For a long time, it was assumed that there were only four flavors. But since the discovery of the mysterious fifth flavor, gastronomy no longer wants to do without it. Umami describes a hearty, full-bodied taste quality that can appear in both salty and sweet dishes and drinks. The word taken from Japanese means something like “tasty.”
It was also a Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda, who was the first to describe the new flavor in 1908. Japan, one of the oldest tea-growing regions in the world, is a specialist in green tea. Because, above all, a high-quality Japanese Matcha tea offers an intense umami experience. Read on to find out why.
Umami under the microscope
The human tongue is endowed with many taste receptors that are responsible for our taste sensations. They convert amino acids into taste. The amino acid glutamic acid, which is perceived by the receptors T1R1 and T1R3, is responsible for the umami taste impression. Glutamic acid occurs naturally in protein-containing foods and can vary in concentration.
The amino acid theanine is decisive for the special umami taste in Matcha tea. In general, high-quality tea has a higher concentration of the amino acid theanine and ensures a more intense tea experience. The amino acid theanine is synthesized in the leaves of the tea plant and is sensitive to strong sunlight. Therefore, young leaves and plants grown in the shade have a higher level of theanine. In the course of the fermentation of tea, parts of the theanine are lost, which is why green tea has more amino acids than black tea. The green Matcha tea in particular is carefully grown in shady regions in order to preserve as much theanine as possible in the leaves.
The full umami experience
For the wonderful taste experience of an umami-intensive tea, it is important to choose a good, high-quality tea variety and ensure that it is prepared gently. The tea develops its taste best at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius. The warmer the tea is brewed, the more bitter substances are dissolved, which mask the special taste quality. The tea takes about 3 minutes to develop its full-bodied, sweet taste. Put on a cup of matcha tea and bewitch your senses with the mysterious taste quality of umami.