deal with the supplier to import tea into Australia.
And Kenko Matcha Tea was born, with the goal of delivering high grade matcha tea to Australia. I quickly found that the demand was greater than expected, as more and more people discover this amazing tea. I’d found a way to provide value, use my passion for experimenting with food, and share it with the rest of Australia.
Instead of long stressful hours in the kitchen – these days I spend my time experimenting with matcha recipes, dealing with my amazing customers and thinking of new ways to promote this incredible tea in Australia.
If you haven’t experienced truly high quality matcha tea yet, I’d encourage you to find some. It could change your life – it did for me!
Images provided by the author.