In The New Yorker article entitled Flipping Supreme, the owner of Unique Hype Collection, an NYC retail establishment, recounted one of his business ventures:
“I used to do green-tea Kit Kats. You could sell the bags for sixteen dollars each. There were only two stores in New York that had them, so I called the stores and told them I wanted to buy everything they had whenever they got the Kit Kats in.”
Without reading the magazine article, I would not have noticed the bucket of green-tea Kit Kats right next to an Asian confectionery’s cash register last month. I was further entertained when the cashier gently snatched the cellophane bag from me, then equally gently placed it on the scale – six tiny wrapped Kit Kats would be weighed! I ended up paying about a dollar a piece. Maybe Unique Hype Collection’s proprietor should also market his Kit Kats by the ounce.
My 2010 post Matcha It! commented on the bizarre ubiquity of matcha products. The bitter aftertaste that lingered on the palate, following just a tiny bite of green-tea Kit Kat (a Japanese import) is worth more than a dollar. The small print on the wrapper that reads オトナの甘さ, literally translated into English as “adult sweetness,” seems superfluous, even rouses thoughts of age discrimination. Why make any assumption about younger generations’ impartiality or aversion to delightful bitter flavor? Printed underneath “adult sweetness,” in even smaller font, are a few hiragana characters and the four kanji that all matcha enthusiasts ought to practice writing and memorize:宇治抹茶, or Uji Matcha in English.
Tea cultivation in Uji, a region in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture, began in the thirteenth century during the Kamakura Jidai (1185–1333), a period known for the Buddhist sect Zen’s permeation on the island nation. The well-known cultivation method “Ooishita Saibai,” which covers and shields budding plants, was developed much later in the sixteenth century, and the first batch of Uji matcha is said to have been produced from those tea leaves – noted for their darker green hue. Today, matcha is often synonymous with Japanese tea ceremony, which in turn reminds one of Sen no Rikyū and Sansenke.
Yummy green-tea Kit Kat’s availability may be elusive; savoring other processed food flavored with Uji matcha posed no challenge. I give Nabisco’s Picola and Kabaya’s nama caramel (raw caramel) high marks. The most essential criterion is, of course, the indelible bitter aftertaste.
Other major tea cultivation regions in Japan, like Shizuoka and Kagoshima, produce matcha as well, and for those business operators, Uji matcha is probably more a fact of life than competition.
Images courtesy of the contributor.
You can watch an unbagging here.