I had heard about the Red Leaf Matcha before from other Steepsters, but I was waiting to make my first purchase. And then, when I saw that Red Leaf was running a 50% off sale for one day on their Caramel Matcha, I was very tempted. While Red Leaf has many different flavors of matcha, Caramel is one of the highest rated. It’s also a nice universal flavor that’s pretty standard – I’ve had caramel before so I know what it tastes like. It seemed like a good started tea to review. I almost missed out on the discount, but at the last minute, I added it to my cart, and a few days later it arrived on my door. Not bad!
For the record, I am reviewing the 30g Caramel Matcha, Starter (Basic Grade), with Robust Flavoring (found here: http://www.redleaftea.com/matcha-tea/caramel-matcha.html). I didn’t realize Red Leaf offers so many different choices with your matcha. It was hard for me to pick, but I decided on the starter grade, since I’ve tried various grades of matcha, and I couldn’t really taste the difference. The level of flavoring was an even tougher choice for me. Originally I was just going to go with delicate, but after reading plenty of reviews of people who had the robust flavor and enjoyed it, I decided to pay a little extra and go for the robust.
In my small but mighty package was my receipt, and a nice pamphlet on the history and preparation on matcha. Like a kid on Christmas, I didn’t waste any time and I got right down to business (if only I attacked all my other tea orders with such vigor). First, I opened the matcha package (very carefully) and smelled the matcha with caramel. It really did smell delightful, and there is no mistaking that it was caramel. Then again, I did get the second highest flavoring profile. I have to wonder how strong the matcha smell would have been with the lowest. I’ll have to see next time.
Once I got the fantastic smell out of the way, the first step on the “How to prepare Matcha Tea” said I should sift my matcha first. I’m not fancy enough to have an actual sifter, so I just used a tea strainer with the finest holes I could find. It worked well enough, although it wasn’t as slick as I had hoped. One of the downsides was that a lot of the matcha powder was left on the strainer and was tough to get off. If I end up drinking matcha more, I may invest in an actual sifting unit.
Next, the directions called for adding two bamboo tea scoops to the bowl. I, unfortunately, don’t have a bamboo tea scoop, but thankfully the directions said 1/2 to 1tsp, so using a generic measuring spoon, I just measured out that. I don’t have a fancy matcha bowl, but I do have a very large mug bowl with a handle, so that seemed to work well. I poured the matcha and hot water (lower than boiling temperature) into the water. The next step was to whisk the matcha, and thankfully, I did have a matcha whisk. I remembered from a matcha class I took a while ago that you can’t just whisk it in an “O” shape, you actually have to whisk in an “M” or “W” shape to get that frothiness.
Finally, after some vigorous whisking, the matcha was done. I took a sip up to my lips and thought, “Wow! This is definitely green tea”. I could ever-so-slightly taste the caramel. I bet if I had matcha more often, I would have been able to detect the caramel easier. I really wanted to bring out that caramel taste, but I didn’t want to add too much to my tea. I decided to throw in a splash of sunflower milk, and that really helped to bring out the caramel notes. I’m sure adding sweetener would have helped more, but I want to keep the calories as low as I can, at least for the initial batch.
After the first batch, I wanted to try again and play around with the preparation parameters. This next time, I decided to forgo the sifting process to see if it really mattered. I also measured out a little bit more matcha this time to see if it would help bring out the caramel flavor more. Finally, I only poured a small amount of water in in the beginning. While this definitely helped me get a better “foam of bubbles”, it made it harder to mix all of the matcha in the water. I wonder if my option to not sift it had something to do with it. Once I did all the same above steps, I had myself a new cup of matcha. I tasted this just plain, and the green tea taste was even stronger – so much for the “more caramel” idea. I also decided to add some skim milk to this batch to keep it simple, and I think skim milk really works the best. It helps smooth out the tea, and I can definitely taste the caramel notes.
So overall, my first foray into flavored matcha was a success. I discovered I’m not quite cool enough to drink it straight, but adding just a little bit of skim milk brings out the flavor without adding too many calories. I would love to experiment more with matcha tonight, but I know it’s high in caffeine and I don’t want to keep myself up too long if I can help it. I look forward to trying more flavored matcha teas from Red Leaf and experimenting some more along my matcha journey.