Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reading tea bubbles

The computer tells me I took this picture on August 5, 2009 at 9:39 AM. This information is relevant to me, because 2 minutes earlier this bowl was still inside David Louveau's kiln! After 2 days of wood fire and 3 days of slow rest, this is its first picture after 'birth'!

I liked its solid base, its harmonious disproportions, its natural feel. And so I adopted this bowl for the time being, to see what it can become. At the very least, it could become a bowl for used water. It is quite big (50 cl for 400 gr). Its high and closed shape would be practical to hide the used water and spent leaves.

This morning, though, I decided to test it with matcha tea in Sung dynasty style. Something funny happened. I got 2 very different results. What happened? And which tea tasted better?

Here is exhibit A:

and exhibit B:
I'll be back tomorrow with the answers. Good luck!
Update: I posted the answer in the comments.

18 comments:

Sergey said...

In the first one, the frothing was much too vigorous and nonrhythmic. The second was fast but smooth. Second tasted better.

Laurie E. Miller said...

I'm very new to matcha. A is what I usually wind up with. I have yet to produce anything like B.

Hélène said...

Hum !? ... J'ai plutôt le sentiment, à l'inverse de Sergey, que le premier résultat est plus oxygéné et que la grosseur des bulles signifie que la matcha est plus léger, aérien et que de ce fait, sa saveur s'en trouve épanouie et plus franche en intensité.

Michel said...

The first one is thinner (more water to tea ratio) and whisked back and forth fast and furius

the second is thicker (more tea to water ratio) whisked in a more eliptic and a little slower?

or did you only sieve the second one?

Mat said...

Le second a l'air plus homogène et les bulles plus fines. Je pense que c'est le meilleur.

fortunato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephane said...

Congratulations to Sergey! You are (the first to be) right and you gave the good explanation! (Please send me your postal address so that I can send you a pack of Da Yu Ling Oolong.)

More explanations: Both pictures were taken with the same tea and water level. (I didn't sieve the powder, because I opened the box just 2 days ago).

I first got to A as I struggled to keep my arm's movement steady. Then, looking at the result, I took some pictures, tried some, and decided to give it another try.

So, I continued to whisk, but this time I was more focused and 'in flow'. This then showed in the thick froth. Also, the tea tasted more harmonious, because better mixed.

Jane said...

I did a little experiment with my matcha this morning (before reading these comments, note!) and observed that, as Sergey says, fast and furious back-and-forth whisking produced coarse-grained bubbles. When I slowed down a bit and was more even, the froth became creamier and denser. I've always had this variation in results but never taken the time to find out the reason. Thanks, Stephan, for prompting the experiment!

Stephane said...

Thank you Jane for your feedback.

Also, I meant to add that this experiment showed me that this bowl is suitable to make matcha, especially if one is thirsty (or wants to share it with somebody else). However, it also showed that the bowl didn't play a big role in the quality of the froth. (It will play a major role, though, in the color play between froth and background, and in the mouth/lip feel).

Sergey said...

Thanks for the very kind gift, Stephane. You're right, it does take a lot of focus and it can be a bit harsh on the wrist at first. I still can't get picture two every time. From videos I've seen, it looks as though experts can whisk matcha without even touching the edges of the chawan.

Kim said...

The second foam would always give
you an extra bonus in a chanoyu class...very few of my students get
such a fine and smooth foam - congrats !!

celina said...

Too bad I missed the fun here when I was away..., as I am also practicing on the matcha lately. One question Stephane: on what you are saying about the ceramic. I sometimes thought it helps create a great froth when the ceramic is kind of rough at the bottom. Is it right or wrong for me to think so? Thanks for the answer.

Hélène said...

Ouhh! Tout faux me concernant ! ...
Bravo à l'heureux gagnant !
J'avoue que c'est la première fois que je découvre un matcha aussi "fin" ... Le rythme tout en souplesse apparemment ! Joli ...

Stephane said...

Sergey,
I'm not moving the wrist, but the whole arm! (Your tea is on its way, btw).

Thanks Kim,
I'm looking forward drinking a bowl of matcha prepared by you!

Celina,
While the ceramic has an effect on how the tea will taste and look, this example shows that it doesn't influence the froth very much. I obtained A and B with the same bowl.

Merci d'avoir participé, Hélène!

Laurie E. Miller said...

Wow, what a difference. I followed your advice, and got B on my first try. Thanks!

Laurie E. Miller said...

But now my matcha addiction has gone to a whole new level.

Stephane said...

Laurie,
Great! It's wonderful that you could improve your matcha thanks to this article. You made my day.

Emeta said...

Stephane, thank you for sharing this experience with us! Now I (we) know what it really takes to prepare a good matcha. I have to go shopping right away. Until now I have been using an electric milk foamer for this purpose! I haven't been a good girl, i know ;) . No wonder there was always something missing in my matcha.