Jan 28th 15 4:56 pm
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First Matcha Set

by Nicklause » Jan 28th 15 4:56 pm

Hi, I am new to the forum and am looking forward to gain many insights and knowledge from everyone here. I am currently looking into enjoying matcha and owning my very first matcha set. I've looked high and low for various starter kits from various websites like (Hibiki-an, yuuki-cha, Ippodo tea, Fumiyaen, Horaido and Maiko). I found that most starter kits are very rigit in terms of the selection of items you want to get even though some allow you to build one. I decided to 'build' my own kit by purchasing items from various web sites. I started off with Hibiki-an and yuuki-cha. I am very skeptical with the prices on the websites as they differ by quite a lot. When it comes to quality I approach it with the higher-the-price-better-the quality mentality, however after looking at some reviews of the vendors and I noticed that some say that certain vendors overcharge for their items. Generally, I am not too big with prices as I believe that you pay for what you get, but what I am concern with is that I might be paying for something that is not worth its price. Since this is my first involvement in the art of enjoying matcha, I do not know the market prices of the tea nor the tea ware. I hope you guys can shed some light on my issues. Thanks and have a nice day!

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Jan 28th 15 5:33 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by breakawaymatcha » Jan 28th 15 5:33 pm

First, a disclaimer: I founded a hyperpremium matcha company after living in Japan for 16 years,moving back to CA, and not being able to find good matcha, either on the internet or in Japanese specialty stores.

You are spot-on with the "you get what you pay for" approach to matcha. Good matcha is REALLY hard to produce -- it requires almost unimaginable obsession to detail and man-hours. The world of artisanal matcha is so much like the wine world -- terroir, small production, microclimates, family-run businesses, supply and demand, history, business savvy, obsssion with umami, some degree of luck, and sheer confidence in the product all add up to great matcha. 99% of matcha producers don't do this. If matcha is inexpensive, there's a reason for it. The good stuff is really expensive -- there is no way around this.

That said, some price framing helps. Even the best of the best is roughly $5 a gram / serving. It's hard to name an artisanal product of the highest quality that can be enjoyed for $5. What can you buy for $5? Bad glass of wine in a restaurant? $8. Good glass? $13. Stellar glass? $20 and above. Fancy latte in a cafe? $5 and up.

You can find excellent matcha for $3 a serving, and you can find very good matcha for $2 a bowl. REmember that you can get 30 servings from a 30g tin of matcha, the most common quantity. So while $60 might sound like a lot for a small-looking tin of tea, $2/serving is hardly extravagant. You can't even get a house coffee for that. Maybe you can get a pack of gum.

Thinking that "matcha is matcha" is just flat-our wrong. It's like saying "wine is wine." You can go plonk, or you can go better, or you can go sublime. It's all available, and it all depends on your perspective.

Culinary matcha is another story -- there is no point to using a great matcha if you're planning on cooking with it, adding fat and sugar to it -- you miss what's special about the good matcha (the umami, the acid notes, the electric color, the very long finish) because fat and sugar dominate the palate and obviate those subtleties. If you're going to cook with matcha, a less expensive and less-rarified matcha is a better choice.

Ceramics and tea tools are slightly harder to judge for most people. I personally love drinking matcha out of special bowls, bowls that I collect and love and use daily -- they give a tremendous amount of pleasure. I consider a well-made bowl by a ceramicist I respect and admire to be a piece of liveable, usable, daily art. A $100 tea bowl might sound like a lot, but if you use it for 20 years or more? I don't think so. And you don't need a huge collection, just a few to choose from, according to your mood. It's a beautiful thing that keeps giving pleasure on a daily basis. Not too many objects in your house can claim that.
Hope this helps!

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Jan 28th 15 6:22 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by entropyembrace » Jan 28th 15 6:22 pm

hi, you might want to read this thread before you order anything from Yuuki-cha: http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=14657

The other vendors I have not heard anything bad about other than Ipoddo has very expensive shipping charges. Ippoddo tea seems to get universal praise though so it could be worth ordering from them anyway.

Personally I've been buying matcha from Maiko tea lately and I've really been enjoying their matsu no midori.

You might also want to take a look at O-cha's starter kit, they let you assemble it from their product list and give a 10% discount. Their matcha is also very good :)

mostly I agree with breakawaymatcha but 1g is a very small serving. Most Japanese vendors suggest 2g for usucha

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Jan 28th 15 7:35 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by rdl » Jan 28th 15 7:35 pm

breakawaymatcha,
I can agree fully with what you say if each tea session is one where an expensive matcha is worth it. If you're grabbing a cup of coffee to go, in a paper cup on the train, is it worth spending $$$ or $$ or $?
I know in countries where wine is commonly drunk, $-$$ wine is very common. In tea drinking countries, $-$$ tea is commonly drunk.
In the US, the thought is each and every glass or cup must be the $$$ or life is just not worth living.
I support your business vision that you describe, but to also suggest a $$ matcha to someone, even a knowledgable drinker, is no shame.

Nicklause,
You have some good vendors and recommendations. I just wanted to add one if you like a nice matcha that I feel for the price is very reasonable for everyday, casual drinking.

http://zencha.net/products_yame.php#matcha
towards the bottom is the matcha selection.
You do get what you pay for, but with shipping included I still find quality and price to be very good for everyday matcha.

Jan 28th 15 7:49 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by Nicklause » Jan 28th 15 7:49 pm

Thanks breakawaymatcha, entropyembrace, and rdl for your precious time and replies. It is certainly pleasant and welcoming to get so many replies in such a short time. You guys have definitely shed some light for me.

breakawaymatcha,
I came back and found your reply and I was very pleased and happy to read such an insightful and well thought out reply. Beer's on me if we meet in life. And I do agree Chawans are an artisan's craft, and one cannot simply put a price tag on art. I was looking into some of the more expensive bowls as well, and heck if I had the money I would have gone mad and bought up a most of them. I hope to be engaged in more intellectual discussions with you in the future as I have gained a lot from just one reply. Also what is your go-to site for matcha powders and tea ware? Kudos!

entropyembrace,
Thanks for your attention, I have read the related posts you have shared with me and I will be more careful when purchasing items from certain vendors. Also keep smiling, you have a sweet smile!

rdl,
Thank you very much for your suggestion, I would definitely look into and pin the website on my chrome for future references. Also I would like to ask what is your go-to site for matcha powder and tea ware?

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Jan 28th 15 8:04 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by rdl » Jan 28th 15 8:04 pm

Nicklause wrote: rdl,
Thank you very much for your suggestion, I would definitely look into and pin the website on my chrome for future references. Also I would like to ask what is your go-to site for matcha powder and tea ware?
I have ordered from Zencha, also
http://www.marukyu-koyamaen.co.jp/english/index.html
marukyu-koyamaen has wonderful teas of all kinds.
and I second the Maiko suggestion.
I hope in time and with curiosity and adventure you'll discover what you enjoy best. Even a bad tea teaches you something, albeit at a cost :lol:
For teaware, I travel to Hagi city and buy things, although I find many bowls on ebay that are used and therefore much more affordable.
You will find this repeated in this forum that once you own your first teaware a collection of sorts soon develops. Members have expressed it in all kinds of ways. Let us know how you fare!

Jan 28th 15 8:38 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by Nicklause » Jan 28th 15 8:38 pm

I am currently looking at these two sets,
http://www.hibiki-an.com/product_info.p ... ts_id/1058
http://www.hibiki-an.com/product_info.p ... ts_id/1059

both are very fine works of art, and I can't choose between the two. I love the painted bowl for its colorful ume trees, gives it a sense of pureness and delicate impression. But I also like the sabi clay feel of the other, and the philosophy of "beauty in imperfection" that is imbued into this bowl. Dilemma dilemma, but one thing I noticed is that the price of the tea ware in this website is really expensive. The nice thing is that they provide free shipping.

Jan 28th 15 9:48 pm
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by bonescwa » Jan 28th 15 9:48 pm

I don't get beginners wanting the premium quality right off the bat, buying a lot of teaware, etc. Where is the fun of learning in that?

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Jan 29th 15 3:37 am
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Re: First Matcha Set

by JBaymore » Jan 29th 15 3:37 am

breakawaymatcha wrote:A $100 tea bowl might sound like a lot, but if you use it for 20 years or more? I don't think so.
From my point of view as a long term maker of Chadogu, $100.00 US for a Chawan is actually at the dirt cheap price end of the spectrum for such work. When you are talking about caring about the best Matcha....... why consider serving it in such works? Seems a contradiction in approaches.

best,

.................john

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Jan 29th 15 8:16 am
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First Matcha Set

by mcrdotcom » Jan 29th 15 8:16 am

bonescwa wrote:I don't get beginners wanting the premium quality right off the bat, buying a lot of teaware, etc. Where is the fun of learning in that?
I think for Japanese tea's of all sorts the right or wrong teaware can decide if you really get hooked or not! I do think it's a bit of a risk but if you decide you don't like it in the end, then you can sell the teaware on or in the case of a kyusu or shib or whatever, use it for other tea :)

As for the best tea, yes, I don't think it's a good idea to buy great tea until you understand what bad and average tea are like first!

Jan 29th 15 5:08 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by mganz42 » Jan 29th 15 5:08 pm

Of course, if you are like me and you want to have as much money left over as possible for matcha while still owning a small selection of chawans, you might want to try sou_japan on eBay. They've got a gazillion of them on auction for dirt cheap. Some of them are crap, but there's a few nice-looking ones hiding in there. I ended up buying four chawans from them for a dollar each and they're just gorgeous.

Jan 29th 15 6:26 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by Nicklause » Jan 29th 15 6:26 pm

bonescwa,
Hi I think you may misunderstood my intentions, allow me this opportunity to clarify them. First for the tea ware, I did some homework and found out when it comes to preparing matcha there are certainly a number of tea ware that are essential to have the full experience, thus I was asking around to see if I am getting the best I can find within my set budget. Next for the matcha itself, I wasn't looking into buying the best but its more of finding out which is the best and where to look for them. Much like when you first get your driver's license you learn about what is the best car you can buy if you have the money. And you kinda set a target or goal to get it one day. Hopes this explains my intentions, have a nice day!

mganz42,
Thanks for your time and suggestion I will definitely take a look at it. Have a nice day!

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Jan 29th 15 10:13 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by rdl » Jan 29th 15 10:13 pm

Nicklause,
I would suggest when you buy a chasen, you look for made in Japan and not the cheaper made in China. Quality and health safety of the bamboo is a personal concern. If it's not yours, the Chinese chasen will work fine.

Jan 30th 15 8:37 pm
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Re: First Matcha Set

by Nicklause » Jan 30th 15 8:37 pm

rdl,

I've purchased a starter kit from maiko, and it comes with a 80pon date chasen. The bamboo itself comes from the Korean highlands and was said to be produced under the guidance of Nakata Kisen bamboo atelier. I guess I should be safe there. The set comes with a Banko Yaki chawan, it is made from purple clay. Frankly I am very excited but it will take a while for the set to arrive. I will share some pictures here when I get it! Thanks for your advice and have a nice day!