This month one of my co-founders, Alex, is in London, scoping out the Japanese green tea scene. We’re exploring the idea of opening a Chiki Tea café over there.
Over the last few weeks, Alex has had the arduous task of sampling various Matcha drinks around the centre of town (!). But it sounds like it might not be as fun as it could be due to the universally poor quality of Matcha on display.
It seems pretty clear that most London cafés selling Matcha are using culinary grade for their drinks. We suspect a lot of the Matcha on the UK market is made with Sencha rather than Tencha if you can believe it. (Remember, Sencha is grown for the most part without being shaded). This is why the price is relatively low and the colour is strange and kind of yellow or off-green at best. It also accounts for the shallow, chalky taste profile through the middle pallette with a bitterness, even saltiness (!), on the front and backend. Yuck!
On top of that, most of these drinks are being served at coffee shops –there really aren’t that many places dedicated to tea at the moment. Which means the Matcha is a kind of afterthought, or even a grudging homage to the growing interest in Matcha across the West.
If anyone here knows of a place in London selling top grade delicious Matcha, please tell me – we’d love to explore more…
But there’s hope!
Having said all this, we’re happy to announce that two cafés in London are now selling Chiki Tea ceremonial grade Matcha in their drinks: Uluntu, based in London Bridge and BeLive on the Kings Road in Chelsea (inside the Triyoga building).
Uluntu is a beautiful, peaceful space situated in a flower shop near London Bridge. The small area is divided off from the rest of the shop by a large fish tank, adding serenity as well as life and vitality to ambiance.
Lera is the shop’s manager and tea aficionado. She’s an expert in Japanese and Chinese tea who also offers tea meditations through her venture T-Lovers.
BeLive has a more energetic and bubbly atmosphere, with lots of yogis passing through on their way to class or seeking refreshment after a session on the mats. Run by Monika, Shaivia and Julija BeLive serves up the most delicious fresh juices and vegetarian snacks along with their teas.
So! If you’re in those areas please don’t forget to stop by!!!
You can get really good grade matcha at Sticks n’ Sushi restaurants all over London. http://www.sticksnsushi.com/restaurants.html .
Their matcha tea is produced in Uji by Marukyo-Koyamaen. http://www.marukyu-koyamaen.co.jp/english/goods/goods_01.html. They have been producing matcha for 11 generations.
I have purchased matcha for my business from them since 2008. But yes I agree with you, generally the quality of matcha is very poor, not just in the UK but all over Europe. People are just not prepared to pay the price it costs. Did you know that the entire tea production area of Uji is only 80 hectares. Not surprisingly there are lots of counterfeits on the market.
I hadn’t realized the cost was so prohibitive. In the U.S. I don’t feel it’s significantly more expensive than good quality tea. Isn’t it amazing that having only 80 hectares to produce can continue to evolve to become a successful business venture, and for 11 generations. I love hearing about such families and feel encouraged that it continues today.
Alexis, so true about the price. The culinary grade matcha to me is just not drinkable.
Why don`t you buy online??? Ocha & Co. sell good quality Japanese Matcha and ship directly from Japan. It does not take that long to arrive and the quality/price ratio is outstanding. You can find their teas on Amazon UK or buy directly through the website http://www.ochaandco.com
Buying online from several great sources and buying fine ceremonial grade matcha is different than just needing matcha for the masses where it’s sugared to the hilt and flavored with syrups, etc. Are most consumers that go to beverage places going to be ordering matcha to enjoy it without anything added? Not from my experience. It’s always fine quality, small places who really care and a very tiny niche they serve, or the big companies serving the masses making tons of money sugaring, sugaring, sugaring.
I just received an inquiry from a start up that was offering high grade matcha WITHOUT sugar. Instead they used with natural fruit. I suggested they write up something for T Ching. It should be posted later this month. Let’s see what he has to say. He did mention that it was up to the consumer if they wanted to add any sweeteners. I feel that’s moving in the right direction. One can hope the fruit will be sufficient for western tastes.
Alexis – good point about Sticks & Sushi. That’s a great restaurant. I didn’t visit them this time around.
One thing to note, Uji has done a brilliant job of marketing itself so that people think it’s the only place to buy amazing Matcha! Marukyu-Koyamaen do a great job marketing themselves abroad but also here in Japan where you find them in a lot of tea shops, even as far down the country to where we’re based in Nakatsu, Oita. But there are other places (such as Yame in Kyushu where we get ours) where the Matcha is just as good, if not better (whoops! did I say that out loud!!!).
My feedback to Holly on the London Matcha was specifically regarding Matcha sold in cafés and tea shops where the standard of Matcha was, without exception, poor. I’m aware that there’s some amazing Matcha to be bought online and I’d like to think we’re one such website.
This is good blog about matcha. From where will I get the good grade matcha?
Hi TeaDuniya, we can supply you with four different grades of Matcha if you like. Please check our website for the three grades on offer right now and contact me if you are interested in the fourth (a highly drinkable but less sophisticated grade – our everyday Matcha) which is soon to be launched. Or simply email me if you have any questions.