Umami in Matcha

Non-oxidized tea
t-curious
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:23 am

I've been blind tasting my way through a bunch of matchas over the last week. The goal is to find a few matcha options for my daily fix. Price range between 0.34 and $1.05/g. These are from Japanese vendors that I think most here would consider putting out decent quality matcha.

The second goal for this project is to start developing my palate so that I'm better able to discriminate between matchas and to appreciate what I'm drinking more.

So, I'm good with grassy, bitter/sweet and astringency but I'm not sure about umami. I've read the definitions of umami. I understand it's more of a savory taste. I've tasted many of the foods/condiments that are listed as umami rich but I'm not getting it in matcha. I do get what I call a salmon sashimi taste in some matchas, kind of a background flavor that pops up at various intensities. My wife characterized this taste as "sour." One matcha in particular we found had loads of this salmon sashimi/sour taste. Neither of us found it enjoyable. Is what I'm describing umami or is it something else?

One other thing I'm having issues with is milky/creaminess. I get this with some matcha but I can't decide if it's a textural thing, or if it's an actual taste, or maybe both. Anyone have insight on this?

Thanks :)
chofmann
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:44 pm

Umami flavor is best described as fat, and is often associated with animal fat, particularly as it relates to broth.

It is not a distinct flavor by itself, per se, but it influences the other key flavors (salt, sour, bitter, sweet).

I think one way to try and focus on umami is to alternate sips between similar qualities of sencha and kabusecha. The teas should generally be the same except the kabusecha is shaded and therefore should have more umami. It should taste "brothier", almost like it is saltier, but in a good way, not a salty way.

Grassy is generally associated with lower quality matcha. As is fishy.
Noonie
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:14 pm

chofmann wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:44 pm
It should taste "brothier", almost like it is saltier, but in a good way, not a salty way.
I wouldn't have known how to describe umami, but this says it well!
t-curious
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:13 pm

Thanks for the explanation and tips @chofmann :)
chofmann
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:40 pm

t-curious wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:13 pm
Thanks for the explanation and tips chofmann :)
Happy to help out! I've been to Omaha twice and one of my good friends moved out there 1-2 years ago. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time there.
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Baisao
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Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:36 pm

When describing umami in tea to my son I have described it as being brothy.

FWIW, I am not sure I've noticed umami in matcha (there's a lot going on!) but it is very apparent in many gyokuro teas when brewed strongly, like 4g/40ml.
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pedant
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:08 am

if you've read definitions of umami taste as well as lists of foods known to have it, but you still have doubts about what umami is, the best thing i can suggest is to acquire pure MSG and taste it. you can get it on amazon ($5) or from asian grocery stores. after that, you will know unambiguously what umami is for the rest of your life. then try recognizing that taste in everyday foods. it's in lots of stuff, even chips and other snacks. should be easy at that point.
t-curious
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:07 am

chofmann wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:40 pm

Happy to help out! I've been to Omaha twice and one of my good friends moved out there 1-2 years ago. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time there.
@chofmann
Glad you found your time in Omaha enjoyable! If you ever make it back, let me know and we'll get together for some tea :)
t-curious
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:08 am

Baisao wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:36 pm
When describing umami in tea to my son I have described it as being brothy.

FWIW, I am not sure I've noticed umami in matcha (there's a lot going on!) but it is very apparent in many gyokuro teas when brewed strongly, like 4g/40ml.
Thanks @Baisao :)
t-curious
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:15 am

pedant wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:08 am
if you've read definitions of umami taste as well as lists of foods known to have it, but you still have doubts about what umami is, the best thing i can suggest is to acquire pure MSG and taste it. you can get it on amazon ($5) or from asian grocery stores. after that, you will know unambiguously what umami is for the rest of your life. then try recognizing that taste in everyday foods. it's in lots of stuff, even chips and other snacks. should be easy at that point.
@pedant That's a good idea! I don't remember all the particulars, it's been too long, but I watched a TV segment where they brought people in that claimed to have strong reactions from MSG. They described their symptoms and were certain they could tell if a food had MSG. They fed them some type of snack but didn't tell them it contained MSG. None of them had a reaction. :)
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pedant
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:19 am

t-curious wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:15 am
They described their symptoms and were certain they could tell if a food had MSG. They fed them some type of snack but didn't tell them it contained MSG. None of them had a reaction. :)
haha. yea, i think Chinese restaurant syndrome is pretty much debunked
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Victoria
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:14 pm

I think savory and brothy gets pretty close to describing umami flavor. It also gives a warming sensation. If you can buy some ground Kombu kelp and make broth with it, lots of umami. Although this umami flavor is saltier than that found in Gyokuro. Maiko sells high quality Kombu tea (not plum) and amazon has Gyokuroenn kombu that I use. I’m going to give msg a try, curious about it :) .
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Dresden
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:01 pm

I've always thought of it as "meaty". Kind of like that meaty, full mouthfeel/taste when eating a mushroom.
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Baisao
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Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:41 pm

Mushrooms and kombu are essential sources of glutamate, and among the first sources that MSG was isolated from in Japan.
t-curious
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Fri Jul 26, 2019 7:52 am

Thanks everyone. This has been helpful :)
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