24 Tasting Notes
As I have been able to acquire some decent tea making equipment during the last month, I have also had the opportunity to make “better” tea, knowing the exact water temperature and not using bad tap water.
One usually says that water is the tea’s blood, and I think this is especially true for sencha and gyokuro teas. The tea today, torooricha, is one of the teas I have been experimenting various brewing methods on a lot since September. The tea is a stronger sencha and is supposed to have a more concentrated and rich taste than a normal sencha would. Testing a lot of different recommendations from different Japanese people and shops, the result was, well – various.
Making the tea now with better water and knowing what temperature the water had, made the result incredibly different. This time I also had in mind the wonderful saying Rob Yaple quoted in one of his tasting notes:
“The first cup is strong like love, the second bitter as life, and the third sweet like death.”
And indeed they were. The first cup had a rich a strong flavor that remained for quite a while in my mouth after drinking it.
The second cup was bitter, but not so bitter as I feared. It might be that since the tea is made to strong and rich in taste, the second bitterness was then a bit overshadowed by this taste. And surprisingly enough, apart from the vegetal taste the presence of citrus was also very dominant. A most pleasant and delicious surprise indeed, but it made me really worried about whether or not the last cup would be sweet at all.
However, the third cup actually held a good amount of sweetness in it! Not on the level of gyokuro of course, but enough so that its presence could in no way be ignored. A wonderful end to a series of different tastes.
I received this tea from a Japanese friend of mine after he had been to Kyoto. ( I live just outside Tokyo at the moment.) Being all new to gykuro teas I decided to gather various information about the tea before even opening it.
Other than just searching for information in books and on the internet, I also visited a Japanese tea house in Ginza called Ichiri (いち利) and had their gyokuro. Being the first time drinking gyokuro, I must say that the taste was both wonderful and sweet, although I was, and still am, not quite used to drink lukewarm tea.
As I enjoyed it, I had a chat with the employee about gyokuro and how to prepare it. The recommendation was 60 degrees Celsius for 2-3 minutes depending on the quality of the gyokuro. After staying there for quite a while, I went home to try this method with my tea.
I was quite disappointed when I tried it at home and found the taste much more bitter and less sweet that what I was served at the shop. Of course, when you pay 1000 yen for about three small “Japanese sized” cups of tea there is bound to be a certain quality difference between the leaves, so I tried testing different amounts of tea leaves and water, but I never really got the wanted outcome.
When I looked at the label again, however, I realized that it said “nettou” (熱湯) or “full boiled”. Looking this up it said that while usual gyokuro is covered from the sun for about 20 days, the netto gyokuro is only covered for about 7 days. This is to make the leaves more easy to prepare as a lot of Japanese people seems to find making gyokuro a hassle as it takes some time and dedication to do so. By covering it for only seven days one may use the same preparation methods as one use for sencha. About 80 degrees Celsius for about one minute. While not at the same level as “proper” gyokuro, one are supposed to still get the sweet and delicious result.
And it was certainly so! By using this method I got a much better result. The tea had a much more sweet and creamy taste than before. Being less lukewarm as well, I think this a tea I will enjoy a lot more from now on.
About one week ago I said that there might be a limit to how good a tea can taste when bottled and iced. I take that back – at least to some degree. Perhaps a bit ironically, it would be The “European” Jasmine Tea who made me change my mind.
Being from Europe myself, I found it pretty interesting how a European jasmine tea would taste, considering that I have never heard about this in Europe nor knowing that apparently “all” Europeans have the same preferences when it comes to jasmine tea.
The taste was however quite the pleasant surprise! As Ewa earlier pointed out, this jasmine tea had a more subtle jasmine flavour, comparing it with the other jasmine teas I have been drinking here or at Asian restaurants back in Norway. The absence of strong jasmine flavour removed the usual bitterness and made the taste much more round and delicate, which in my book, is a very, very, good thing. Even the hot version did not make any strong bitterness.
This is definitely a tea I would like to enjoy while relaxing in a park during the last chilly part of this Autumn. At least as long as the colourful scenery lasts.
I bought this tea while on a trip in Hakone, an place perhaps more known for its many hot springs than tea. The area is however very close to Shizouka, so the fact that it also was a fair amount of tea in the souvenir shop was hardly a surprise.
The name Yabukita is, as far as I have read, the most common tea variety for sencha. Judging from the more round and deep smell, this seems to be a slightly better one. ( Although, I have to admit that I bought it because of the beautiful canister)
I steeped the first serving using a strainer, but ended up having a very weak result. Doing it the more traditionally way with just the leaves in the traditional pot made the taste several times stronger. A beautiful green colour with a strong vegetal taste. Now, I know a lot of Japanese people like their sencha very strong, but this was maybe a little bit too strong for me. Having less tea on about 75 degrees celsius for 30 seconds made a much more suitable result.
Excellent with some Japanese sweets!
Iyemoncha seems to be quite popular in Japan, produced in a certain tea garden in the Kyoto prefecture (Unfortunately, I was unable to read the name of this garden), and possible to buy almost everywhere in its cold, bottled form.
I feel however that there is a limit to how good a tea can taste when bottled and iced this way. The taste is not what I would call bad, but has notable signs of “wasted” quality and did not really meet the expectations I had.
After trying the hot version and getting a somewhat better taste from it, I feel that the best way to drink this tea is to buy the leaves themselves and make it at home.
Ever since I got a 200g bag with Matcha iri Genmaicha from an old Japanese couple I was visiting back in 2009, I have been longing for more of this kind of tea. This time I went to buy a more expensive version to see if it differed from the usual one got last time. And it certainly did.
The amount of matcha being used in this genmaicha is both of better quality and larger amount than the previous one. This covers more of the usually very strong taste of roasted rice and adds a more deep and strong flavour to the tea, which I think creates a most wonderful taste. Now only I wonder if I ever could enjoy the normal genmaicha as much as I did before – and how long the new tea will last before I have to buy it again.
It is to be noted, however, that since the powdered matcha will dissolve in water the tea will lose much of its flavour after the first steep.
Black blended teas as Earl Grey can often be very good when one is living in a country full of green teas. Being in Japan at the moment, this is what passed through my mind when I bought this tea. (The box itself is a little bit different than the one on the picture, though.)
The taste is certainly better than the “average” Earl Grey I sometimes have here, but not much better. However, it makes a good dark colour in the cup and is less bitter and more round in flavour than I thought it would be.
A nice cup of tea to enjoy in the morning or in the afternoon.
Renowned for its quality and taste, I decided to try this although I am leaving for Japan in about two weeks and should really be consuming the tea I already have.
As I am not a big fan of the “official” way of making sencha, I always use less tea than normal, about 1 teaspoon per 2.5 dl. I usually works fine for me, but this time it came out really weak.
Increasing the amount of tea to 2 teaspoons to a 3.5 dl in a traditional Japanese teapot seemed however to do the magic!
A wonderful, round taste with a somewhat bitter touch.