Today’s review will focus on the Organic Miyazaki Kuchinashi Oolong Tea from Yuuki-Cha. You may view this product on the Yuuki-Cha website by clicking here.
This Kuchinashi Oolong comes from the same JAS certified organic tea farm as the Koubi Shiage Oolong that I reviewed yesterday. There are some distinct differences between the two oolongs. First, the leaves used for the Kuchinashi Oolong are harvested from Takachiho and Minami Sayaka cultivar tea bushes, rather than all Minami Sayaka (100%) like the Koubi Shiage oolong. Second, the Kuchinashi Oolong is oxidized and pan-fired (kamairi) to a lower degree than the Koubi Shiage. The leaves were harvested in June of 2014.
Kuchinashi is Japanese for “gardenia-like”, and this tea is known for the remarkable resemblance in smell and taste to gardenia flowers. The artwork on the packaging is quite interesting also, so I posted a photo below.
The sample packet has been opened, and the Kuchinashi description is quite accurate. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a fairly uniform dull forest green leaves, with some reddish-brown spots. The leaves appear to be large fragments and whole leaves, with a few bare stems in the mix. The pluck ranges from individual leaves to what appears to be a one leaf and bud pluck. The leaves are curled, and very lightly rolled. The leaves are quite dry, light, and fluffy. Some of the leaves display heavier oxidation, but the majority are on the lower end of the oxidation scale. The dull color effect is evidence of the pan-firing. The smell has incredible scents of gardenia, fresh forest floor, brown sugar, light hay, and a touch of dry plum or prune.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (95°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 minutes. Expect four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves, decreasing the steep time by 30 seconds on the second infusion, then increasing by 30 seconds on each subsequent infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, full golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of gardenia, hyacinth, butter, and plum. The body is light-medium, with a velvety smooth texture, and an uplifting, revitalizing energy. There is no astringency whatsoever, and no signs of over-firing. The taste has notes of gardenia, hyacinth, honeysuckle, butter, light plum, and very light mineral (salt). The aftertaste is phenomenal, as the floral notes of gardenia, hyacinth, and honeysuckle dominate the tongue, and leave a lingering essence on the breath that is nothing short of unforgettable.
The infused leaves have a fairly uniform color of dark forest green. Many of the leaves have slightly reddish edges, while other leaves have undergone more oxidation, thus having the reddish hints extending further into the leaf. The leaves are all large fragments, with a nice amount of unbroken leaves. The pluck ranges from individual leaves to one leaf bud. There were about four buds in the three gram sample used for this review, and that to me was amazing since I have never seen whole, unbroken buds in a Japanese tea. The largest whole leaf measured about 1.75 inches (38 mm). There is definitely a noticeable difference between the leaves of the two different cultivars used to make this product, as one type of leaf is much broader, and the other is more long and narrow. The leaves have a smooth, soft, conditioned leather texture. The smell carries the scents, although softer, of gardenia, honeysuckle, and plum.
I challenge the high grade TieGuanYin oolong lovers reading this to purchase a packet of this Organic Miyazaki Kuchinashi Oolong Tea and compare the incredible quality of the floral character to the best TieGuanYin products that you can find. This tea is truly phenomenal. The floral character is so dominant that I would venture to say that this would be overwhelming to those who do not like floral teas. For those who like floral, sweet, aromatic teas, this product belongs on your top shelf of teas. I keep asking myself why Japanese oolong teas are not more widely known and popular, because this product could have a very strong following if it were more widely available. The descriptions above do not give due justice to the beauty of this tea. Add this to my list of products at Yuuki-Cha that I will be reordering the moment that the 2015 version is available.
Thanks to Yuuki-Cha for not only sourcing these incredible, high quality, hard to find Japanese teas, but being able to ship them all over the world without having to charge ridiculously high shipping charges. If you have not done so yet, go to Yuuki-Cha right now and begin exploring some truly incredible organic Japanese teas. Cheers!