This was a real surprise!
Of all the far flung fruits to flavor a tea with, noni was the farthest from what I’d have expected. My grandfather was Hawaiian and planted the idea of noni in my head a long time ago. He learned to stop doing this as it seemed to make his continent bound family feel deprived of unique experiences. But the sketch (he was an artist) he made of it stuck in my mind. After a depressing lack of information in the 1998 Encyclopedia, I forgot about noni fruit, another unverifiable detail of the technicolor dreamland that my grandfather left behind.
Twelve years later, noni popped up in some articles about super fruits and diabetes but not in stores. Not even the giant all-exotic-foods-and-animals-imaginable foodie mecca known as Jungle Jim’s in Ohio. (It was a year ago when I went; perhaps they have noni juice now?) The scientific name is Morinda citrifolia, noni is part of the coffee family and has some more colorful common names such as pace, apatot, dog dumpling, great morinda, Indian mulberry, cheese fruit, and apatot.
Noni fruit has an entire user’s manual full of health benefits. While I remember a very humorous conversation about noni’s use in bowel regularity (grandpa humor…“better than prunes!” I believe he claimed…)I did not know how extensive the health benefits were.
Noni fruit is high in the basic food panel nutrients like vitamins C and A, potassium, niacin, a smidgen of sodium, and is overall similar to the nutrition data of an orange. It contains all nine essenscial amino acids, a very rare quality, although I would imagine it very expensive as a significant protein source.
Among its purported benefits are treatment of diabetes and lupus, quite a contradictory characteristic for a fruit, treatment of athlete’s foot and assistance in fighting infection and cancer. Noni fruit promotes T-cell growth and metabolism. I’m not sure, but I would imagine topical application is needed for treating athlete’s foot an possibly the claims for treating hair loss, but hair loss could be related to vitamin deficiency.
Red Leaf’s Noni Matcha is 100% raw and freeze dried to preserve as much of the nutrients and properties of the fresh fruit as possible. I’m not as gun-ho about raw foods as some health enthusiasts I’ve known, but after an unsuccessful attempt to grow dragonfruit, I physically cringe when rare and special foods are processed in a way that makes them as nutritious as canned green beans. Waste not, want.
Noni fruit has a strong odor when it’s growing and the only other tea including it is a tisane with the odorless leaves from Chi of Tea, to my knowledge. This is why some call it cheese fruit or even vomit fruit, and equate its smell to durian fruit! I think papaws have a similar mixed reception, and I love those.
All this myth and medicine packed into one fruit, I had to order some Noni matcha, if only to share some with grandpa’s memory.
After arguing with the post office over whether or not my street exists (property lines have been redrawn here thrice this year), the mysterious matcha arrived. I had an old Fossil watch tin to sift it into and opened the bag.
Wham! The smell hit me in a wall of floral aroma. The smell is amazing and complex. Notes of jasmine, strawberry, rose, passion flower. I couldn’t even imagine how this could be derived from something called cheese fruit! Then again, pulp and rind most likely have distinct smells, just like orange peel and pulp.
Just before I boiled water I realized that I only have one chasen right now; using it for such a pungent matcha would leave a strange and gradually odoriferous taste in any more chawan of matcha I would prepare. Possibly even in the shino-yaki chawan I’ve been using for everyday use.
My solution was a miso bowl and the spiral wire whisk from Ikea that I swear was invented to be a cat toy and accidentally transferred to the cooking department. After trying it once out of curiosity on culinary grade matcha, it frothed as well as preparation with a chasen, but the froth disappeared instantly. I haven’t made matcha to drink with it before and I must admit I was trying not to laugh at what I was watching. A loud green slurp of superfood in a louder orange soup bowl was being prepared with a baffling chrome kitchen tool that resembled a misplaced lawn ornament, while my two month old kitten watched everything with absolute confusion.
The smell does proceeds it. While I have spent the past three days smell the bag and waving it under people’s noses, bringing a few inquire into matcha and superfoods, the taste is not nearly so bold; which is fine, it has a taste appropriate to the standard level of flavor I got. Actually I would imagine the strong flavor level to be as overwhelming as noni fruit’s durian like smell. It has a fruity, strawberry, dusty pineapple taste. The matcha is subdued and earthy, not grassy or distracting. Flavored matcha is often aimed at smoothie use and people who don’t like grassy tastes, so I guess this is spot on its purpose, but I love grassy tastes. This is unique and I mentally put it with licorice prunes; a distinct flavors that one remembers.
…And someone tell me if drinking noni cures athlete’s foot.=)