A number of people have recently asked me why we refer to our matcha as “blends.” What, exactly, is blended?
First, there is nothing in any of our matcha except matcha green tea. No fillers, no sweeteners, no additives of any kind. It’s 100 percent green tea, and nothing else.
So what’s blended?
We find and develop relationships with obsessive matcha farmers. Like many farmers in Japan, these farmers typically operate as part of agricultural cooperatives that “bundle” their matcha harvests with other coop members, most of whom are very nearby. But it’s remarkable how different the “terroir” of matcha fields, even just hundreds of meters from one another, can be. We thus will blend tencha (leaves that are destined to become ground and turn into matcha) from different terroir into our signature blends.
We also combine and blend harvests from different “vintages.” Each year in May the new harvest takes place, and those newly harvested leaves will get combined with leaves from previous harvests. Obsessive artisanal farmers only harvest once a year, in contrast to matcha farmers who are trying to maximize yield and thus harvest two and even three or more times annually — much of those subsequent harvests are destined to become culinary matcha or even what I call “agricultural” matcha, which is the lowest end of the quality spectrum (it makes fantastic chicken food, however; the eggs are marvelous).
It’s important to blend previous vintages with current vintages for a few reasons: mainly consistency and taste. We want our signature blends to taste similarly year in and year out, so we blend accordingly. Matcha also develops deep flavor profiles that tend toward the sweet and umami laden when harvests are artfully combined.
So why are the blends numbered? When I first started the business, I employed a naming firm to come up with some cool names for the blends, but in the end they all felt kind of odd, so it seemed like a simple numbering system would work better.
It’s a lot of work to do what we do — it would be so much easier to simply purchase teas directly from farmers (or go-betweens, for that matter) and declare victory. But we can’t help it! It’s the pursuit of the ideal bowl of matcha that drives us, not the short-term gains to be had by not bothering.