by Tanya Henry
What do coders, yoga instructors and Japanophiles all have in common? A taste for a potent, fine premium green powdered tea high in antioxidants that carries health claims of lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer and slowing the aging process. And if Eric Gower has his way, many more of us will become devotees of this “liquid meditation” also known as matcha.
Gower, a cookbook author, writer and entrepreneur who lives with his wife and young daughter in San Anselmo, has recently moved his tea operation, Breakaway Matcha, into a new space at 1218 San Anselmo Avenue (at Yolanda Station), where he offers tastings of his carefully blended matcha green teas. While he admits to being on a mission to make this vibrant green elixir more accessible to the masses, and dispel the myth that it can only be enjoyed formally in Japanese tea ceremonies, there is still a fair amount of ritual and preparation required.
Gower took me through the process of preparing a cup of hot matcha by placing a small amount of the green tea powder (about a half teaspoon) into a special ceramic creamer (his design). He then added a few ounces of hot (not boiling) water to the mixture and whisked it with a handheld milk frother. Next, he transferred it to another ceramic cup for drinking, but explained that it can be enjoyed straight from the same cup if desired. I was also treated to an iced version that simply required adding powdered matcha, ice and water and shaking vigorously—much like a martini.
“There are many similarities between the way we consume wine and matcha,” says Gower, who describes the importance of the unique terroir near Kyoto where he sources his premium matchas from small artisanal farmers. Gower sells (mostly online) six matcha blends, and breaks the teas into three distinct categories including hyper premium, cold brew and culinary. Heady aromas, smooth, non-tannic and full-bodied are common terms used to convey this coveted beverage’s profile that for some is more akin to an espresso or a hearty cabernet sauvignon.
For the uninitiated, whether enjoyed hot or cold, matcha is indeed a unique tea experience. Its frothiness and umami (savory) characteristics make it more like a food than a beverage. And whether its many health claims can be substantiated or not, matcha certainly offers an opportunity to disrupt our same old caffeine-imbibing rituals. Perhaps some of us will even join the ever-growing and diverse tribe of converts and true believers. To find out more, visit breakawaymatcha.com.