Matcha: 800 years of history, culture, and wisdom in a neat little can

November 14th, 2014 by

Matcha

It only took us 8 centuries, but Coffee Bean Direct is proud to say, “we finally carry matcha!”

Famous for being the only tea used in the formal Japanese Tea Ceremony known as chado or “the way of tea,” matcha is stone ground green tea powder. Only the highest quality shade grown green tea is used. The soft and supple leaves at the top of the tea plant are picked by hand then processed to remove the veins, stems, and impurities. The result, known as tencha, is stone ground into a fine powder. Over-grinding can give matcha a burnt taste, so the process must be done very slowly and with great care. It takes about 1 hour to produce 1 ounce.

Matcha’s origins began in China, but the tea took on a whole new life in Japan where it was forever tied to Zen spirituality. A Japanese monk named Eisai brought the tea to Japan in 1191 AD after studying Buddhism in China. Eisai is credited with spreading both green tea and Zen teachings throughout Japan. In the 1500s Zen monks in Japan turned making matcha tea into the ritual of chado. Today, matcha is such a large part of Japanese culture that only about 4% is exported out of the country.

But what does it taste like!?

Matcha has a flavor that is uniquely distinct from all other green teas. While many green teas are vegetal or grassy, matcha is savory. The frothy green tea is smooth, creamy, and delicious. In general, matcha is historically famous for its bitter flavor and is often served with a small piece of candy to counteract the taste. However Yame Matcha, a high grade of premium matcha, has absolutely no bitterness or astringency at all, instead it is subtly sweet, with a soft creamy mouth feel.

Yame Matcha earns its amazing flavor and qualities from the garden in which it is grown. Yame is located in the southern part of the Fukuoka prefecture on Kyushu Island in Japan. Japanese lovers of green tea know of Yame’s long tea history; warm in the day, cold at night, with just the right amount of rainfall to make ideal growing conditions for cultivating the highest quality of green tea. The area is famous for growing teas that are both sweet and rich. Yame is famous for producing award winning teas time and time again. Each year the highest quality matcha and Gyokuro teas come from Yame. This very matcha was first runner up at the 2010 World Tea Expo.

This sweeter tasting matcha has become very popular in both Japan and America. Matcha is used to make green tea ice cream and in Japan many sweets are flavored with matcha, including famous brands like Pocky and Nestle Kit Kat bars. In America, matcha is very often used in baked goods, green tea lattes, and frozen drinks (check out our recipe for matcha sugar cookies). 

How do you prepare Matcha?

Matcha is meant to be served frothy, with a nice foamy head. The beauty of matcha is that you can make it instantly—no tea bags or steep times. Simply add a small amount of the powder to hot or cold water. The only “rule” is to not use boiling water (about 175° Fahrenheit will suffice). Matcha can be enjoyed thin or thick, ranging from 1/3 of a teaspoon to 2 heaping teaspoons for 3 ounces of hot water. 1 gram of tea in a 16-oz bottle of water will make a perfect light, creamy tea.

Traditionally matcha is whisked to perfection during the tea ceremony. Many people will use a small, battery powered milk frother. Around the office at Tattle Tea, you will frequently see people dropping a small amount of matcha into a bottle or air-tight thermos and then shaking vigorously (PLEASE make sure your lid is screwed on nice and tight and your thermos will not leak before you begin shaking scalding hot liquid!)

Matcha 1

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is deliberately slow and drawn out. The purpose is to force you to stop and appreciate the beauty in simple things, like a perfect cup of hot tea. Truly, there is something special about creating the perfect cup of matcha—you experience something subtle yet sublime.

Unfortunately most Americans do not have time to “stop and smell the roses.” This is sad, because with our hectic schedules, we could really benefit from a slow-down every now and again. Luckily, every tiny grain of matcha powder is infused with 800 years of wisdom and enlightenment. Whether you make your matcha on-the-go, or have time to sit, relax, and see the beauty in the mundane, it can still be a Zen experience. Whisked, stirred or shaken, each sip will bring you bliss.

Behind the Mugshot: Meg

November 11th, 2014 by

If you don’t already know about #MugshotMonday, check out our post on the subject and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for more behind the scenes photos, new products, and discounts on staff favorites. Last month Meg, our Tech Whisperer, was kind enough to share her sunny mug with us, and answer a few questions too.

Meg

A Tech Whiperer’s day starts early. How many cups of coffee do you typically have before noon and how do you drink it (hot/cold/cream/sugar, etc) ?

Most mornings, I have 2 cups of hot coffee. The first one of the day, I add 2 sugar packets and a little half-and-half, the second one usually with a flavored creamer. Caramel type creamers are my favorites, although we recently started getting White Chocolate Raspberry creamer in the office, and my-oh-my is that tasty! I only drink cold coffee when my mug has been sitting on my desk too long – not a big fan of intentionally cold (iced) coffee.

Your coupon code was LADYBASSIST20. Please explain.

In Real Life, I’m a professional musician. I play a variety of instruments, but bass is my passion. I play regularly with a jazz group that (other than me) is all guys, so I’ve become known as “the lady bassist.”

Do you have any additional secret talents you care to share with us?

Professionally, I play flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto & tenor sax, acoustic guitar and I’ve been known to dabble with oboe and baritone horn.

Cats or dogs and why?

Cats (I am owned by 2 orange boys, Bixby and Max) because they’re less needy than dogs. However, I do hope that Anthony, our Tea Expert, bequeaths to me his Jack Russell, Winston, should the need ever arise.

Please list 3 non-practical items you would bring if you were stranded on a deserted island.

Well, first of all, there had better be electricity on the island.
1. My favorite-of-all-time CD, Steal Away – Charlie Haden on bass, Hank Jones on piano. Listening to Charlie Haden’s bass playing feeds my soul.
2. My 5-string fretless Carvin bass and Roland amp. And that doesn’t count as 2 items because you can’t have one without the other!
3. Tap shoes – maybe that should’ve gone under the “secret talents” question?

 

Behind the Mugshot: Liz

November 7th, 2014 by

If you don’t already know about #MugshotMonday, check out our post on the subject and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for more behind the scenes photos, new products, and discounts on staff favorites. Here’s a look inside the mind of Liz, our Commercial Accounts manager, and October mugshot star.

LIZcrop

You are our Commercial Accounts Manager, but if you were a utensil, what would you be?

I’d be a spoon because it has no sharp edges and it’s like a tiny bowl for your mouth.

Why was Organic Bai Mu Dan was your pick for favorite beverage? 

It’s smooth, naturally energizing, woodsy and subtle. Like me.

What are your five favorite smells? 

1. Cleaning products. I tend to overdo it. I hear it’s good for your brain cells though.
2. Coffee. Obviously. It’s the reason I wake up in the morning.
3. Thai food because it nourishes my soul.
4. Spring. Because I can stop being freezing and the whole world comes alive again.
5. Dove soap. An age old tradition for the women in my family.

If you were forced to sing a song that represents your life in front of a crowd what would it be?

Cold as Ice by Foreigner. So people think I’m hardcore. To deflect my fear.

Would you rather be able to smell rainbows or feel clouds and why?

I’d rather feel clouds. And trust me that’s a difficult decision for me. I’m just a feeler, that’s my truth.

Behind the Mugshot: Joel

November 4th, 2014 by

If you don’t already know about #MugshotMonday, check out our post on the subject and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for more behind the scenes photos, new products, and discounts on staff favorites. Here’s a little more about Joel, our Label Master, reining chili cook-off King, and October mugshot star.

Joel

Would you care to share any of your previous career incarnations before becoming our label master?

Sure I’ll share. Going way, way back, while going to school, I was at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, it’s where I met my lovely wife (uncomfortably long pause) we were both youth counselors working with adolescents in the SRE (Social Re-education) Program. While with SRE I also met someone who was starting a multi-media company that did training and advertising and was asked if I would be the art director for the company, later I became a co-owner. While with that company I became involved with a few video projects, fell in love with video and made a jump to NJN (New Jersey Network). I produced graphics for NJN News and documentaries, designed sets, motion graphics and supporting print designs. I both loved and hated the 27+ years at NJN.  I was in charge of producing the graphics for the daily nightly news program, and so, from 12:30 until the 5:30 deadline things could get extremely tense, but you felt totally connected and on your game to get the news on the air.  If you’ve ever watched “the Newsroom” on HBO, NJN News was like that but on a smaller scale.  Despite the tension and fast pace, I stayed at NJN until it was closed by the NJ State Government. I miss NJN and my friends from there very much.  I’ve worked at Big Boulder Ski Resort for a season, bar-tending at the main lodge and I was in charge of the cleanup crew.  For a while I ski instructed when most of the mountains’ ski school left in the middle of the season to go skiing in Colorado.  I’ve been a lab technician.  I’ve freelanced and consulted and done a few other things.  Now I have new friends here at CBD.  They’re all really nice people, very talented, easy to get along with, and they don’t seem to mind listening to me, yet.

You recently painted a life-sized ox sculpture as part of a benefit for the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. What else might your coworkers be surprised to learn about you?

That’s right, the ox was named “Daisy” after the Oxeye Daisy.  I painted a field of Oxeye Daisies all around the sculpture, treating the sculpture like a canvas.  The project took several months and on October 19th was sold for $3000 during an online auction.  The money went to the newly formed Hopewell Valley Arts Council. I love to paint, portraits and landscapes, and was instructed by the great american artist Mel Liepzig.  For years I enjoyed making stained glass and was once asked to restore a large window in a residence in Princeton.  I enjoy camping and was involved with the local Troop 44 in Pennington for 10 years, the last 3 as their Scout Master. I’ve skied for 40 years, but not much any more (my knees aren’t what they used to be) and a regret I have is that I never became a member of the ski patrol.  I do most of the construction and repair work around my small house in Pennington that I share with my wife and son, (my daughter lives on her own), and our two dogs, Morgan an australian border collie/shepherd mix and Kaylee a very large 4 year old golden retriever that thinks she is actually a much smaller dog that doesn’t want to grow up.  Besides the 2 Emmy Awards I was honored with while at NJN, my greatest honor was having a painting stolen from an art show.

When you don’t have oxen to paint, how do prefer to spend a day off?

Sleeping, if the dogs will let me, but then, I’m usually working around the house. In the summer time I’ll spend time in our pool but prefer the beach. Winter time it’s rides in the hills, if it’s snowing out then hot chocolate by the fire watching the snow come down, no sound, twilight is best. Painting, tinkering with an old tube radio I’m trying to restore, it’s a radio/phonograph floor console from the 40’s. Walking the dogs or taking them to the local dog park. Did I mention working around the house?

If you had an evil superpower what would it be?
 
I do actually have a superpower.  I wouldn’t call it EVIL unless you’re a member of a certain segment of the population. I am unbeatable at “Whack-A-Mole” the arcade game.  I can take a $1 investment and turn it into the biggest prize at the game. When my kids were small we would go over to Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk, and there was a Whack-A-Mole game in one of the arcades, I never lost.  It got so bad for the gamesmen that they would cringe when they saw me coming.  I won’t say I was banned from playing–but–we had an understanding.  I just go into a “zone” and can sort of predict where the little critter is going to pop up. So, if you own a Whack-A-Mole arcade game I guess you could say I have an evil superpower.

You will be competing in our cut-throat chili cook-off for the first time this year. Do you consider yourself a foodie and if so, what is the best and/or weirdest thing you’ve eaten?

I’m not sure what a “foodie” is? I like to eat (just look at me), but I also like to cook. My wife hates and loves my ability to go through our house at the end of the week and make a decent meal with what is left around. Bits and pieces, half of this or that, whatever is left in the pantry.

I like good food, it doesn’t have to be fancy, fresh is best and simply prepared, few sauces, good vegetables and rice, I love rice. I once had a very fancy meal at a restaurant in Philly with friends, it included foi gras, everyone else was raving about it, I wasn’t impressed.

The best food I’ve had is my mom’s cooking, of course. She makes a fabulous tomato sauce, even though she’s Slovak and the best spanish chicken and rice, if I was going to have something before I left this earth, it would be her spanish chicken and rice. I’m also a texas wiener fanatic, the best I’ve ever had was at a place near Rutgers, called “Johnny’s Hotdogs” it’s not there anymore.

The weirdest thing I’ve eaten, salty sea snails in a strong garlic sauce, oh that’s right, escargot, and raw sea urchin, mild, but didn’t taste like chicken.

Behind the Mugshot: Marie & Joanne

October 30th, 2014 by

This past month we released another batch of staff mugshots on the world of social media, resulting in a lot of buzz about our improbably good-looking staff. If you don’t know what #MugshotMonday is all about, check out last month’s post and follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for more behind the scenes photos, new products, and discounts on staff favorites. Here’s a little more about two of our October stars.

 

J&M

Marie & Joanne, Small Bag Specialists

How long have you two been working together?

One year.

So you clearly don’t root for the same team. Other than being out Small Bag Specialists, is there anything you two have in common?

We both love all types of music. We love the beach, we’re both from the same county. P.S. Both of us have some OCD tendencies :)

Mexican Hot Chocolate Chai was your pick for favorite tea. Do you ever drink coffee and if so, what is your favorite?

Yes, LOVE Dark Brazil and Zombie Cure.

If you could repeat one holiday every day for a year, which one would it be and why?

Thanksgiving. We both love food and family!!

What would your superhero name and power be?

The Coffee Cougars. Power: lightening speed grinding power — because no one likes to be at the grinder too long!