Another pairing of Japanese tea and Japanese snack. A bowl of matcha is supposed to suffice your daily vegetable need because you’re actually consuming the leaves themselves, in powder form.
Matcha is served in a bowl. Mix water (205 F) with the matcha powder using a whisk, whose look reminds me of a yard broom in Vietnam, and there is no steeping time to watch out for, which I like. The whisk makes the tea foam up. The lady sitting next to me said that the foam turns her off visually, but actually the foam adds an interesting dimension to the tea. For one, it abates the seaweed taste because the foam is a cushion layer between the tea and the palate, preventing the palate to fully experience the tea. Secondly, together with the powder, it enhances the nuttiness of the tea. Near the end of the bowl, when there is more powder, the tea is extra nutty, akin to mungbean milk.
Unfortunately, this nuttiness does not enhance the nuttiness of the kabocha mochi but competes with it. The mochi this time has a hojicha-flavored coat and a filling of cinnamon, walnut and kabocha (a kind of winter squash, also known as the Japanese pumpkin). Contrary to my hesitance, the cinnamon was too faint to be detected (no, I don’t like cinnamon), and the mochi is mild overall. It is not too sweet.
Instead of being steamed-dried like other Japanese teas, hojicha is roasted in porcelain over charcoal, so the green tea becomes much milder than sencha. The kabocha is similar to a plain, grainy, white sweet potato in both taste and texture. (The red mushy sweet potato is sweeter than the white kind.) Because both the tea and the snack are grainy, matcha-kabocha mochi is not a good match together, although I really like them both separately.
A better pairing would be matcha with matcha mochi, and sencha with hojicha-kabocha mochi, because you want something sweet tempered by something a tad bitter, and something clear with something nutty. Nonetheless, I still think that sencha is an entree tea, not a dessert tea. So the hojicha-kabocha mochi would be better enhanced by something strong in fragrance like jasmine green tea.
This post also appears on FlavorBoulevard.com