Aug

23

2010

Essencha Tea House: The Tea Gurus

Written By Caroline in Reviews

Essencha Tea House Tasting Pamphlet by Caroline Wik

Essencha Tea House & Fine Teas

3212a Madison Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45209
513.533.4832

Rating: 4 out of 5 Plates
Hours: Tue-Fri: 9:30 a.m.-8: p.m.
Sat-Mon: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Price Range: $3-$8, only exception is the “Afternoon Tea” which is 3 courses+tea for $13

www.Essencha.com

Essencha Tea House & Fine Teas on Urbanspoon

Essencha Tea House is every tea lover’s dream – just about every kind of tea you can imagine from European to Asian, combined with a laid back Asian-inspired atmosphere and a menu of healthy foods designed to pair well with the teas.

Always looking for an excuse to make the trip to Oakley, Essencha often hosts different tea-centered events which can easily draw us in. In this case they were hosting Matcha Mystique – a “class” on the history, culture, preparation, health benefits and production of matcha.

Matcha (抹茶 in kanji or まっちゃ in hiragana) is, in brief, a type of Japanese tea made by carefully removing the stems from the tea leaves and then grinding them into a fine powder. It is a very tedious and labor intensive process which results in a fantastic, but expensive, cup of tea. I’m going to get a little nit picky here and say too that, I hate the rather uncommon romanization of “matcha” when it should be “maccha” but I probably shouldn’t complain.

Matcha Mistique was only $15 per person to attend which in addition to the wealth of information, also included a feast of snacks, which I’ll get to later, tasting four different grades of matcha teas as well as trying a matcha smoothie. Additionally, attendees got a discount on matcha “starter kits” which is a kit of the couple of special equipment items needed to make matcha to drink.

To start we were given a chilled mix to get our palates ready – it was a mix of matcha, agave, and a mint tea. I really loved this blend as it was really refreshing and tasty – I can see myself drinking this every day in the hot summer without getting tired of it.

Essencha Tea House Matcha Mint Iced Tea by Caroline Wik

The matcha and mint chilled tea.

The four “grades” – which is according to Tracy really subjective – we were given to try was a food grade, two medium grades and a “supreme” grade. The food grade tasted alright, but was really more suited to be mixed in with things – such as ice cream, scones, shakes or “matcha lattes.” The other three were more suited for drinking and there was a noticeable difference between each different type of tea, and the supposedly better ones really did have a more pleasurable taste – I’m not sure if they really did or if it’s just because I’m told they were better so I thought they were, but I’m happy thinking the more expensive ones were fantastic.

Having studied Japanese culture and related fields, tea, particularly matcha, and the tea ceremonies have always been really fascinating to me. It was really cool to see the differences in the different grades of tea – how much brighter and more brilliant the colors were in the “supreme” grade as compared to the dull “food grade” tea. Now, that food grade made an awesome matcha latte – something I will definitely have to reproduce on my own at home, but the taste of the supreme grade matcha was just fantastic and way superior to the food grade one when drank straight. In a food, I doubt you’d notice a huge difference.

Essencha Tea House Matcha Whisking by Caroline Wik

Tracy demonstrates proper use of the chasen at the table.

Essencha Tea House Matcha Powder by Caroline Wik

Matcha in a mixing bowl.

Now, usually the Japanese have a sweet item to go with their tea ceremony to balance out the flavors of the matcha tea. Tracy, the owner, being super awesome suggested we try brownies with the supreme quality matcha. I love chocolate with the same kind of unhealthy love that I have for tea, coffee and wine so of course this would make me giddy. But, luckily this was balanced out by the other items Essencha served which were much more healthier options.

Essencha Tea House Garden Salad and Green Goddess Dressing by Caroline Wik

The Garden Salad with Matcha Green Goddess Dressing.

The menu at Essencha is mostly health-focused and has a wide variety of options. What makes their food really unique though, is that it has always reminded me of home cooking – really good home cooking. For this particular event, the first plate of options contained sandwich quarters of tuna salad, ham with cheese or garden (cucumber, carrots, herbed cream cheese and maybe some other things). The ham and cheese was a pretty standard ham and cheese sandwich, and was okay but didn’t just scream fantastic to me like the garden and tuna sandwiches did – mostly the garden sandwich. The herbed cream cheese on it is just plain addicting.

The next was a bowl of Matcha Goddess Salad which is spring greens and carrots and cucumber with a green-goddess style dressing but with matcha added into it. The dressing was light and just a little bit went a long way. This is another one of those items I’ll have to figure out how to replicate.

The next was a kind of stone fruit salad – it had peaches and similar fruits with a glaze. I didn’t actually get this, but Adam did and he really liked it. I tried to take a bite of everything but just didn’t have the room on my plate – very unfortunately.

The other options were chocolate brownie triangles – which were very sweet, soft and moist and everything a brownie should be – along with matcha mochi cakes and matcha scones. Mochi is a very glutenous rice flour that has a multitude of uses, but in any form it usually becomes very chewy since it’s got such a high gluten content. The scones were just regular scones with the matcha added, and had your choice of jelly topping or clotted cream. The scones were really good, especially with the clotted cream on top.

Essencha Tea House Brownies and Mochi Cakes by Caroline Wik

Brownies and Mochi Cakes.

Essencha Tea House Plate of Mixed Foods by Caroline Wik

A range of delicious snacks was offered to accompany the matcha.

I must admit it was really hard to not eat up all the food on my plate the food before Tracy started demonstrating how to make matcha and making some for us to try. If you ever go, I highly suggest you take her advice and try the supreme matcha with a brownie – or if chocolate is not your thing then pick a similar sweet treat that you like.

Essencha has a tea to suit pretty much every taste and preference imaginable. The only advice I can really offer is that you should really go in and try some – they can help you pick one if you aren’t sure which one to get (the choices can be really overwhelming as they have a ton of teas). If there is one that particularly suits your fancy, you can buy some of it and take it home.

There are two more events coming up soon at Essencha, one called “Tee Hee Hee and Tea Time” on Sept. 2nd from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to help combat stress with laughter and tea. The other event is an Oolong tasting on Sept 26th from 4 p.m.- 5:30 p.m. More information on these events can be found at http://www.essencha.com/Events.aspx.

Want more? Of course you do – check out more pictures at our Facebook gallery.

Verdict: You Should Go

Whether you just like having a glass of iced tea on a hot day or if you are a tea fanatic and know all about different teas and how to make them, Essencha is sure to please. They are really all about the tea, but the food is surprisingly really good. The food is mostly served more as snacks to have with the tea, so don’t go in expecting a huge meal or anything, but rather some light bites to have with a cup of hot or iced tea. If you are interested in furthering your knowledge of teas, they often have events where you can taste a bunch of different teas and learn about them.

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  • http://www.essencha.com tracy

    Caroline, thanks so much for coming on Sunday–I really enjoyed meeting and talking to you and everyone! Your blog is really cool, and I really appreciate such a thoughtful, articulate and thorough review!

    Hope to see you again sometime, either for lunch or another tasting (our next one is an oolong tasting on Sept. 26). Take good care! Tracy

  • Caroline

    Thanks for the comment Tracy! We hope to come have lunch at Essencha again soon – we’ll definitely be going to the Oolong tasting. Thanks again!

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  • reader

    This article is not written very well.

  • Adam

    What could we have done to make it better?