Join me for a quick review of the Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi, who sourced this tea from the Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden, located in the Shimada City region, Shizuoka, Japan. The Google map below shows the general location of Shimada City.
I will be posting a Company Spotlight on Yunomi in the near future, but wanted to get this review posted while it was fresh in my mind.
This green tea is roasted, then smoked using cedar wood procured from Yakushima Island. Generally speaking, this style of green tea, known as Hojicha, is lower in caffeine due to the roasting process, and sweeter in flavor, with a dominant smoky and roasty character. It makes for an excellent tasting and refreshing iced or cold brewed tea.
The dry leaves have a uniform, pale brown color. The blend consists of small leaf fragments, and bare, woody stems. The leaves and stems are obviously roasted. The aroma is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.
Seven grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 1:00 minute, per the suggested brewing instructions on the packaging. 30 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion.
The liquid had a pale, golden yellow color. The aroma again is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke. The body is medium, with a very smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste is also dominated by notes of cedar wood and smoke, with an overall roasty character. The aftertaste is sweet and woody.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown color. The aroma, as expected, is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.
Although the descriptions above may seem two dimensional, being cedar wood and smoke, don’t let these short descriptions lead you to believe that this hojicha is anything other than delicious. That is exactly what it is. There are so many occasions that I can picture immediately that this tea would compliment perfectly. Served hot or cold, this is a satisfying, robust, yet refreshing style of green tea. The leaves can be used multiple times, and still provide that sweet, woody, roasty character. If you have not tried this style of Japanese green tea, now would be the perfect time to put an end to that drought. Trust the Japanese tea expert at Yunomi to source the finest hojicha, and other teas of Japan, that you can experience.
Thank you to Ian Chun at Yunomi for providing this sample of Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea! Cheers!
The first harvest of the spring season is not only an exciting time for tea lovers because of the famous Darjeeling first flush teas that hit the markets. Tea growers in Japan also have some highly prized first flush teas, which they refer to as “Shincha”, which translates in to English as “new tea”. This first flush of Japanese grown tea is transformed in to some bright, tasteful, umami-rich versions of sencha, gyokuro, kamairicha, and matcha. Spring time is an awesome time of year to be a tea connoisseur.
The tea I am reviewing today, the Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori from Yuuki-Cha, is grown in the area of Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. You can see it’s location in the south of the Japan archipelago in the Google map below.
As the name suggests, this shincha uses ichibancha (first harvest) leaves from Saemidori cultivar tea bushes. The Saemidori cultivar was developed by cross pollination of the more well known Yabukita and Asatsuyu cultivars. This tea is processed in the “fukamushi” (deep) steaming method. This deep steaming gives the finished leaves their dark green color, and helps accentuate the rich umami character of the tea. The tea is certified organic by JAS, as are all of the teas offered on the Yuuki-Cha website.
I always enjoy the packaging that the teas from Yuuki-Cha come in. A good, airtight seal on the packages keeps the contents as fresh as possible. Opening the package releases an explosion of fresh green tea scent. It’s an exciting moment for me!
Let’s get to the review.
The dry leaves have two uniform colors, dark forest green and fresh, lighter green. The leaves are machine rolled, giving the standard long, tight roll appearance. There are a few stems in the mix, and no obvious tips, as expected. The leaves range in size from small crumbs to medium size fragments. I do not expect to find any full leaves in this mix. The aroma is incredible, with strong, sweet scents of brown sugar, sweet butter, grass, and cherry blossom. This tea defines freshness to me.
The dry tea leaves were infused in 160ºF water for 2:00 minutes on the first infusion, and 175ºF for 30 seconds on the second infusion.
The tea liquid has a beautiful, bright jade green color. The aroma has scents of sweet grass, butter, cherry blossom, cooked spinach, and light touch of fresh kelp. The body is medium, with a rich, buttery feel, and perfectly balanced umami character. The taste has notes of sweet grass, cherry blossom, cooked spinach, kelp, and a slight mineral touch. The aftertaste holds an amazing floral and mineral character, which lingers in the mouth for an extended period.
The wet leaves has a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves have a very soft, delicate, silky texture. The leaves consist of small to medium size fragments, with a few stems and even a few buds in the mix. The aroma has scents of sweet butter, grass, cherry blossom, and a light touch of kelp.
The Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori is exactly what I was looking for in this year’s line of shincha green teas. An amazingly fresh and sensational green tea from start to finish, from the aroma of the dry leaves to the taste of the last drop of the third infusion. The rich, buttery feel and the perfect amount of umami keeps the experience interesting all the way through. The fact that this is an organic product just makes it all the more worthy of my full respect and appreciation. Well done!
Here is a tea that I have been excited to review since receiving the package. Today, I have the time to give this high quality, beautiful tea the careful attention that it demands. This review will focus on the Organic Uji Gyokuro Gokou Green Tea from Yuuki-Cha. To view this tea at the Yuuki-Cha website, please click here.
Yuuki-Cha sourced this gyokuro green tea from a JAS certified organic garden in Ujitawara, in the Kyoto Prefecture of Japan. The leaves used in this gyokuro are harvested entirely from the Gokou tea bush cultivar, typically in the month of May. This particular garden shades the tea bushes, reducing the exposure to direct sunlight, for thirty days before harvesting. This particular product being from the May, 2014 harvest, which is considered the first harvest (Ichibancha) of 2014. The leaves are steamed at a medium level (Chumushi).
The gardens approach to creating a more natural product does not end in the organic methods used in cultivating the bushes. After a light processing, the leaves are not sorted or graded, and are sold as is. In the Japanese tea industry, unsorted or ungraded tea leaves are referred to as “aracha”. The end result is a truly unique, natural, and authentic gyokuro green tea.
The sample packet has been opened, and there is a high level of freshness in the smell that I have never experienced before (and this product is 10 months old!). Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves range in color from fresh, bright forest green to fresh, dark forest green, with a light glossy effect. The leaves are obviously unsorted, with fragments ranging in size from small crumbs to medium leaf fragments, with a few small pieces of bare stem in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled, with a somewhat soft (yet dry), fresh feel. For a tea that is nearly a year old, these leaves have an incredibly fresh character. The smell has scents of fresh dewy grass, brown sugar, sea mist, light dry kelp, and fresh wet forest floor.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 160°F (70°C). The leaves were infused for 2:00 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 140°F (60°C) to 150°F (65°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 minutes. Expect at least three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves, decreasing the steep time by 60 seconds on the second infusion, and increasing by 30 seconds on the third infusion and so on. Also, increase water temperature by 10°F (5°C) on each subsequent infusion starting with the second.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright jade green color, and a slightly cloudy appearance (as expected and typical). The aroma has scents of fresh kelp, butter, fresh cut grass, brown sugar, sea mist, and steamed asparagus. The body is medium-full, with a buttery, smooth texture. There is a very fresh, high quality umami character, even considering the higher than recommended water temperature used. There is also a modest astringency that can be attributed to the higher water temperature. The taste has notes of fresh cut sweet grass, kelp, butter, steamed asparagus, steamed spinach, sea mist, mineral (salt), and light brown sugar. The aftertaste carries the notes of sweet grass and buttered asparagus, with a light touch of brown sugar. A pleasing flowery essence evolves as a few seconds pass, and lingers on the breath.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh, dark forest green color, with the stem fragments being light forest green. The leaves range in size from crumbs to medium leaf fragments, with some stem fragments in the mix. The leaves have a very soft, delicate character, and have the consistency that would make for a tasteful snack with a splash or two of soy sauce. The smell is dominated by scents of fresh cut dewy grass and fresh kelp.
Although admittedly this is only my fourth or fifth gyokuro green tea, I can say with absolute certainty that it is levels above the others that I have tried. As you can understand by reading the descriptions above, the word fresh is the most accurate descriptive word for this product, and I have to state again that this product is nearly a year old! I will keeping a close on the Yuuki-Cha website this coming May, with intense excitement of the fresh harvests of 2015. This Organic Uji Gyokuro Gokou Green Tea embodies the best of what the Japanese tea industry offers to the world. The taste evolves beautifully through multiple infusions, and provides a positive experience from the very second the packet is opened through the consumption of the infused leaves. There is absolutely nothing to waste in this product! Whether you are new to gyokuro green tea or a veteran drinker of this type, give this product a try. If you are disappointed for any reason, please send it to me, and I will gladly enjoy it!
Thank you to Yuuki-Cha for sourcing this excellent Organic Uji Gyokuro Gokou Green Tea. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen, and to all those who celebrate today! Cheers!
Today’s review will focus on the Organic Tezumi Teira Kamairicha Kanayamidori Green Tea from Yuuki-Cha. You may view this product at the Yuuki-Cha website by clicking here.
One of the few remaining artisan Kamairicha green teas produced in Japan, this product is processed completely by hand. The leaves of the Kanayamidori cultivar tea bushes are hand-picked (Tezumi), and hand roasted (Teira), unlike the majority of Japanese Kamairicha green teas which are now plucked and roasted/processed with the help of machines. 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.
Kamairicha is a unique style of green tea in Japan. While other types of better known Japanese green teas such as sencha, gyokuro, and kabusecha are steamed in order to halt the enzymatic activity that causes oxidation, kamairicha teas are pan-fired, more similar to Chinese green teas. However, Kamairicha certainly holds it Japanese green tea qualities quite well, as we will see in the review below.
The sample packet has been opened, and the pan-firing gives this tea a completely different smell than other Japanese green teas. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark, slightly faded forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, and I expect to find a few unbroken leaves in the mix. There are no bare stems in the mix. There appears to be some young, fresh buds in the mix. The leaves are neatly hand-rolled, giving them a high quality appearance. The leaves appear to be quite young, as they are quite small. The leaves have a dry, rigid texture. The smell has scents of dry sweet grass, brown sugar, cherry blossom, and roses.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Spring water was heated to 185°F (85°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 175°F (80°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 minutes. Expect three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves, increasing the steep time by 30 seconds on each subsequent infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, welcoming greenish-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of steamed asparagus, cherry blossom, roses, grass, light cherry, very light brown sugar, and light sweet corn. The body is light-medium, with a pleasing umami quality, and a smooth, buttery, brothy texture. There is a considerable level of astringency. The taste has notes of fresh grass, steamed and buttered asparagus, cherry blossoms, roses, sweet corn, and lighter notes of cherries and nuts. The grassy, cherry blossom notes carry into the aftertaste, and leave a refreshingly sweet essence in the mouth.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh bright forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with some unbroken leaves in the mix. There are no completely bare stems, and a few young buds in the mix. The leaves are quite small, with the largest unbroken leaf measuring just slightly over one inch (25 mm). The leaves have a soft, tender texture. The smell has scents of fresh cut grass, steamed asparagus, and lighter scents of roses and cherry blossoms.
The Organic Tezumi Terei Kamairicha Kanayamidori Green Tea from Yuuki-Cha is a perfect counterpart to the steamed green teas of Japan. If you overindulge in one type, the other type is there to provide the desired character. This artisan Japanese green tea has a refreshing character, with vegetal and floral aromas and tastes, and complete with a satisfying umami touch. The leaves provide consistent quality of aroma and taste through at least three to four infusions. Throw in the fact that this green tea is organically certified by the JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard), and I consider this product to be a keeper.
For a reason that I cannot seem to grasp, I have had a desire for Japanese and South Korean teas. Perhaps my somewhat limited experience with the products from these two nations, particularly South Korea, played a role in this desire. Although I have had most of the tea types that originate from Japan, I cannot say that I have the same level of knowledge as I have with Sri Lanka or India, for example. Thankfully, I do have a few samples left from my most recent shipment from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms in Wazuka, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.
As I perused the various types of sencha, I came across the light roast hojicha and kyobancha. Both of these teas are of the roasted variety. After some research, I chose the kyobancha, as it is said to be not only difficult to find outside of Japan, but inside as well. This style of roasted green tea is produced only in the Kyoto Prefecture of Japan, according to the informational sources I found. The Kyobancha leaves used by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms are harvested in March using the leaves that matured during the winter months. The leaves are not rolled, so they are quite light and fluffy. The leaves are steamed, dried, then roasted. Although I was not able to confirm the cultivar through my research, I am assuming it is the Yabukita.
Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms was the first Japanese tea farm that I had the pleasure of learning about in my earlier tea tasting days. They provide a noteworthy amount of information on each of their products on their webpage, http://www.obubutea.com/. They also offer tea internships! If only I had known of tea in my college days, I would have absolutely loved to have such an experience! If you are a student, or are fortunate enough to have the time and money to get away for a few months, check out their internship program.
The sample packet has been opened, and a robust, sweet, and woodsy sent is filling the air. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform brown color. The leaves are all fragments, and range from crumbs to large fragments. There are also a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are not rolled, and thus are light and thin, with a smooth texture. The leaves are very dry, and crack easily into coarse fragments. The larger leaves measure about 1.5 inches (43 mm) in length. The smell of the dry leaves carries strong scents of sweet wood, roasted nuts, light char, light molasses, and an overall earthy character.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°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 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. You can expect three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.
There are many different ways that you can prepare this tea. Since the leaves are roasted, there is little chance of scorching the leaves and creating a bitter brew by using boiling water. You may also use cold water and infuse for three hours to create a sweet cold brew. Also, this tea is very low in caffeine, so it is a good tea for evenings, and for caffeine-sensitive tea drinkers.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a orange-brown color and a light gold tint. The liquor is clear and transparent, with a considerable amount of coarse leaf particles. The aroma has scents of sweet wood, roasted nuts, light char, and wet autumn leaves. The body is light, with a smooth and clean texture. The taste has notes of sweet wood, char, roasted nuts, autumn leaves, and just a touch of dry grass. The aftertaste carries the notes of sweet wood and light char. In some ways, the aftertaste has a roasted character reminiscent of light roast coffee. The overall energy of this tea is very comforting. Given the snow falling and winter-like temperatures of Pittsburgh today, this tea has given my morning a little more warmth.
The infused leaves have a uniform tar black color. As mentioned above, all leaves are fragments ranging from crumbs to large pieces. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves have the feel of dried, cracked, thin leather, and the surface is more coarse than it felt when dry. The smell has scents of sweet wood, char, earth, and wet autumn leaves.
Having enjoyed the various roasts of hojicha from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms, I assumed that I would not be disappointed by the Kyobancha. That assumption was correct, thankfully. I consider the Kyobancha to be slightly more robust, earthy, and woodsy than the hojicha products, while the hojicha products are more refined. Whether I am drinking hojicha or kyobancha, the overall character is similar enough that both are highly comforting, warming, and satisfying. The Kyobancha Roasted Green Tea is another unique and enjoyable product coming the Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms.
Thanks to Simona, and all of the management and workers, at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms for providing me with this sample of Kyobancha Roasted Green Tea. Cheers!
Here is an interesting Japanese green tea that I have not opened in a few months, but certainly deserves a review. This is the Shincha Hatsuzumi (1st Flush 2014) Green Tea. This product was purchased from Yunomi.US. You may find the website by clicking here.
This Shincha Green Tea was produced on Tanegashima Island, one of the Osumi Islands, in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan. Tanegashima Island is fairly flat topographically, with the highest point being measured at 282 meters (925 feet) above sea level. Tanegashima Island produces little tea in comparison with other growing areas of Japan, so the May to Spring Shincha season produces the best quality sencha style teas coming from Tanegashima Island. As is common with Japanese teas, identifying the exact estate that provided the tea leaves in this product is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Especially considering that the leaves may have originated from several estates on Tanegashima Island.
As mentioned in earlier posts, Shincha is the Japanese green tea version of a first flush, or first harvest of a new growing year, tea. The aromas and tastes are generally known for being more delicate and complex than later harvests of the same growing year.
The retail package has been opened, and a sweet, grassy fragrance is filling the air. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform fresh and dark forest green color, with a slight gleam. The leaves are all small leaf fragments, with a considerable amount of crumbs. The leaves are machine rolled, and there are few stems in the mix. The tea leaves are steamed. The leaves are thin, needle shaped, and crack easily. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, very light brown sugar, and light dry seaweed.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to about 140°F to 160°F (60°C to 70°C). Steep first infusion for 1:00 to 1:30 minutes, second infusion for 0:30 minutes, then add 15 to 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion. Expect to get three or four infusions out of the same serving of leaves.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright yellowish-jade green color, with a slight haze, and very fine particulate. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, steamed spinach, steamed asparagus, and steamed seaweed. The body is light-medium, with light yet creamy, rich texture. There is a pleasant moderate umami character. The taste has notes of sweet grass, steamed spinach and asparagus, and steamed seaweed. The aftertaste is grassy, and a pleasing flowery essence is left on the breath.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with the stems having a lighter fresh green color. The leaves are all small fragments. The leaves have a very soft, smooth, delicate texture. I can easily imagine putting soy sauce on these leaves and eating them for a post tea snack. The aroma continues the scents of fresh wet grass, steamed asparagus and spinach, and steamed seaweed.
The Shincha Hatsuzumi 1st Flush 2014 Green Tea impressed me the most with its unique texture, having both a light-medium body, but a rich and creamy feel. It is difficult to explain, but it was certainly different than sencha teas from later harvests. The aromas and tastes are very fresh and invigorating, promoting refreshment, relaxation, as well as a sense of heightened awareness. This green tea embodies all of the positive characteristics that Japanese green teas are so well respected for.
Thank you to Ian Chun at Yunomi.Us for working so hard to bring Japanese tea farmers and the rest of the tea consuming world together in one marketplace. Cheers!
Last year, I found myself late to the Shincha ordering party, and was left empty handed. This year I made it a priority to order some before it was gone. I wanted to try products from various locations and various cultivars. What better place to find diverse products of the same style of Japanese teas than Yunomi.us? Check out the Yunomi.us website here, and you will find plenty of interesting Japanese teas and related accessories.
Shincha is the Japanese equivalent of First Flush, or first harvest of the new growing year. The famous Yabukita cultivar is harvested by hand in late April. This tea is from the NaturaliTea, an organic farm located in Takizawa, Fujieda City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Shincha teas are well known for their combination of sweet and bitter flavors, and the temperature used to steep the leaves has a signficant effect on the balance of the sweet and bitter characters.
One of my first descriptive words of any Japanese green tea is usually “fresh”, so I am excited to try one that I know is only a month past its harvest date. The tea packet has been opened, and an incredibly fresh, grassy aroma is filling the air. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The leaves are rolled, and are quite uniform in size. The leaves are all medium fragments. There are no whole leaves or stems in the mix. The aroma is very fresh, with strong scents of fresh grass, dark green vegetables, and light sweet wood.
Seven grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 160ºF (70ºC). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds (1:30).
The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale jade green color, somewhat hazy, with some medium sized particles. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, cooked dark green vegetables, and seaweed. The body is light, with a somewhat brothy, smooth texture. The taste is sweet and bitter, with notes of fresh grass, cooked dark green vegetables, seaweed, and sea mist. The aftertaste is grassy and very lightly floral, and a grassy and clean essence can be felt on the breath.
Steep time was shortened to one minute on the second infusion. The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of pale jade green, again somewhat hazy, and more fine particles. The aroma remains strong, with scents of fresh grass, cooked dark green vegetables, and seaweed. The body remains light, and the texture is brothy and smooth. The taste is nearly identical to the first infusion, with a nice balance of bitter and sweet characters. The aftertaste remains grassy and very lightly floral.
Infusion time was increased to one minute fifteen seconds on the third infusion. The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of jade green than the first and second infusions, with a slight gold tint. The haziness is lighter, but still remains, and the particles are finer than in the second infusion. The aroma has lightened some, and has scents of fresh grass and sea mist. The body and texture have lightened some. The taste has also lightened, and retains notes of fresh grass, seaweed, sea mist, and light cooked green vegetable. The vegetable taste has lightened significantly. The aftertaste remains grassy, but the essence is more floral than previous infusions. The third infusion has plenty of character, and I expect a fourth infusion, and less confidently a fifth infusion to produce acceptable results.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark green color. The leaves are all medium fragments. There are no whole leaves or stems in the mix. The leaves are very soft, saturated, and silky to the touch, and quite easy to tear. These leaves are definitely suitable for consumption. The aroma has scents of cooked dark green vegetables, seaweed, and a very light and sweet floral hint.
The Organic Hand-Picked Midori Shincha Green Tea lived up to the reputation of having strong and well balanced flavors. For newcomers to Japanese green teas, I would probably recommend not starting with this tea, as it is quite powerful. For those who are familiar with Japanese green teas and looking to take their taste experience to the next level, this is certainly an excellent tea to try. People who like vegetal taste in green tea will truly enjoy this product.
I plan to hold on to some of this product for a few months. I must admit that my taste for the various forms and harvests of Japanese sencha is underdeveloped, as I have a difficult time identifying the differences between this Shincha, and later harvests of Sencha. The best way to train the mind and palate is to do side by side comparisons, and that I will do later this year.
Thank you to Yunomi.us anad Matcha Latte Media for providing an excellent platform to discover Japanese teas. Cheers!
Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.
It was one of those days, today. The kind of day where the phone rang so often that preparing a pot of tea, let alone enjoying it, was not about to happen. I do not get those days very often, which is one of the benefits of making sure that my work is completed two weeks ahead of schedule. However, occassionally, it seems that today was the day when an unusually large percentage of clients out of the 1,400 that I manage decided to call with questions and concerns. I cannot be upset about that. After all, I do get paid to do that work. I would be lying if I said that I was not anxiously waiting all day to find that half hour or so to sit and enjoy some tea. The fact that I had received four teas from Myanmar and a package of three different blends in the past twenty-four hours was not helping my anxiety.
Regardless, here I am. It is 6:30 PM. My son did not take his nap at his grandmother’s house today, so he is sleeping already. My house is quiet again, and with the darkness taking over outside, there is nothing that I can be doing that I am not. Now, finally, is a perfect time to prepare and enjoy my elixir.
After a long, mentally exhausting day, I need a tea that is going to get my energy balanced again. I did not have the chance to drink much liquid today, so a refreshing, hydrating tea is definitely the prescription. Refreshment, hydration, and an uplifting effect … sounds like tonight calls for a high quality Japanese green tea.
Only the best quality out of my remaining samples of Japanese green tea will do, that being the Kabuse Sencha (no Gyokuro in this package, unfortunately). This sample was provided by the great people at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. Please check out their website here.
This Kabuse Sencha is produced using the leaves of the Yabukita cultivar. The tea bushes that are destined to produce Kabuse Sencha are covered to block out 85% of sunlight for about two weeks before the leaves are harvested, allowing the leaves to develop higher concentrations of amino acids. After harvesting, the leaves are lightly steamed, dried, and ready for shipping. This is obviously an oversimplification of the entire process of producing this tea, but you get the idea.
The packet has been opened, and the fresh, dark forest green appearance of these leaves is already making me feel better. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a fresh, dark forest green color, with the stems and veins displaying a bright green color. The leaves have a slight glimmer effect to them. The leaves are rolled, medium sized fragments. There are no whole leaves in the mix, as expected. There are no bare stems or twigs. The aroma is sweet, with scents of fresh cut grass, sweet hay, and a touch of light brown sugar.
Five grams of leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 160ºF (70ºC). The leaves were infused for one minute.
The first infusion produced a liquor with light, pale jade color. There was a very slight haze to the liquid, but still transparent. The aroma is fresh, with scents of fresh cut grass, cooked leafy vegetables, and sea mist. The body is light-medium, with a smooth, syrupy texture. The taste has the classic savory (umami) character, with notes of fresh cut grass, cooked leafy vegetables, sea mist, and a light sweetness. The aftertaste is brisk and grassy, with a flowery essence left on the breath.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a darker shade of pale jade green-yellow color. The aroma remains fresh, with scents of fresh cut grass and sea mist. The body and texture remain the same. The savory character has lightened some, and the sweetness has changed to a more vegetal taste. The notes of fresh cut grass and sea mist are most dominant. The aftertaste remains brisk and grassy, with a flowery essence.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a light color than the second infusion, but slightly darker than the first infusion. The aroma remains grassy, misty, and fresh. The body has lightened some. The taste remains grassy and misty, but still quite tasteful. Although lighter in all aspects, the third infusion is very enjoyable and refreshing.
The infused leaves have a fresh off the bush dark forest green color to them. The stems and veins have a slightly lighter green color. All leaves are medium fragments. There are no bare stems or twigs. The leaves are very soft and delicate. The aroma has scents of wet fresh cut grass and sea mist.
This Kabuse Sencha from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms was the perfect tea to study tonight. It provided me with all of the benefits that I was looking for in a tea. It was refreshing, hydrating, and uplifting. Although I admit that Japanese sencha and other lightly steamed green teas are not always my preferred products, there is an energy specific to Japanese and Korean steamed green teas that I have not found in other green teas. Perhaps it is the effect of the higher amino acid content, higher caffeine, etc. Or perhaps the love and reverence that these two cultures have for their teas can be felt in the infused leaves. Either way, I am always left pondering after a review of a Japanese or Korean green tea as to why I do not drink them more often.
Thank you again to Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms for providing another excellent sample. Cheers!
Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.
The second sample that was provided courtesy of Nina’s Paris is called Nina’s Japon. This blend of black tea, Japanese green tea which appears to be a mix of sencha and lightly roasted houjicha, and toasted rice, is enhanced with caramel and vanilla flavoring. For more information on Nina’s Paris, visit their website here. Don’t forget to read my recent review of Nina’s Paris Tigre Blanc Oolong tea.
The sample pack is opened, and a sweet aroma of caramel and vanilla is filling the air. Let the journey begin.
The dry leaves, being a blend of black tea and two styles of green tea, vary in color from pale light green to greenish-brown to black. There are popped rice grains throughout the mixture. The leaves appear to be a blend of Japanese sencha, Japanese houjicha (roasted green tea, see notes in infused leaves section), and black tea that is difficult to determine the origin, but it may be Japanese also. All tea leaves are rolled, and small to medium sized fragments. The aroma has strong scents of vanilla and caramel, with a toasty scent from the popped rice grains.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for one minute and thirty seconds.
The first infusion produced a bright, golden-orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of vanilla, caramel, and toasted grains. The fragrance is very sweet and smooth. The body is light-medium, with a round feel. The first taste that I noticed is the toasted rice grains, which is quickly complimented by caramel and vanilla. There is a light astringency, and a caramel and vanilla aftertaste. The taste is like a liquid version of caramel popcorn. Each style of tea used in this blend can be felt in light undertones, from the grassy flavor of the sencha to the body and slight maltiness of the black tea. There are quite a few levels to the taste of this tea.
The second infusion produced a liquor that was surprisingly similar in color as the first infusion, having a golden-orange color. The aroma has retained the caramel and vanilla scents, with the toasted grain scent weakening some. The body remains light-medium, and the feel has flattened some. The astringency has weakened, and the caramel and vanilla tastes are dominant. Overall, I am surprised by how well this tea maintained flavor in the second infusion. The natural tea tastes can be still be felt under the tastes of the caramel and vanilla flavoring.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter, golden-yellow color. The fragrance continues to fill the room, with strong scents of vanilla and caramel. The body is lighter. Notes of vanilla and caramel are dominant in the taste, with very light undertones of toasted grains. The black tea flavor can be felt more than the green tea in this infusion. This third infusion certainly produced an acceptable flavor.
The infused leaves vary in color from the copper of the black tea to the fresh forest green of the sencha. As I look through these leaves, I am having a hard time finding any definite houjicha leaves, making me wonder if what I saw in the dry leaves were simply some unintentionally lightly oxidized green tea leaves. To add to the evidence of this possibility, I see some green tea leaves with slightly red edges (oxidation). Most of the leaves are small fragments, with a few medium sized fragments in the mix. The aroma has scents of vanilla, caramel, and toasted grains, with a slight maltiness from the black tea.
The blend of toasted grains, sweet flavoring, and the natural astringency of the tea gave Nina’s Japon a nice balance of tastes. The aroma was very fragrant, filling the room with a sweet, toasty scent. The liquor was smooth, and the first infusion had a nice round feel. Even if you prefer straight teas, it is difficult not to enjoy sipping on these masterfully flavored teas from Nina’s Paris. If you like flavored teas, definitely give Nina’s Paris a try. Cheers!
As I begin writing this post, I realize that the only bancha that I have ever tasted came as part of the samples included in my Certified Tea Professional course through the American Tea Masters Association. Certainly, then, I have not written a review on a bancha yet. Thank you to Kyoto Obubu Tea for providing this sample. To learn more about Obubu Tea, check out their website here.
The Yanagi Bancha from Obubu Tea is produced from the same bushes as their Kabuse Sencha is made from. The leaves and twigs that are found in the Yanagi Bancha are harvested about a month after the Kabuse Sencha harvest. This second harvesting helps promote leaf growth and volume on the tea bushes. Generally, bancha is considered a lower quality tea by Japanese standards, but if it comes from Obubu, I am more than happy to give it a try.
The sample pack has been opened, and I have detected smells of dry grass, sweet hay, and a slight cedar chip-like scent. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a forest green to dark green color, with the twigs having a yellow color. The leaves are tightly rolled, and larger than most sencha teas, indicating the more mature leaves cut from the tea bushes for this particular style of tea. There are quite a few stems and twigs present. The leaves are all fragments, with no unbroken leaves, as is common with Japanese teas. The aroma has scents of dry grass, sweet hay, and wood (cedar chips).
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Leaves were infused for one minute on the first infusion, forty seconds on the second, and one minute on the third.
The first infusion produced a pale yellow color with a slight haze, but still transparent. The aroma had scents of hay, dry grass, wood, and slight marine hint. The body is medium, with a mildly savory (umami) mouth feel. The taste had notes of hay, dry grass, moderate astringency, and a slightly salty, marine seawater note. The aftertaste had notes of grass, with a mild flowery essence being left on the breath. To breath in through the mouth gives a salty feel in the mouth, like inhaling sea myst. This is not a bad characteristic, but certainly unusual. I tasted the filtered water by itself to make sure that my water was not strange, and it tasted normal to me. Also, I had nothing to eat or drink for two hours leading up to the tasting, so I have concluded that this salty taste is either authentic and chemistry related, or I am misreading the astringency level.
The second infusion produced a liquor with pale yellow color and a light jade tint. The aroma remains grassy, with scents of hay and sea myst. The body remains medium, and the savory (umamu) feel has lightened, but is still there. The taste also remains the same, with the astringency not lightening at all. The aftertaste is grassy with hints of sea myst. The salty sea myst feel remains in the mouth when inhaling.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical color to the second infusion. The aroma remains the same, perhaps slightly lighter. The body has lightened, and the savory (umami) character has lightened to the extent that it is nearly non-existent. The taste retains the same characteristics, with the astringency lightening considerably.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with the stems and twigs having a greenish-yellow color. All leaves are fragments, but there are some that are quite large, as the photo above shows, again indicating more mature leaves. After four infusions, the leaves still have some durability with a slightly leathery feel. Although the fourth infusion was lighter than the first three, I believe a fifth infusion is possible. The aroma had the scent of cooked leafy green vegetables.
This Yanagi Bancha green tea from Kyoto Obubu Tea was quite different than any other tea that I have had in recent memory. Although I prefer a better grade of sencha over this bancha, it still has plenty of Japanese green tea character to offer. The marine, sea mist taste and feel were interesting, but again I recognize the possibility that I may have been misreading the astringency level or perhaps another taste altogether. Honestly, I probably would not have this tea in my personal collection, but if I came to a point where I wanted Japanese green tea and had a strict budget to follow, I would not hesitate to purchase this Yanagi Bancha.
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