Matcha + Collagen: Origin Story
It's 5.30am and ‘Papa’ (possibly the most splendid cockerel ever) is calling me to rise from the slumber of my surprisingly comfortable futon laid out on the tatami mat.
I don’t mind, as early mornings have always been my most favourite time of day, and I venture out in search of a cup of matcha. Apart from Papa - who is quite the talker and after demanding that I rise orders me around for the rest of the day - it is incredibly peaceful here. I can hear distant sounds of someone bustling in the outdoor kitchen and within minutes I am presented with the most delicious cup of sweet earthy matcha.
I am staying in Gajoen in the Kagoshima Prefecture located at the southern tip of mainland Japan. Kagoshima features one of the most active volcanos in Japan and is the ancestral home of Siado Takamori – the last samurai. Steeped in culture and traditions - from tea ceremonies to the wearing of traditional yukatas – this truly feels like the home of ancient ritual.
It seems that we have stepped into a moment of history and yet there is something so perfectly grounding and reassuring here. This rural inn is built using traditional methods and nestles beside the Amorigawa River - with thatched buildings, outdoor fires and onsen baths hewn from solid rock.
We eat Satsuma cuisine with salt-grilled wild sweetfish, free-range chicken from their farm and freshly picked vegetables and flowers. In the evening we are served homebrewed umeshu plum liqueur, a traditional alcoholic beverage warmed over a beautifully laid firepit.
The onsen’s take their water (ferociously hot) from a geothermal well that has been naturally producing fresh water since ancient times. In addition to improving blood circulation the carbon dioxide in the water makes your skin feel incredibly soft.
But I have really come for the matcha. We visit the tea plantations set in the shadow of Sakurajima – the giant volcano smokes constantly and minor eruptions take place multiple times a day. But no-one minds as the area produces soil infused with natural minerals from rich volcanic ash and this fertile land is home to a leading producer of green tea.
The only way to drink this perfect blend is slowly and to savour the intricate blended tastes of both earthy greenness and sweet highlights. Select tencha tea leaves are picked in the early spring and are steamed and stone-ground into a powder to create matcha.
Earlier in the trip we had been fortunate to experience a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto. This ceremonial way of preparing and drinking green tea is steeped in history and a displays an graceful art that is learnt over decades.
We were shown the skill of whipping the matcha powder and water into the desired consistency. This was slightly intimidating under the watchful eye of our expert who has been practising the tea ceremony for almost 30 years. A matcha whisk is essential and you need to move it swiftly back and forth to create the perfect froth.
Perfecting our new Matcha blend was about taste as much as about elevating the ingredients to optimise your morning brew. Carefully adding each new ingredient so we could balance and not distract from the subtle green taste of matcha was also an expert skill. When we landed on the perfect combination it was an instant hit. Collagen and MCT add a creamy note, whilst the moringa brings out the freshness. Lion's mane settles the earthy tones and finally cinnamon gives it a balancing sweetness.
This brew tastes delicious, which is absolutely key to including it as a daily ritual, but elevates its status with its inclusion of nootropics, adaptogens and nutrient power. Lion’s Mane is a remarkable mushroom known for its unique appearance and powerful brain-boosting properties. Its name originates from its striking resemblance to a lion's mane, with its white, cascading tendrils. Lion’s Mane is also known as a functional or medicinal mushroom which, like Matcha, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to support mental clarity and focus.
It offers a bridge between ancient wisdom and modern wellness that will stand the test of time and makes the perfect addition to our Rise Ritual Matcha.
So whilst I will never be an expert with my whisk or show the grace and skill we witnessed in Kyoto – I can still take the minutes required to blend my morning matcha and dream of volcanoes, onsens and yukatas.
Wasure No Sato Gajoen.