Today’s review will focus on the Organic Miyazaki Koubi Shiage Oolong Tea from Yuuki-Cha. You may view this product at the Yuuki-Cha website by clicking here.
Japan is not yet known for the oolong styles of tea produced there, but that may change in the coming years. I ordered two organic oolong teas from Yuuki-Cha, one on the lighter side of oxidation and roasting, and the other on the heavier side of oxidation and roasting. This Koubi Shiage Oolong tea is the latter, having gone through a more intense oxidation and pan-firing stage. Similar to the popular kamairicha (pan-fired) green teas of Japan, this Koubi Shiage Oolong is also pan-fired. The leaves for this oolong are quite large and mature when they are harvested from organically grown Minami Sayaka cultivar tea bushes. The tea garden is located in the mountains of Gokase Town, at an altitude of about 600 meters (1,970 feet) above sea level. Gokase Town is in the Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan.
The sample packet has been opened, let the journey begin…
The dry leaves range in color from dull greenish-brown to dull dark forest green. The leaves are mostly large fragments of mature leaves, and I expect to find some unbroken, fairly large leaves in the mix. There are a few stems and thin twigs in the mix, but the majority of leaves appear to be individually plucked with no stem attached. The leaves are lightly rolled and curled, quite fluffy, and very dry, breaking easily into coarse crumbs. The leaves have a thin, dry leathery texture. The smell has scents of raw cacao, toasted rice, cassia bark, brown sugar, and baked apple.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Spring 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 beautiful golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of raw cacao, toasted rice, cassia bark, and baked apples. The body is medium-full, with a clean, crisp, juicy texture. There is no obvious astringency. The taste has notes of raw cacao, toasted rice, baked apple, cassia bark, mineral (salt), and a touch of brown sugar. The aftertaste carries the cassia bark, mineral, and toasted rice notes, and a sweet essence is left on the breath.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color with reddish tints throughout the leaves. The leaves are mostly large fragments of mature leaves, with a few unbroken leaves in the mix. The longest unbroken leaf measures three inches (76 mm) long by one inch wide (25 mm). There are a few bare thin twigs in the mix. The majority of the leaves are individually plucked with no stems attached. The leaves have a smooth, leathery feel, and are certainly thicker and larger than most Japanese teas. The smell has scents of sweet wild flowers, apples, raw cacao, and cassia bark.
The Organic Miyazaki Koubi Shiage Oolong Tea is an interesting style of oolong comparable to the Chinese Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui, or Yancha styles of tea, and yet quite different. The heavier oxidation and pan-firing give the liquor a darker color, and a sweeter taste throughout the experience. The mineral taste starts out lighter, then evolves over subsequent infusions, similar to the Chinese Da Hong Pao or Yancha. There is a cassia bark character that is similar to the Chinese Rou Gui. Yet the obvious toasted rice characteristics make this Koubi Shiage Oolong a perfect Japanese tea. This tea has a very nice balance, and can hold the aroma and flavor through four or more infusions. Given the characteristics, I plan to try a cold brew, assuming that this will create a sweet and refreshing beverage for the coming spring and summer heat.
Tomorrow, or at the next possible review time, I will contrast this review by focusing on the lighter oxidized and pan-fired Japanese oolong tea, the Kuchinashi. Then, a very unique bancha unlike any other teas that I have seen. As you can see, I am loving the organic Japanese teas lately.