Is It a Good Deal? Thoughts on Matcha

Matcha is green tea that has been ground to a fine powder. With history that tracks back to Tang dynasty of China, the more familiar matcha that you may know and love is from Japan. You may have tried matcha from your favourite local coffee shop in the form of a matcha latte, or ordered a flavoured matcha blend from an online retailer.

In your search for a matcha to buy for your very own, you’ll find that companies often give their matcha names like ceremonial or culinary grade. While not standardized, these names can really be provided to any matcha sold by anyone. That said, often times a culinary grade matcha is lower in quality while a ceremonial grade matcha should be higher in quality. Culinary grade matcha should also be cheaper, due to the lower quality.

I won’t make much comment on matcha blends – they should be considerably cheaper than pure matcha options available to you because of all the additives (sugars, flavourings, powdered milk, preservatives, etc.). However, these can also be delicious and I am still on the search for a great instant latte option.

Signs of a good quality matcha:

Spring-green in colour
Very fine powder
Has an umami flavour, not bitter
Forms a layer of froth easily

Signs of a poor quality matcha:

Yellow-green in colour
Clumpy powder
Often bitter
Forms a layer of large bubbles, instead of froth

All good quality matcha should come from Japan, and also be ideally single origin in nature. It can come in either sealed foil packets or tins, with appropriate labelling. While matcha has been deemed a “super food” and can be found in a lot of grocery stores, matcha is not going to be as high quality compared to matcha purchased from specialty tea stores (brick and mortar or online). Quality doesn’t come cheap though! A good benchmark is ~$1CAD per gram – that $9.99 tin of 250g of matcha might seem like a great deal, until you realize it’s incredibly bitter and doesn’t even work well in cookies.

Hong Kong Style Iced Lemon Tea

Iced Lemon Tea is a menu staple when it comes to Hong Kong diners (right up there with the Hong Kong Style Milk Tea, hot or iced).  There’s something blissfully refreshing about this drink in its simplicity, and it’s so good to quench your thirst when it’s hot out – which makes it a perfect drink basically year round in Hong Kong (hello, tropics). But as someone who spends her time in Canada, it’s less of an annual stable and more of a seasonal enjoyment.

Hong Kong Iced Lemon Tea is a great drink to serve at a barbecue, to bring along a picnic, or to enjoy all to yourself while reading a book in a hammock. The real reason why this recipe makes a large volume – so you can always refill your glass.

Hong Kong Style Iced Lemon Tea – Serves 4-5

4 tablespoons black tea¹
1500mL boiling water (100°C/212°F)
2 tablespoons Simple Syrup²
1 lemon, sliced³

¹ I would recommend choosing Chinese black tea, I opted for an Orange Pekoe from China.
² See recipe below for an easy way to make simple syrup.
³ Wash the outside of the lemon, as the slices will be used in the drink.

Steep the black tea in the boiling water for 5 minutes, remove or strain out tea leaves.
Stir in Simple Syrup – add more to taste if you don’t find it sweet enough to your taste.
Allow tea to cool to room temperature.
Slice lemon, remove the seeds.
Fill glass with lemon slices and ice.
Pour in cooled tea.
Serve with a spoon, this allows the drinker to squeeze the slices at their leisure to add more lemon flavour.

Super Simple Simple Syrup Method

Combine equal parts sugar and boiled water from a kettle in a bowl.
Mix until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Set aside to cool.

If you make this Hong Kong Iced Lemon Tea, I’d love to see your photos! Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@onemoresteep #onemoresteep) or comment below with a link to the photo!

Tea Pets

Tea pets are one of the more whimsical parts of Chinese tea culture.

There’s no real purpose to having a tea pet, besides having a cute figurine to join you in your tea drinking sessions. There are different types of tea pets – some squirt water, some blow bubbles, and some are just there to soak in the tea.

Traditionally, tea pets are made out of unglazed Yixing clay – same as traditional Chinese tea pots.

They can be all sorts of different animals – dragons, pigs, birds, snakes! You might want to get one because it looks cute, or because it’s your Chinese zodiac sign. Perhaps you have a dog or a cat and you came across one that looks just like your (furry) pet. Some many even have beads or be partially glazed – and those glazed parts might even be colour changing after having hot water poured onto them (they’re very fun to watch!).

One of the more popular tea pets is actually the Pee Pee Boy (see photo above). The Pee Pee Boy is a hollow figure, and gets his name from the fact that he “pees”. To fill up the little guy, put him into a bowl of cool water and wait until it fills up. To make him “pee”, pour hot water over his head and the water will shoot/squirt out of the Pee Pee Boy. I actually got my Pee Pee Boy years before I started tea blogging, it was a souvenir from my parents’ travels and got to witness him “pee” across the kitchen.

You’ll see online people talking about “feeding” their tea pets.

You can pour water onto your tea pets (the water used to warm up your tea pot), pour a bit of tea on them during the process of filling up your cup, or pour leftover tea at the end of your tea drinking session. If you have a tea pet that’s made with unglazed clay, you’ll notice that the clay changes colour when wet and over time (from the tea!). The aroma of your tea pet will also change over time as it absorbs the tea.

Then there are the untraditional tea pets.

My little hedgehog friend, who’s been featured in blog & Instagram photos before, is an example of an untraditional tea pet. He’s glazed and not really “meant” to be a tea pet. I think he was actually meant to be a little desk catch-all dish, or even for a small air plant (who knows?). Whatever he was meant for, his purpose now is to hold tea leaves. I don’t “feed” him any tea, mostly because he usually holds dry tea, but he’s still pretty cute and hangs out on my tea table while I prepare tea.

Some people name their tea pets, but it’s not a necessary component to keeping tea pets. The only important thing about having tea pets is to enjoy them and have fun with them!

Do you have any tea pets? What are yours?