Matcha and Water

 

pouring matcha in eggshell cup

 

Oddly, I haven’t given much thought to the role that water plays in maximal enjoyment of matcha. I’ve written about matcha and water temperature before, but not much about water itself, and what kind of water we drink on a daily basis.

 

I feel fortunate to live and work in Marin County, CA, with its supply of lovely rain runoff from the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. Marin is host to California’s very first municipal water district (the mighty MMWD, Marin Municipal Water District); we’ve been thinking about quality water and water management for a long time.

 

Nearly 75% of MMWD’s water comes from more than 20,000 acres of protected watershed on Mt. Tam, in the grassy hills of gorgeous west Marin, into seven large reservoirs (which are themselves lovely places to visit and hike around). These areas are mostly forested MMWD-owned lands and other undeveloped rural lands. Water from these reservoirs is treated and filtered before delivery into my and my neighbors’ homes.

 

And yet: despite having some of the cleanest, most carefully tended water in the country–and Marin being Marin–many of us still filter our water. In fact the Brita-type carbon filter (which my family personally uses) doesn’t do much except remove some of the chlorine in the water, which can also be achieved by simply filling up pitchers of water and letting them sit out (all chlorine in the water will, apparently, evaporate in about 24 hours). Could it be placebo, that I just think filtered tastes better, therefore it actually does?

 

In blind water tastings –some of you will recall that I’ve never met a blind tasting, of any substance, I didn’t like — I show a clear preference for filtered. It tastes somehow “softer” and easier to drink. Tastier. It might take a few hundred double-blind tastings to really determine a preference, but does anyone on earth in 2014 actually have time for this kind of thing? I’m going with my preference for filtered, biased or not.

 

So it was with some trepidation that I tasted some “ionized” water recently at a matcha tasting event we did at Yogaworks. They had a trippy-looking ionizing machine by AlkaViva that filtered and ionized the water to some insane degree. Color me skeptical!

 

But it did taste pretty damn good. I did a quick blind test using water from the fancy machine and from the filtered tap. There was no comparison, it actually tasted better from the machine. “Better” meaning no hints of metal or gas. Just some incredibly pure substance that my body wanted more of.

 

So of course I wanted to taste some matcha made with this water. Whipped up two bottles of Coldbrew to taste blind as well, one with water made from the machine and one from the filtered tap. Again, no comparison. I didn’t think it was possible for Coldbrew to taste any better, but it did.

 

Does that mean I’m going to rush out and buy a $2,000+ machine to give me the cleanest possible water?  No, of course not. But it did get me thinking: how much is all that extra pleasure worth? How much is the knowledge that I’m drinking heavy-metal-free water worth? Does the placebo effect kick in? Will I drink more matcha if it tastes so much better with better water? Should my daughter be drinking purer water, and if so, how much is that worth?

 

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. Would love to hear from you if you do!

 

Building Trust with Matcha

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Natural selection has equipped human beings with exquisite bullshit alarms.

We use them all the time: when meeting someone for the first time, when watching movies, when trying a product, or, especially, when we encounter advertising. The brain will light up in red blotches when it perceives possible deception or downright danger. One would assume that brains that didn’t develop this important trait didn’t make it very far into subsequent generations . . . .

How do you get someone to trust you, especially if you’ve never met before and are meeting for the first time on the internet, through a website or email?

One way is to show that *other* people — presumably trustworthy people — trust you, and therefore the odds are in your favor. “Borrowed” trust is indeed important, and it’s why we here at Breakaway Matcha HQ show quotes from people we feel are very trustworthy indeed, including wellness experts, sommeliers, yoga ambassadors, writers, cookbook authors, well-known chefs, and of course everyday people too.

But the only way, ultimately, to get someone to trust you is to do so one-on-one. It’s why we like to get to know the special people who purchase matcha from us. We are this pretty awesome tribe of people who have taken charge of our own health and well-being. And I’ve always got the time to get to know my fellow tribers. It’s also fun to profile, in this space, some of our tribe.

If anyone knows some good proven ways to increase trust, please let us know! Because in the end, it really is all about trust.

The 10-Minute Matcha Meditation Practice

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This simple and delightful morning ritual will change the quality of your day — and hence your life. Try it for just a week; there is absolutely nothing to lose. It might even give you the power to create other changes you’d like to make. It works for me. 

1) Get up earlier than everyone in your household – you’ll need about 10 minutes of solitude, but you might prefer 20 or longer. But you only NEED about 10. 

2) Don’t shower, just go to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of  water. Drink a medium size glass of water, ideally with a squeeze of citrus in it. The body needs this rehydration after sleep, so make this a daily habit.

3) Take five minutes to prepare a beautiful bowl of matcha, doing it as mindfully as possible. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t, especially after you’ve done it a few times, after which it oddly becomes quite automatic. These actions go into muscle memory in no time flat. 

    Set a small amount of water to boil. While it heats up:

* Get the matcha out of the fridge, and grab your matcha toolkit (sieve, scoop, and frother) Ideally these items just stand vertically in a tall pretty cup, and just live unobtrusively on the counter someplace easily accessible. You’ll also need a small matcha creamer or a mug, and a gorgeous bowl. The bowl can be anything at all, but ideally it’s a bowl you especially like.

* Grab a hefty scoop and sieve your matcha into the creamer

* Pour two ounces boiling water into your bowl (not the creamer), and let it sit for 10 seconds or so.

.* Transfer that cooled but still quite hot water into the creamer (bowl should now be empty and hot)

* Vigorously swirl creamer as if it’s a wine glass, and use the frothing tool to create crema

.* Pour tea into bowl

4) Take your bowl of tea and go sit someplace for five minutes, ideally with some kind of view of nature, no matter how modest.

5) Sip your tea and really taste it. Try to inhale when you’re “chewing” it, and exhale as you swallow, and notice how long it finishes. You can often still taste the tea a full 30 seconds after swallowing it.

6) Try to wish yourself and your body well, and just feel grateful to be awake, as awake as it’s possible to be.

7) Start your normal day.

8) Try to start most days like this. You’ll totally miss them when you don’t do it.

Matcha Shot, Glass of Water

matcha near iron grate

 

By now everyone knows that you need to drink more water than you think you need. It’s amazing what a cool glass of water will do for a fatigued mind; the pep-up is near instant, and everything suddenly feels better. I’ve taken to drinking a large glass with a squeezed lemon half upon waking, and there’s nothing like it to jumpstart the day.

But It’s even better with a shot of matcha. One two-ounce cup, chased by a tall glass of agua, is big hydration and big nutrition. I also like pouring water into my matcha cup when I’m finished with the matcha; it not only gets every last bit of matcha in the cup, it rinses out the mouth and leaves a tasty trail of goodness going down. This is a ritual I repeat several times a day.

I also keep a little “mindfulness bell” near the matcha tools. A light tap of the bell keeps it singing for a good 20 seconds. There’s nothing like morning quiet, a fading bell, matcha, and plenty of water. Simple, powerful, and immensely enjoyable.

The Breakaway Matcha Ceremony

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The Japanese tea ceremony is a thing of unquestionable intrigue, beauty, and sheer historical awesomeness. It is triply so when performed and enjoyed within the context in which it arose: in some lovely wabisabi spot in Japan, ideally at a zen temple, which is where the whole thing really started.

It was an extremely simple affair in the beginning:  a homely little hut, built expressly for making and enjoying tea. Nothing fancy, no excess anything, just four and a half tatami mats, a small charcoal brazier to boil water, a kettle, some matcha, a few basic tools. That’s it. You drank the tea and it was all about being in the moment, that moment, and noticing things. Noticing the surroundings, noticing your breath and palate, noticing the beauty and simplicity of the matcha and whatever else was in view, including the good fortune of being alive at that moment.

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Matcha and Addiction

If you don't treat your body well

Am I addicted to matcha? Probably. But what does this mean exactly?

The most common definition of addiction is probably something like: the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences. The most obvious addictions that fit this definition for many people are abuse of drugs and alcohol, sex, gambling, and even exercise.

But what do you call the continued use of a mood-altering substance that brings about excellent consequences? Do we even have a word for that?

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From Red Rose to Rarefied Matcha

matcha-blue

I grew up with Red Rose tea bags, a blend of black and orange pekoe teas  My mother liked to make a cup in the evenings, after dinner, and I felt sophisticated whenever I joined her for a cup. She bought the 100-bag box at our local grocery store, and couldn’t have (wouldn’t have) paid more than five dollars for it (and this was 1970s dollars). Pennies per bag was my frame.

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“Going Quiet” with Matcha

There are lots of metaphors about the incessant chatter going on in most our heads, that datastream of conversations, impressions, admonitions, and other mental events that seem to occupy most of our waking moments, but I like one best. The most awake zen guy I’ve ever met, the great zen teacher and artist Kakinuma Ninsho

calls it “the movie”: it’s one big chaotic cinematic stream that basically doesn’t shut off; the best we can do, says Ninsho, is just to note what’s playing, without identifying with or liking/disliking the characters and scenes. Once you know it’s a movie, he says, it’s a lot easier to hit the power button. The movie will likely go blank for a few seconds, and then simply restart. What then? “Just watch for a while, and shut it off again whenever you feel like it.”

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Adapting Matcha to Local Conditions

Fernanada

The Japanese tea ceremony as it is practiced in Japan can be a thing of beauty. The tradition is roughly 830 years old. Like so many other traditional Japanese arts, the formal study of tea can take decades to “master” and get right, and must be done according to the many and varied rules of the particular school of tea one practices. . Practitioners are expected to learn elaborate choreographies of movement and timing, all done with as much grace as one can muster. Full-on tea sessions, all extensively choreographed, can unfold over two and three hours. One can take the practice very seriously and deeply, and benefit from participating in this ancient and rarefied art/craft form.

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Matcha and Gratitude: Homage to an 830-Year-Old Tradition

Plenty of people consider matcha to be a new trend. In reality it’s been a trend in Japan for roughly 830 years, started by those  crazy trend-setting zen buddhist priests. But in a sense, “plenty of people” are right: It is matcha’s introduction into the American and European palate that constitutes the current trend.

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