I’ve been to Joe’s today and had one of their iced lattes. And then another one. It’s so nice to finally have a high quality alternative to Starbucks in Manhattan. I really, really hope they take off. I mean think about it — every espresso drink they make is light-years ahead of the same Starbucks drink. You can taste burnt beans and probably ass in Starbucks iced lattes, the Joe’s version is smooth and almost chocolaty, and tastes like the coffee smell (that’s the best way I can describe it).
I told Jonathan, the owner of Joe’s about Matcha teaa long while back, but he totally blew me off. I even offered to come over and make some for him. Anyway, *$’s is pushing Matcha based drinks and having some success with them. Why wouldn’t they – Matcha to tea is what espresso is to coffee. Maybe now he’ll consider it, and do it right for a change. Matcha should be enjoyed whipped in a bowl with water, although mixing it with milk, and even spreading it on a toast with butter is acceptable to me at least.
I guess I should stock up on Matcha though – Starbucks purchasing might raise the prices a lot. Somehow I doubt that they buy the good stuff from Kyoto. Maybe they figured out a way to get it someplace cheaper — at a couple of bucks a gram I don’t think high quality “thick” Matcha is attractive to them.
It’s a proven fact : bubbles make caffeinated beverages better. Take a crappy tonic drink from Thailand, add carbonation, introduce it in Europe and the US and bam – you are a billionaire. Introduce espresso (simplistically speaking a very concentrated coffee with a foam of sugars, proteins and oils on top) and cappuccinos (add foamed milk to an espresso) in America on industrial basis – and bam – you almost a billionaire.
Seems like the next logical step is tea. You see, Japanese have this tea ceremony thing. Never being a big fan of tea, but being a Japanophile at heart, I always wanted to try that. Unfortunately to this day I haven’t, but I definitely tried some tea that is used in the ceremony. They were selling it in a booth in Kyoto alongside with ice cream.
Japanese tea ceremony involves two kinds of tea, “thick” and “thin”. From what I understand the difference mainly in the dilution and the quality of tea. I like stronger flavors, like espresso and scotch, so I prefer to make thick tea. Making is very simple. You take some high quality powdered tea called Matcha and put it into a bowl. You pour some hot water on top (I use the water from my espresso machine’s hot water spigot). Then you take a special whisk called chasen that is made by splitting a single piece of bamboo and whip your beverage up, kind of like making shaving lather with those old fashined shaving whisks.
You get a radioactive green liquid that is absolutely loaded with green tea flavor, caffeine and and antioxidants. I already went through a package of medium cheaper Matcha, I think I’ll order some of the higher quality stuff as well.
Here’s how Matcha is served in Japan, with regular tea and sweets. The one on the right is wrapped in a pickled leaf of sakura.
Here’s what I just made for myself:
I think that I know 95% of all there is to know about making an ideal espresso. I even know the only half-, nay, quarter-acceptable drink in Starbucks. “Cafe Americano” – espresso diluted with water. But I know next to nothing about making a good cup of tea.
I remember something I’ve read in Bros. Strugatskie’s novel about some really Zen way of boiling water for making tea, but I could not find any good references on the web. I did find two interesting links though:
A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell
Hmm. In Russia, a common method of making tea is to make a concentrated tea infusion in a small teapot and then dilute it with water. I still do this sometimes. But I think a better method is to take a big teapot and make tea of drinking concentration in it. I guess I’ll get a big teapot and try that.