Origin: Uji, Japan
Flavor Profile: Matcha Hekisui is a super-fine, creamily smooth, vibrant, spring green powder that can be whisked into usucha (“thin tea”) or the more robust koicha (“thick tea”).
When whisked into usucha, it is verdantly blue-green with frothy, bright, spring green foam and a sweet, richly grassy aroma. The flavor is incredibly rich in umami savoriness with lots of lactose sweetness on the front of the palate and vegetal notes of steamed asparagus, steamed dinosaur kale, puréed peas and an abundance of steamed baby spinach. It is very full-bodied, clean and smooth, with a creamy, thick texture. The finish is one of umami and sweated oyster mushrooms.
When whisked into koicha, Matcha Hekisui deepens in color and aroma. The flavor becomes bolder all around – more robust and vegetal, with an increase in umami-sweet mushrooms, sweet-vegetal spring peas and astringent-sweet asparagus notes.
The texture is super-creamy and even chewy, and the finish becomes longer, with more summer grasses than the usucha. Strangely, astringency on the back of the palate and creamy sweetness on the tip of the tongue recall the finish of a Breakfast Blend with milk and sugar. Overall, it is very well balanced and refreshing, without the cloying or bitter notes of lesser matchas.
Tea Story: The name “Hekisui” means blue sapphire-jade. This ultra-premium matcha was given this name both for its rarity and its transcendentally deep green color. Its story begins in Uji, the most revered tea-producing region of Japan.
In Uji, there are large corporate farms, and then there are family-run gardens that are smaller than one acre per plot and specialize in particular tea types. Our Hekisui Matcha comes from family farms specializing in tencha (the leaf material for matcha) and in super-premium gyokuro, like our Inoka Hill Gyokuro.
Rather than dump chemicals onto the soil to meet the high nitrogen needs of matcha and gyokuro, these farms use composted natural, local sources of nitrogen to fuel their plants’ growth, such as soybeans, seaweed, and seed-based oil by-products. Nitrogen boosts the production of L-theanine, glutamate acid and other amino acids to create the profound umami flavor and vivid green color of this tea.
Nitrogen also helps the tea plant survive the three weeks of stressful shade-growth immediately before harvest. Once the tea plants are accustomed to the plentiful sun of spring and they begin to grow buds, farmers painstakingly shade them with frames and straw. The plant responds by increasing its chlorophyll content to try to get more energy from decreased light.
An increase in chlorophyll and a slowed growth rate produce a brilliant green color. They also change the chemical balance of the leaves to increase L-theanine content and sweet, brothy umami aspects, while decreasing the more brisk catechin flavonoids.
Several weeks after the shading period begins, farmers add a second layer of straw to block out even more light. After five to eight days, the tealeaves are hand-plucked without the use of machines or even scissors.
The labor-intensive nature of super-premium matcha such as this keeps annual yields low, so great attention is paid to the post-harvest processing. Once the leaves are harvested, they are steamed to make tencha, a dry leaf that is used to make matcha. The stems and veins of the leaves are removed, and then they are ground by small granite mills. The grinding speed must be kept very low to reduce heat friction and retain the verdant green color of the matcha. Production is limited to about 30 grams (or about one ounce) per hour.
This particular matcha can be used to make usucha (or “thin tea”), but has the sweetness and smoothness required of a top-rate koicha (or “thick tea”). If you are accustomed to making usucha, use about double the powder to experience the delectable and potently bittersweet character of Hekisui koicha.
Samovarian Poetry: Sapphire-jade liquor. Spring green froth. Umami intensity. Elation and euphoria.