This story began – as many of them do – back in June, at World Tea Expo. I was pal-ing around with Nicole (Tea For Me Please) Martin, when she stopped in mid-stride. She insisted I make the acquaintance of a young woman.
Said lady-person was Lauren Danson, the proprietor of an online matcha store dubbed Mizuba Tea Company. Nicole mentioned Lauren was moving out to Portland. The matcha maven confirmed this, yet she looked to be in a hurry. We agreed to touch bases once she was Oregon-bound.
The reason for her move northward? To be with her then-boyfriend/now-fiance – a coffee roaster/organic bread baker/part-time wine bartender. A matcha seller and a roaster-baker-bartender…this couple couldn’t have been more “Portland” if they tried.
Lauren informed me she was stopping off in Portland later that month, and the couple and I agreed to meet up. Over beer. Teabeer to be precise. Lapsang Souchong Porter to be even more precise…because…reasons.
They were wonderful company, and put up with my semi-alcohol-and-expletive-fueled tangents. Before parting ways, Lauren and I set up a tentative matcha demonstration for August-ish. Just as soon as she was fully a Portlandian.
Alas, life happened. I was busy with…um…well, nothing really. She didn’t have much going on, either. Well, except for that whole engagement thing. No big deal.
However, in the middle of September, we agreed on a Saturday for sampling her wares.
I was particularly eager to try them because I had a – dare I say – unhealthy obsession with matcha from the Uji region. And she sourced her matcha from only two farmers in Uji. Liking them was not going to be a problem. Keeping my face from permanently sticking to the matcha bowl; that would prove challenging.
That Saturday, Lauren greeted me with a beaming and disarming smile. Seriously, if she were a hitwoman, she’d get away with murder. Like…all the murders.
First up, she served – what she dubbed – her Daily Matcha.
Just as the taster notes described it was straight cream and froth on the tongue with a touch of grassiness on the back-end. Oooooh yes, this was my Uji. Oh, how I missed thee. While considered her lower-end (but not culinary grade) matcha, I couldn’t tell that from taste. It was just as good (if not better) than some of the high-end Nishio matchas I’ve tried.
Second was her next-level ceremonial stuff, the Hibiki Organic.
Instead of serving it in a chawan (matcha bowl), Lauren insisted I prepare it…in a mason jar. I approved of everything about this approach. Instead of needing a whisk, a bowl, a kimono, and/or a newly-minted geisha, all one needed were a mason jar and a healthy handshake.
It floored me. Aside from the requisite notes of kelp, grass and bliss, there was also something akin to macadamias. Well, that is, if macadamias were dipped in vegetarian awesome sauce. I had some difficulty recovering, and my face – as I feared – was glued to the mason jar like a horse trough.
However, we still had one more to go – the really high-end ceremonial matcha – the Kichoen.
The smell of the powder was whiff-for-whiff like dark chocolate, and when whisked, there were layers of taste to peel away with my brain. I don’t even have words in English or Japanese to describe it. My mouth ballooned with Zen and belched Bushido bliss.
Of the three sampled, Hibiki was more my speed, which is – as I’ve established before…a really tricked-out moped. The Daily was a reliable and fairly fancy car; Kichoen was a friggin’ spaceship.
As a capper for the afternoon, Lauren even dished out some of the base material matcha powder stemmed from – gyokuro’s prettier sister, tencha.
I’d wanted to try that green tea for years, but finding it always eluded me. Until that day. Another “Tea WANT!” notched off.
Before I knew it, two hours had elapsed. Eventually, I rousted myself from the balcony bench, bid my farewells, and left with a pretty significant froth-buzz. Portland is a weird, coincidental place.
But if it keeps throwing farm-direct tea vendors in my path…I’ll cope.