Ippodo (not to be confused with Ippudo, the popular Japanese ramen shop) is one of the few Japanese tea shops in Manhattan that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Japan. The minimalist, warm wood interiors and the Japanese staff members greet you in Japanese and see them boiling kettles of water to prepare for our green tea workshop.
Ippodo is nearly a 300 year old tea brand that procures and blends its own teas beyond being just a retailer. With that much knowledge and history, this tea workshop would be informative of Japanese green teas.
We were presented first two different green teas, Sencha and Gyokuro. Sencha is grown in an open field while Gyokuro is grown in shade. With or without the presence of sunlight changes the tea’s flavor. Gyokuro smells subtly sweet and vegetal but when you sip it, it tastes almost like seaweed, especially for the sweet-salty umami flavors. I could imagine this would work well for sushi or an actual dinner. Sencha’s aroma is green and grassy almost like fresh cut grass. When sipped, the grassy flavor does dominate and there’s a sharpness that clears the palate. As our instructor told us, it’s great paired with rich desserts.
When the workshop transitioned over to matcha, our instructor informed us they carry about 10 different grades of matcha tea, as it suits different occasions and flavor profiles of the beverage you’d like to have.
Matcha tea leaves are picked, quickly steamed to harness its vibrant color, dried in an oven, have its stems and veins removed (the dried leafy bits of matcha are called tencha), and then finely ground in a stone mill. To be resourceful, the matcha’s veins and stems are packed and sold as karigane or kukicha teas.
As the workshop progressed, we were graced by the presence of Ippodo’s Vice President, Mrs. Watanabe, dressed in a kimono and demonstrated to us how to make our own cup of matcha tea (this type of matcha is called usucha).
It’s actually simple. All we needed were a bamboo scooper, bamboo whisk, a deep set bowl, small tea sieve, matcha tea powder (we all used Kan-no-shiro matcha), and water heated to 80°C. Sift the matcha tea powder with the bamboo scooper into the deep set matcha bowl, add the hot water (about 70mL) and whisk quickly in a “W” form for 10 seconds so the tea would be frothy.
After we’re done making our own cups of hot matcha, we’re served with delicious Kyoto adzuki yokan. This matcha tastes very nice. Grassy, vegetal but not too bitter.
The last demonstration is a cold, thicker version of matcha called koicha. The instructor mentioned that since this is a cold preparation, one needs to use a higher grade matcha. For this demonstration, they used Seiun, an extra-premium quality matcha to get that vibrant, naturally bright green color. This cup of koicha was very potent and quite bitter for my palate. It matched perfectly to the equally robust Mast Brothers’ Papua New Guinea chocolate that’s smoky and earthy.
This workshop gave me insight as to what are the differences of sencha and gyokuro, and there’s so much distinctive qualities of matcha despite the fact it’s almost the same kind of tea. Ippodo is a great resource for Japanese green teas, tea accessories and also knowing more about teas.
To view more of my photos of this workshop, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157643921279185″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”16″ shadow=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]
125 East 39th Street (between Park Avenue & Lexington Avenue)
New York, NY 10016