1338 Tasting Notes
Konnichi wa ocha no yūjin!
Or if that made no sense:
Hello tea friends!
Japan is a country that inspires me to the point of being in awe. The culture, the technology, the religions, their traditions, and especially their tea. I thought I had experienced everything a few years ago that had to do with tea, until I went into the world of Japanese tea. There is nothing like it! If you have never tried Japanese tea for yourself then I highly recommend trying it. Part of this reason is because Japanese tea contains umami which is the fifth taste which translates to ‘pleasant savoury taste’. It may sound strange for a tea to taste savoury but I tend to liken it to a soup broth, completely unique and bursting with flavours. This is why I am so taken with Japanese tea in general.
I am happy and excited to be drinking some First Flush Midori Shincha by NaturaliTea as sold by Yunomi. No idea what Midori or Shincha is? Let me break it down: Midori means green and Shincha translates to ‘new tea’ which refers to when it was picked. Basically a Shincha is the first harvest of Sencha leaves which is also known as Ichibancha ‘ the first picked tea’. Besides the fresh aroma of the young leaves, Shincha is characterised by its relatively low content of bitter catechin and caffeine, and relatively high content of amino acid. This makes the Shincha harvested limited in size of the batch and also the time it is picked. And to finish off for Japanese tea newbies Sencha is a ryokucha or green tea cultivar that is indigenous to Japan, so much so that Sencha is Japans most commonly consumed tea with Sencha production being 80% of all tea produced in Japan.
Now it’s time for the tea itself. Opening the sample pack reveals bright, glossy green leaf shards that are loosely broken. They bare a gorgeous sweet grass and mineral scent.
Steeping a Japanese tea is rather different than steeping a general green tea, the water temperature and steeping length can either enhance the umami or bypass it. A lot of it comes down to experimentation and preference; I like a nice umami which often comes through in low temperature water and short steeps. So I will be trying to find the umami goodness. Another thing you often find is the change of temperature, an example being the first steep at 80C, the second at 40 C and third at 70C. Again that would be because it enhances the umami quality.
My Steeping Parameters: 200ml Yunomi (Japanese cup), 360ml Futanashi Tokoname (lidless teapot used to enhance freshness and scent), 10g loose leaf.
I want another note: my teapot is larger than my yunomi but I will only be using my teapot to 200ml. Also this is a sizeable yunomi that needed to be adjusted for. Otherwise I would recommend 3g of leaf to 60ml water.
Also, Yunomi bared this note: Our recommend steeping method is to use water cooled to about 40˚C/105˚F steeped for 2-3 minutes for the best balance between sweetness and umami (savory) flavors.
For that reason my first steep will be 2 minutes at 40C. (Room temperature is usually around 20C).
Once steeped the resulting tea liquid is cloudy, golden yellow colour that bares a vegetable (broccoli) and sweet grass scent. Not dissimilar to it’s raw state.
The first sips reveals a strong, broth like flavour packed with sweet grass, spinach, kale and mixed flowers with a pleasant, bitter aftertaste that lightens and becomes sweeter. That was the first sip, as you can see it packs a lot of different flavours and information in it. The after taste is lingering for very long in my mouth. I say broth because it reminds me of a strong, hearty, soup broth full of green vegetables.
The umami is very strong, so much so that I feel like I’ve jumped into an ice cold bath with every punching sip I take. But I can’t stop myself from sipping. The umami washes over me with warmth and wide eyed energy. A few sips more lighten the tea while my tongue adjusts to this unique flavour. It detects sweet honey and salty seaweed notes among the ever growing broth blend.
Second Steep – 80C for 45 seconds (see the jump in temperature?)
So the shorter steep at hotter temperature is mostly because I want to test the body of the green tea. Umami comes out in the first steep but it gets weaker over time, that is why I Umami the first steep and green tea the rest of it.
Yes, the umami is less than half of what it was. The punch that it packed is now a shadow of it’s former self; that being said it’s still a strong steep. It still has strong sweet grass and vegetal tones, and it’s also a little bitter; but it is lacking as much depth and oomph as the first steep. This is a good example of how much water temperature and steeping time can change a Japanese tea.
The sweetness is less so it’s not honeyed in this steep but it is hay like and grassy. In terms of broth this is mid level, like the vegetables are in a pan with water and steeping for a while, enough to have flavoured the water, but there is still more flavour left to go.
Third Steep – 60C for 30 seconds (another temperature change)
Why the change? I want a lower temperature to increase any remaining umami that is left, whilst lessening the steeping time a little to try and reduce the bitterness. This is another example of why I said it’s best to experiment with Japanese teas, it’s all down to personal preference. Some people will read this and think I had it too strong or perhaps don’t agree with my parameters at all. I didn’t plan on the times for my second or third steep but I read what I wanted from the tea and it’s potential.
Was it a good decision to change? Yes. This steep is very light in taste but some umami can be found admidst the sweet, bitterness. This cup is more raw cabbage like than broccoli. It bares the same mineral, green sort of taste. While it’s immensely weaker in strength I feel if it was warmer it would have been too bitter to appreciate the remaining umami. As such just before the bitterness kicks in and the powerful sweetness I can taste the broth.
This was a nice Shincha that packed an incredible umami punch. Sweet yet savoury, vegetal yet bitter, it was a delicious combination in one tea. I would recommend it to umami lovers or those looking to experience it for the first time. If you are then stick with short steeps and 70-80C temp until you find it at your desired level. Don’t be put off if you dislike it the first time around, it may take time to get it to your personal taste. And once you do it will grow on you! Plus not forgetting that this is Organic I can tell the clarity of the flavours once prepared. There is nothing in this tea that tastes chemical or unnatural.
If you haven’t experienced many Japanese teas before then I hope I have given you insight.
Until next time, Happy Steeping!
Hello Tea Friends!
Today I will be reviewing some Dian Hong Cha from Teabook. If you are new to tea then here is some translating: Dian – Shorter version of Yunnan, a province in China known for tea growing. Hong means red which refers to it’s colour, in China it’s known as red tea but in Western countries it’s a black tea. Cha literally means tea. So it’s Yunnan Red Tea. This tea is also known as Yunnan Black or Yunnan Red but as there are many different types of black/red teas produced in Yunnan it can be a little confusing using the generic naming. This is why Dian Hong is most commonly used for differentiation.
Personally I do love a nice Dian Hong, they tend to have more tippy golden buds in general, assuming it’s of a nice quality. For this I have no idea until I open it, so let’s get to it. Actually first before I rip the top off the sachet like a monkey peeling a banana let me mention the sachet itself, Teabook sell these sachets in pre weighed bags to make it easier for drinking and transportation. Each sachet is 3g.
Opening the packet I can see some thin, dark leaves with a couple of golden tips. Altogether 3g is around 10 pieces of loosely broken leaves. They bare a dry, wooden scent with some sweetness. I say 3g but the sachet weight is included in that too.
Steeping this Western style: 2-3g into a 320ml glass cup with infuser for 3 minutes boiling water. Usually I do three steeps with Dian Hong in a teapot but 3g is not enough for me to do that to my desired strength.
Once steeped the tea is golden red in colour and bares a very mild malt and wood scent.
Flavour is very mild at first, further sips reveal a hint of sweet malt. There is some drying in the after taste that coats my tongue somewhat. The strength does not increase but the sweet, honeyed malt remains. It’s only noticeable really toward the after taste.
I am torn at this point. I do not want to write a negative review but I do need to be honest. While there was nothing wrong with the tea I personally (and I stress personally) believe that 2g loose leaf tea is not enough for a cup. If I had some Dian Hong whilst relaxing at home I would use 4-5g for a Western brew and 6-7 for a gaiwan. Both would be suitable for multiple steeps at that level of strength.
So the sachet idea is good but it should be at least 5g of tea in my honest opinion. That way it could be Western steeped or used in Gaiwan/Gong Fu Teapot and would be happy in both instances. Perhaps 2g is good for new tea drinkers adjusting to the taste of loose leaf, though even then I would recommend a higher dose.
Apologies to Teabook but that is my brutally honest opinion.
Until next time,
A tea re-visit. Whilst preparing some tea tonight I found myself stuck with what tea to have. This was one of the front teas in my cupboard so I thought I would refresh my memory of it. Reading my previous SororiTea Sisters review I mentioned it was too light. So this time I am gaiwan steeping it.
Original try – 200ml gongfu teapot with 3 nuggets.
Today – 100ml gaiwan with 4 nuggets.
From what I remember there was little difference between the two sessions. The cream was at the front with wood and earth tones behind a soft sweetness. All very smooth and easy to drink. Not something you could over steep by taste. It’s inoffensive yet the creaminess makes it desirable.
My husband rarely drinks tea outside of a standard tea bag (much to my dislike) but even his average pallet mentioned tasting cream. Not to put him down but I think coffee has ruined most of his taste, he usually tastes very little in things.
I will have to keep this on stand by as it’s one of the only Shu I can bring myself to drink these days.
Hello Tea Friends,
Today I will be reviewing an interesting and somewhat traditional Tibetan tea called Holy Flame. This tea is intended to be used as the base for Tibetan Yak Butter Tea (Po Cha) which is consumed daily in Tibet. I have tried some instant mixes for Yak Butter Tea in the past and honestly found them disgusting, though saying that I am not a buttermilk fan in general. I found it to be far too salty and sickly that I couldn’t drink it. Perhaps having it fresh would make a difference but I may never find out. Either way when I saw Holy Flame for sale and the intention for the tea I was immediately interested to try it. I may not have liked Yak Butter Tea but I may like the Sheng base. I also like the idea of drinking something that is common in Tibet and actually what they would drink themselves. Though I have never visited, Tibet has always been a wondrous place in my mind
Opening the packet (which has awesome wrapper art by the way) I can note the Chinese characters for Xiaguan which is a district in China as well as being a town near the Southern end of Yunnan. Primarily speaking this region is very well known for their tea production and have some wonderful teas to boast. The brick is rather dark in colour with a hue of brown, dark brown and dark green colours. I can also note some stems/sticks are present and the leaves are a mixture of sizes as though they were loosely chopped before processing. It smells musty and wooden though subtle with a hint of smoke.
The tea has some steeping instructions on the website.
Use 5-10 grams of leaves and brew with 75-150ml ( 2.5-5oz ) of water at or near boiling. Rinse once for a few seconds. Start with quick steeps under 10s. With each re-steep adjust the steep time to your taste.
My steeping parameters: 100ml gaiwan, 7g leaf, boiling water. I will also rinse the leaf as suggested.
First Steep – 7 seconds
The tea soup is light brown in colour and bares a dry earth and smoke scent.
The flavour is mild in comparison to it’s pungent aroma. There is a smoky taste with some astringency in the after taste that leads to some dryness. Further bowls show an increase of depth and it becomes stronger though not by much.
Second Steep – 7 seconds
The astringency is stronger and now bares a wooden must that somewhat matches the scent. It’s certainly strong and powerful considering such short steeps. The smoke still lingers in the aftertaste.
Third Steep – 10 seconds
This is a more balanced steep in terms of astringency and smoke, either that or my pallet is used to it. However, the dryness has increased in the aftertaste and leaves my tongue almost dry.
Fourth Steep – 15 seconds
The first sip comes across as astringent but it quickly softens into a smoky melody that envelopes my tongue and dances on the taste buds. Also the dryness is still present though not much of an issue.
Fifth Steep – 20 seconds
Even on this steep it’s strong with ever pressing smoke and astringency. Also some sweetness coming through in the after taste.
Sixth Steep – 25 seconds
This is starting to relax in strength but it’s still at a nice level. Smoke and wood with astringency still hang in the aftertaste.
Seventh Steep – 30 seconds
It’s certainly starting to calm down but still has each flavour present.
Eighth Steep – 40 seconds
And the flame burns out. There is little left in this steep apart from subtle smoke, a distance memory of a once lively Holy Flame that burnt bright.
Conclusion: This Sheng packs a pleasant punch with a lot of mouth feel that makes you wonder what each steep will bring. Like the flame of a candle; it burnt brighter and intensified until it inevitably burnt itself out to leave a smoky finish. Alright that is enough fire talk, I will extinguish any more fire based puns before I get on someone’s wick.
On a more serious note, it promised to be a strong tea and it delivered. Not only that but considering I used average leaf weight for minimum steep time it produced eight successful steeps. While this may be cheap and intended to be used as a base tea I like it as it is. It’s very suited for an everyday tea and I know I will end up taking this to work to drink so I can close my eyes with each sip and pretend I’m in Tibet.
Until next time, Happy Steeping!
I want to state that this cake contained some very random finds, such as corn kernels and some sort of crumbling red stone. Yet I still kept and tasted the tea. While it has some nice large leaves and silver tips it’s also very easy to split the cake and it bares a soft wood scent.
In terms of taste it’s subtle but pleasurable enough. Soft, sweet floral highlights mixed with dry, sour wood and a touch of stone fruit.
It quickly runs out of flavour though and is suited to every day drinking. While it may not be special at least it’s drinkable, even if it does come with some surprises.
I’ve almost finished my 100g bag of this without writing a tea review. In honesty I wasn’t overly keen on this tea but it came in handy for those awkward times that I want tea but have no idea which tea to have. That is the reason I have it today actually, after this cup I have one mugs worth of leaf left. I’m thankful I chose this tea today because when I sat down my cat Ollie jumped onto me for fuss and he lay in my arms for 15 or so minutes. All that while my tea was steeping, but the good thing about this tea is it’s very forgiving. Most black teas would have to be thrown away after such a long steep but this is still mild and unoffensive.
It’s slightly fruity (like dates) mixed with dry chestnut and toasted wood. It’s extremely light, even after that long steep, which makes it easy to drink. There is also a sweetness coming from the date fruit character that becomes slightly sour in the after taste before leaving a dry finish.
It’s not a bad tea, it’s just not my favourite and honestly once it’s gone I will probably forget what it was like. It was suitable as an everyday tea and is easy to transport to work etc when the mood struck. I do find on the whole that Thai teas tend to be fruity and light in comparison to Chinese and Indian black teas which are much darker. If I had to liken this to anything then it would probably be similar to a mild Darjeeling but without the muscatel notes.
Tea number 3 from my Bruu Tea Club package.
This tea us dark brown and loosely chopped, leaving a mixture of small and medium sized pieces with some sticks/stems. In raw form it bares a smokey, dry wood scent.
Once steeped an orange liquid is produced with a malt, sour wood scent.
Flavour is medium strength with sour wood and light malt tones. There is also a soft smoky element towards a dry after taste. A few more sips increase the richness from the malt but it’s still only a medium strength, I imagine this might be forgiving if you steep it too long.
It’s very easy to drink, only a touch of sourness but in a nice way. No need for sugar or milk and would be a nice afternoon brew.
I received my first Bruu Tea Club package today after being tempted by a trial price of £2.99 for my first one instead of the usual £10. One thing that temped me was that you get random little things included each month, one blog review mentioned receiving seeds, chocolates, tealights, tealight paper holder, sweets and that sort of thing. I always love a surprise so I took the plunge.
I took a picture of my box on Instagram.
As you can see this box was Olympic themed and I got a random flag (Somalia in this case), a party blower, a cocktail umbrella and a gold coin chocolate. It also comes with a printed club letter explaining a little information about the teas and some notes on the gifts included with the theme for this months box.
The first tea I tried was Pina Colada Green which is coming to SororiTea Sisters soon. Second is this Brazilian Blend which I have already had a cup of this earlier and my review will be to the second cup. It’s a little silly really because I didn’t know what it tasted of before so I don’t know how I’m going to review it this time.
Ingredients: Mate Green, Red Currants, Papaya Pieces, Bamboo Leaves, Rose Petals and Strawberry Chips.
Raw Leaf: I can see a leaf heavy mix with some rose petals and strawberry chips in though not many, and even less papaya pieces. It smells like soft tropical fruit with a fresh herbalness behind it.
Once Steeped: A yellow liquid is created that bares a mate, herbal type of smell. Don’t ask me what mate smells like because I have no idea how to explain it, it has it’s own unique smell. Think herbal, grassy and toasted all in one.
Flavour wise the mate is the strongest which matches the scent I tried to describe above. It’s not too dry or strong which becomes sweeter with the fruity after taste. Refreshing and light making it easily drinkable which is why I had a second cup of it, that and the stimulating effect. I’ve tried mate a few times and haven’t liked it but this was actually pleasant.
I’m glad I took a chance with the Bruu Tea Club, I have one more tea to try and have agreed to carry on next month for the full £10. I wonder what I will receive next month?
Opening the packet is tricky but I do it eventually. Once opened I pull out a large piece of cake which has remained whole despite it’s journey. There are quite a few golden tips present on the outside of the cake and a beautiful shine. Some of the golden tips have downy hairs that I can stroke, as though the Pu Erh were an animal. I don’t know why I decided to stroke it…perhaps the heat is getting with me? Further inspection shows dark brown leaves the colour of old, dark chocolate. The cake remnant bares a soft, dry wood and clay scent.
Steeping Parameters: 220ml Glass Gongfu Teapot. Tea Leaf 12g. Boiling Water. 2 Rinses each of 15 seconds.
First Steep – 15 seconds
Colour is golden orange with a soft clay scent.
Flavour is mild with some sweetness and an earthy, dusky wood tone toward the after taste. The more I drink the more I can define the sweetness to being brown sugar like.
Second Steep – 20 seconds
Still soft with brown sugar and dusky wood tones, but with added dryness.
Third Steep – 30 seconds
Darker though still soft. Less sweet and more musky now, with old wood and dry earth notes that linger in the after taste. Also the tea liquid is dark at this point too, like red soy sauce.
Fourth Steep – 45 seconds
Slightly sour in this steep and the wood is coming through with some cocoa notes. Still dry and mildly sweet.
Sixth Steep – 1 minute
Similar to the previous steep though with more clay and dryness. It reminds me of autumn, the dry, musky leaves crunching under my feet as I walk through a forest. The smells of an autumn forest match this flavour quite nicely.
Seventh Steep – 2 minutes
An increase of musk though still soft and the sourness is slight. Very wooden.
Overall – I found this Shou to be mild and delicate throughout the steeps which made it difficult to describe the flavours. At least it was consistent throughout. I would say this is an everyday Shou for Pu new drinkers or those that prefer softer teas. Personally I like strength and depth in my tea which this just didn’t have, though despite that it was drinkable and pleasant enough. I had some difficulty breaking up the cake piece so I did it by hand in the middle of my steeps, partly to see if it increased strength.
I honestly cut this steeping short, originally I planned on 10 steeps rather than 7. Don’t get me wrong, it really isn’t a bad Shou when it comes down to it; my personal preference is just that and I can’t like them all. I still think that for the price it’s a decent every day Shou for new drinkers and would recommend it for that. If I can be nothing else then at least I’m honest.
I decided to ice the last of this tea so it would be ready for this morning. While I was sad to see this tea go I thought icing it would be a nice send off.
This morning I served this tea with a slice of lemon. It’s a deep red/orange colour that is cloudy. It looks stronger than it actually tastes but admittedly I did make it a little stronger for a boost this morning. It’s wonderful, slightly sour which is enhanced and sweetened by the lemon. Lightly smoky from the thickness and a date fruit finish.
Why didn’t I ice more of this? If I knew how nice it would be I would have done it more often.