When my friend Kenichi Kano of IPPODO (the renowned Kyoto based tea company) first asked if I had ever tried Koicha, I was like.. “…yeah, thick Matcha, right?” Ken nodded, smiled and told me how this is his favourite way to prepare Matcha. That was in Berlin when we first met. Some months later we met again in Amsterdam. This time he was accompanied by his colleague and friend, Mr. Satoshi. Satoshi, a skilled brewer of Japanese tea showed me just exactly how to prepare a real Koicha.
In Japan, and the world for that matter, there are two basic methods of preparing matcha: usucha (which literally translates to “thin tea”) and koicha (“thick tea”). I have to say that I was quite surprised at how thick my Japanese friend had prepared the koicha. The “koicha” I had previously experienced was a tea prepared, incorrectly I might add, somewhere in the middle.
”How do people drink it?” I enquired while peering down into the bowl at a matcha prepared to the consistency of Greek yoghurt or melted chocolate, albeit with an intense colour of green…
“…with a spoon, Jack!”, I was told with a smile.
With our spoons in hand the three of us took our turn to scoop up the Koicha. The super bitter explosion that took over my taste buds activated an expression that must have said a great deal to my friends. “You don’t like it?” Asked Ken. I replied that it wasn’t as much as I didn’t like it but more that it was quite a surprise.
The experience of tasting Koicha reminded me of the first time I tasted espresso, or even olive oil: a moment rested on the crest of utter disgust. I was young, a little less sophisticated in the palette. Of course today both of these things I now savour with great delight: bread is elevated to new levels of sophistication with lashings of extra virgin olive oil and my espresso, from sweetened to neat, I now enjoy most when served black and as pure as the night. I guess what I’m waxing-poetical about here is how it can simply take a bit of time to truly appreciate something that is quite so extraordinary.
I took some time after my Koicha experience with Kenichi and Satoshi to contemplate the possibilities. For me personally, for now at least, eating Koicha is just a little too intense of an experience to truly enjoy. All this said, there are characteristics of this preparation of matcha that are truly delightful: the creamy texture, the wonderful grassiness and intense umami flavours, the vivid colour, the lingering aftertaste and finally, something I only realised much later in the day, a bright and levelled high from a huge blast of caffeine, clean and sustained with no hint of a crash; quite unlike the gritty caffeine kick of say, an espresso.
So the question I asked myself: how can I make koicha just a little more palatable for my own taste. The answer was quite simple and the inspiration was to be found in its consistency. While I needed to bring down the bitterness a little, I also wanted to accentuate the wonderful flavours of the koicha and retain the creamy viscosity. My saving grace was to be found in the wonder that is Greek yoghurt, with its similar consistency, acidity and creaminess it was the perfect ingredient to create a koicha inspired recipe that I could enjoy everyday. I call it, Samurai Breakfast!
4-6 grams of highest quality matcha. I recommend using a matcha produced with the cultivar, Uji Hikari.
130 ml of Greek yoghurt
60 grams of Mixed summer fruits (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
1 tbsp of Chia seeds
1 tbsp of Sunflower seeds
1 tbsp of Flax seeds
1 tbsp of Sesame seeds
Water – 25-30 ml @ 75˚C
Sieve the matcha powder into the the bowl. Add 10 ml of the water and whisk gently into a thick paste. Gradually add more of the water and continue to whisk until all of the water has been incorporated or until you have the desired consistency.
Whip up the Greek yoghurt so that it is a consistency similar to that of the koicha. Gently swirl the yoghurt into the koicha but don’t mix too thoroughly. Try to keep a clear separation of the two ingredients. Add the fruit and then the seeds. Enjoy!