It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jing Tea. I’m always greatly pleased when I see their tea at a cafe or a restaurant as then an excellent cup of tea is guaranteed. I also don’t quite shut up about it and now one of my colleagues has started nibbling on the dried tea leaves I keep at work. I had met David of Jing Tea previously at The Botanist and had a fabulous afternoon then learning about various Chinese teas. When David contacted me again recently with the possibility of doing a matcha tasting, I jumped at the idea; matcha hadn’t really been my thing as I hadn’t enjoyed what I’d tasted in the past but I was keen to learn about matcha and how it is made and possibly even learn to enjoy it. And so last week one evening, I and Jen of DashiDashi joined David at Tsuru Bankside for a matcha tea tasting. To my surprise, David was there with a whole selection of amazing Japanese teas.
David started us off with, not a Japanese tea, a potful of Jasmine pearls, one of their bestsellers. I do have a soft spot for jasmine tea and this one is one of the most delicious I’ve tried; the jasmine scent was gentle and not at all overpowering, which I find other brands can be.
The was swiftly followed by a potful of Japanese Genmaicha Green Tea with its toasted rice grains that impart a lovely toasty flavour to the tea.
Apart from tea, there was also the very important business of dinner. This was my first time at Tsuru, which is very well known for their fantastic Japanese lunch offerings – I wish one existed near my workplace. I had no idea they were located here behind the Tate Modern though nor that they served dinner too. The choice of venue was, of course, not an accident; Tsuru serve Jing Teas though this isn’t noted on the menu. For the main part of our meal, we all ordered Tsuru’s Sashimi Moriawase, a platter of tuna, salmon, mackerel and another white fish that I cannot recall. The sashimi was very generously cut, very fresh and quite good for the price.
As one cannot survive on fish alone (well, I could but then again I cannot when I see a bit of deep fried on the menu), I also ordered one of their Chili Rice Bowls (steamed rice with their homemade chili paste) and a dish of Free-range Chicken Kara-age. Strangely, these took a very long time in coming but the chicken in particular was well worth the wait. The kara-age was a generous portion of piping hot, crispy crusted fried dark chicken marinated with garlic and ginger which went down a treat with the rice.
When our plates and bowls were cleared, we got to what we’d been looking forward to all night; we were going to learn how to prepare matcha tea! Now, I’ll be honest with you – I never used to like matcha tea, the tea most commonly known as that used for the Japanese tea ceremony. I remember tasting it first as a child when we learned about the tea ceremony in school and someone came in to give us a demonstration. I tasted a faint seaweed like flavour in the tea that didn’t appeal; I still remember that today. Anyway, David demonstrated how to prepare matcha tea and then we were given the opportunity to make our own bowlfuls.
We used their Matcha Supreme, which was a whole other animal to the cheaper teas I must have sampled. This tea tasted of…. tea. A very fresh green tea. As the entire leaf is consumed here, all ground up, I guess quality really does make a difference. I loved the frothy head formed when it was properly made and the delicious fresh flavour; it must be delicious first thing in the morning (if uh… I could be called on to be so active as to make a bowl at that time). I’m a convert!
An unexpected treat soon followed the bowls of matcha. David had brought along some Handmade Gyokuro Supreme, a tea from Japan of which they only have 2 kilograms worth. With so little to hand, they’ve divided it up into 10g packets so that as many people as possible can have a taste. Needless to say, it is not cheap. However, it was the most remarkable un-tea-like tea that I’ve ever tasted.
I’m not saying that it didn’t taste of tea – it is indeed tea and yes, it tastes of it. But unlike regular teas, it had a bit extra to it. It tasted amazingly vegetal, almost like a spinach soup (and not in a bad way!), and so full of umami. It was rich and coated the mouth and felt quite filling. My description isn’t doing it any justice but really, what an experience!
For dessert, Jen had kindly brought along her scrumptious homemade matcha profiteroles, absolutely packed full of a brilliant green matcha cream. To go with them, David brewed some Hoji Cha Supreme, a toasted green tea with an almost smokey flavour, the perfect final tea in the tasting as I found it to be quite strong in flavour and apparently, it’s also quite low in caffeine.
What a fabulous evening; thank you again to Jing Tea for the invitation. I’ve now got a long shopping list of teas to purchase! (Is there space in my tiny flat for a matcha bowl?!)
4 Canvey St
London SE1 9AN
(it’s behind the Tate Modern)