Wasn’t I surprised by this tea?
This was the last and final tea of the gyokuro sampler from Maiko tea, that I bought when it was on sale towards the beginning of the year… otherwise, I never would have tried this, as it is just too expensive. In the sampler though, it became much more reasonable. Anyway, I simply went through each tea, from the ‘lowest quality’ (though all 5 were, according to Maiko, of exceptional quality) to now this, the supposed ‘highest quality’.
In fact, this is not just supposed to be a extremely unique and well-made tea, but it’s also entirely made by hand (instead of a machine rolling the leaves, it’s all rolled by hand).
But, to my surprise, this wasn’t my favorite of the 5.
Now, the trouble with samplers, is that you only get one shot… so if you mess up the brewing, you’ll never know. I usually think I need at least 50g before I can get a decent idea about a tea, so, this review is hardly sufficient.
Nevertheless, while this was definitely delicious, and high quality (in terms of my own experience only, which is limited), it wasn’t nearly as good as the two others from the sampler that are supposedly not quite as decadent.
Once I opened the small bag, it had a very nice, pure sweetness to the smell. The sweetness actually masked the expected marine gyokuro aroma I’ve come to expect. This was very nice, and made me look forward what I hoped would be pure, sweet, and subtle.
The first steeping was good (around 120F for 2+ minutes, 8g sample to 2oz water); there was a soft sweetness present, and I felt like there was a lot going on – macademia nuts, a hint of cherry, and definitely a salty marine/seaweed— more like stir-fried bok choy. However, instead of the tea leaving a strong sweetness in my mouth after the first cup was over, it left a strong, somewhat nutty flavor. None of the pure sweetness that I detected in the aroma. I enjoyed it, but it was strange, not what I expected from gyokuro.
I enjoyed the color of the tea, which was a pale yellow. The 2nd and 3rd steepings, (I went up to 5, but the last two were unremarkable) were decent, the 2nd similar to the first just less intense, the third finally added some of that sweetness I detected in the aroma as well. But, nothing to knock one’s socks of or to pay as much as they’re asking.
One last thing that surprised me about this tea, is that, though it is supposedly hand-rolled, it was nothing like Sugimoto America’s Temomi Shincha (that I had last year). That tea was simply perfect, whole, rolled up leaves that were not broken at all. This tea had many long leaves, but also plenty of small bits and other broken leaves. It just didn’t look like temomicha… though again, my experience is limited.
To conclude this rather long note, I’d say if you’re really splurging, go for Yamshita’s Takumi, Nomigoro, Shuppin, or Jirushi (all of these I’ve posted notes of here on Steepster)… or just go for the sampler, as it is well worth the money. As for this offering though… the jury’s still out.