We know what you slurp, but what do you like to sip with your ramen? Green tea is obviously a great choice. Fortunately for you, Ramen Hero is launching a new line of Matcha, Sencha and Organic Hojicha teas. (See the product page if you can’t wait any longer.)
In this article, we’ll look at what to consider when pairing ramen and specific Japanese teas. Similar to ramen, green tea contains amino acids that contain umami-filled ingredients like glutamic acid and aspartic acid. So already it’s a match made in ramen heaven.
Let’s see how to pair them with your favorite bowl of ramen and to also enjoy them on their own.
Though distinctly different, all three teas come from the leaves of the same tea plant. In fact, black tea and Oolong tea are also made from it. What makes them different is the degree of fermentation of the tea leaves. Black tea is fermented tea and Oolong tea is semi-fermented, while green tea is unfermented. When making green tea, the enzymes are stopped by the heating process.
Sencha is probably the most common green tea. The tea leaves used for sencha are grown in sunlight which changes theanine - which is an umami ingredient contained in tea leaves - to catechin. Catechin is a type of polyphenol with a bitter and astringent taste. It’s believed catechin has numerous health benefits. Sencha is made by steaming tea leaves and then kneading and drying them while shaping them.
Hojicha is basically a roasted Sencha. By roasting tea leaves, caffeine is sublimated and pyrazine which is an aroma component, is produced. As a result, Hojicha has a fragrant aroma and diminished bitterness.
Matcha is made from tea leaves that are cultivated in the shade. Unlike Sencha, theanine contained in tea leaves remains because it’s not exposed to sunlight. Therefore, the tea leaves have more umami and bitterness. Matcha is made by steaming tea leaves, drying them and grinding them into powder- traditionally with a stone mill.
To match the refreshing taste of ramen, the reduced bitterness and astringency of green tea is preferred. Any bitterness in your ramen will only be magnified by the tea’s bitterness. Even if you’re not sensitive to it, you may notice this when paired with a tea with a strong astringent taste. For that reason, the mellow taste of Hojicha is a better option.
Also, in the case of Sencha, it is better to simmer the tea leaves at a low temperature for a short time. When boiled at a low temperature, catechin and caffeine, which are components of astringency and bitterness, are difficult to extract, but umami components are extracted to some extent. Therefore, it is possible to make a refreshing and sweet Sencha tea- which is especially good iced. See for yourself with the recipe below:
Adjust the amount of tea leaves to your liking. Naturally, you can make strong tea by increasing the amount of tea leaves. Also, the tea leaves extracted at low temperature in this way can be used twice or three times. If you want to enjoy a refreshing taste of tea, this kind of preparation is just right. At the end, you can thoroughly extract the ingredients of the tea leaves with hot water.
If you are concerned about the greasiness of ramen with a rich soup, you can pair it with well-brewed Sencha or Hojicha. The astringency in the catechins and caffeine neutralizes the greasiness. Also, catechins wash away lipids. If you want to make cold tea, just add ice to the hot brewed tea and let cool.
After eating ramen, well-brewed Sencha and Hojicha is recommended. Matcha is also perfect as an after-ramen tea. When Matcha is whisked firmly, it contains air and changes not only the mouthfeel but also aroma. Those familiar with the Japanese tea ceremony will know Matcha that has been whisked with a Chasen bamboo whisk) will foam firmly. However, this differs depending on the school of tea ceremony. In some cases, it’s tradition to enjoy the flavor of Matcha as it is without adding too much air.
In any case, the best way is to find out for yourself. To make it easily, add Matcha to the cup, add a small amount of water, mix well until it becomes a paste, and then add the rest of the water. At this time, you may add milk or honey if you like. If you drink cold Matcha, you can make it in a bottle. Just put Matcha, water and ice in a bottle and shake.
Why stop there? Try this Matcha dessert recipe - perfect after eating ramen if you have a little time to prepare it.
Two layers of matcha cream and milk make a beautiful matcha latte. You can also sprinkle more matcha powder on top. Replacing the heavy whip cream with a plant-based one gives a lighter mouthfeel.
Since the history of ramen cuisine is relatively short, ramen and drink pairings are still in their infancy. However, as ramen culture spreads and matures, the number of combinations will increase. Of course, wine (sake) and other alcoholic beverages work well with ramen too. But to appeal to ramen fans of all ages, why not start with tea?
Pairing with various tea types, not just green tea, is also an option. At famous Japanese ramen shops like “Ippudo”, Rooibos tea is often paired with ramen. Rooibos tea is non-caffeinated and quite refreshing so it goes well with Tonkotsu soup. Oolong tea is also a common pairing- with an astringent taste that refreshes the lipid heavy broth.
The United States, with its more laid back ramen culture may actually be ahead of Japan when it comes to pairing ramen and drinks. With the introduction of Ramen Hero’s new line of Japanese teas, we look forward to being part of that trend.