280 Tasting Notes

80

The wet leaf smelled incredible — strong notes of chocolate, with cherries and cigar smoke also in the aroma.
The taste, while nicely sweet, lacked depth (for me at least) and didn’t have all the flavors or aromas the wet leaf seemed to promise, so that was a bit disappointing.
I do like it, and it is slightly difference from regular houjicha, so I’d almost be tempted to seek it out. But the sample wasn’t quite convincing enough to put it on a list for when I’m looking to get houjicha.

It’s somewhat impressive that Obubu puts out 4 different kinds of houjicha. I wonder how difficult it is to have consistency of roast — what’s the difference in the roasting process between light, basic, and dark? Seems it could be quite difficult to do it consistently.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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62
drank Yanagi Bancha by Obubu Tea
280 tasting notes

While I enjoyed this cup, the wet leaf smelled like pickled peppers. Now, I liked pickled things (be it peppers, kim chee, or cucumber), but that was a strange smell to get from tea.

Stranger still was that this was actually present as a flavor. I did like the tea, but it was strange. I don’t remember what else it tasted like, but I don’t think there was a lot there. I’m rating it this high simply because I enjoyed it, but in terms of good quality bancha, I’m sure there’s better out there.

Also interesting was the fact that this had really long twigs present (1" – 1.5"!) that really looked like twigs from a tree, rather than the very small, reed-like kuki in a regular kukicha.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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84

So I tried the rest of the sample today with steeping parameters that I’ve typically used at work, for the Genmaicha from 1TTEN (170 for 30 seconds for the 1st). Because I brew it at work, the hot water I get comes from our water cooler at a steady 170.

This brought out the same flavors in Satsuki as 1TTEN’s version (toastiness, good but somewhat unremarkable, followed by a most sweet, aromatic, mouth-filling aftertaste), further reinforcing that both of these are great teas and very similar in quality.

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85

Obubu seems to have a fairly unique approach when it comes to the green tea market. There are other tea farmers (like Hibiki-an) that sell directly to consumers, but Obubu sells all of its tea as aracha, which is unsorted tea. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but my understanding is that most of the green teas on the market have been sifted by machines by their size, and then once sifted, expertly blended with several other lots to come up with one unique, but consistent product (ie, if you know how to blend teas to achieve a desired taste, you can have the product taste the same every year no matter how good or poor the harvest is that year or other factors that come in to play).
Obubu, on the other hand, seems to distinguish their different products by where in the fields they grow them, and by which harvest (and method of growing, of course). I would guess that this can lead to a lot of variation in the product from year to year. The better the harvest, the better all of their products will be, and vice-versa.

I’m no expert, so that is just a guess.

Along those same lines, this is a cool, pretty unique tea. This is a 2nd harvest sencha, yet, it is covered for the last 2 weeks like a 1st harvest kabuse or gyokuro would be. If they didn’t cover it, I’m sure the flavor profile would be the nearly indistinguishable from their Sencha of the Summer Sun.

Enough rambling.
I did the first brewing with 40 degree water (5oz for the whole 5g sample) for 14 minutes. It tasted like a non-sweet gyokuro; lots of marine aroma and flavor, a little grassyness, maybe some hints of sweet.

The next steep was with boiling water for just 25 seconds. The wet leaf smelled a little peppery, and then was full of fruity notes just like a green oolong. I really liked that, and hoped that the cup would contain some of those oolong-like fruit flavors, as it would have been very unique.
The tea itself wasn’t bitter at all, nor astringent. None of the marine or nori flavors from the last brew were left. Instead, for some reason I tasted chocolate oranges. I’m not sure if the chocolate flavor was really there, but the orange flavor certainly was. This flavor wasn’t sour like citrus; but, again, like the orange flavor you get when you have a piece of orange-flavored chocolate. The body of the flavor didn’t taste like the fruity oolong the leaf smelled like. Other than the orange note, it was slightly sweet and grassy, but not a lot of depth.

I wonder if aracha is the reason I’ve felt like none of Obubu’s teas have had a lot of depth. There have been good/interesting flavors, and I have certainly liked a few of the teas, but many of them have seemed good at the beginning of the sip, only to give out towards the end and not leave any kind of aftertaste or aroma in the mouth.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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84

I’m once again impressed by the sample sizes that Den’s Tea provides. 10 grams— that is nearly half an ounce! This was their sample of the month, and I happened to give in to their year-end sale a couple of days ago. I have enough left now for another few cups.

So, I recently tried the Genmaicha from Obubu, and so I’m comparing this to that one, and also to the Genmaicha from 1TTEN, which up to today had set the bar for this kind of tea.

Well, no longer.
Actually, I should say, this ties; they are both delicious for their own reasons, but I can’t put one over the other. The fact that I enjoyed this tea as much as I did came as a nice surprise, because I was expecting to not really care for it (thinking “why would I’d ever order this, since Genmaicha Extra Green is available and delicious”?), but it holds its own.
I have yet to try a tea from Den’s Tea that I didn’t think was very good (ok actually Rose Sencha, but that’s because I’m not a big fan of that flavor).

The genmai in this isn’t too strong and the toasty flavor doesn’t mask the tea itself. And the tea base is delicious! It is really quite buttery-sweet, and I found it hard to stop taking sips. It was one of those experiences where a tea is so good I can’t stop sipping because it seems to induce thirst, and at the same time, I’m trying to figure out why it’s so good!

I’d say the main difference between Satsuki, and Genmaicha from 1TTEN is that this has a very good initial sweetness followed by the typical toasted rice flavors. Whereas 1TTEN starts with the typical toasted rice flavors and seems unremarkable, but suddenly the aftertaste explodes in your mouth as a sweet, almost irresistible wave.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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70

Their description is right, this is a very bold tea for a Japanese green.
The loose leaf had an interesting look… there were a few leaves that were compressed together like a pu-erh tea cake.

The first steeping wasn’t as bitter as they described. It mostly tasted like a low quality sencha, in my opinion. I think I over brewed the 2nd steeping, as it was incredibly astringent and not much else. This would go well with strong tasting foods, as it is strong enough itself to not get masked.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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73
drank Genmaicha by Obubu Tea
280 tasting notes

I only had one sample of this, so it’s hard to form a strong feeling after just three cups (re-infused twice).
However, the genmai is sweeter than other versions I’ve had. The green tea base seemed to be somewhat thin, as I couldn’t taste it very strongly, but what I could taste was good. I’ve had a genmaicha where there was far too much genmai for my liking and there might as well have been no tea leaves at all. This wasn’t like that, because even though it seemed thin, the popped rice was good quality and tasted a little sweet.

So far, the bar has been set by 1TTEN’s genmaicha, as that has the most delicious (bancha, I think) tea base that I’ve had. Nevertheless, this is a good one.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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65
drank Sakura Tea by Obubu Tea
280 tasting notes

This tea has very interesting steeping directions. However, they help to offset the salt (which preserves the blossoms)…
The sight of the tea is very nice—clear liquid with a pink flower floating in it.

The smell of the blossoms and the taste of the tea is like cherry jam, which I like very much. However, it is muted, and there is certainly salt present in the flavor (especially towards the end of the cup) so that wasn’t my favorite…

This is good, but, I wouldn’t buy it. The coolest thing about it (besides the appearance) is that I can now tell what Sakura really tastes like, and so it has pretty much the exact same flavor of cherry that Den’s Sakura Sencha has (though, that one is definitely stronger). I’m curious to also try Rishi’s Sakura Sencha to compare. Either way, I’ve now learned the difference between simply cherry flavor and sakura flavor (the latter being different, though I’m not exactly able to describe it well, it seems more buttery).

Geoffrey Norman

I so want this.

Shinobi_cha

If I had more than that sample, I would have sent some!

Geoffrey Norman

How did you get it? Did you do order their starter pack?

Shinobi_cha

Yes…. sometime around the end of Nov, they had a deal, $15 for the whole starter/sampler pack (incl. shipping) and my wife got it for me as a Xmas gift. Now, I think it’s back to normal at $25 (that should include shipping), but I’m not quite sure it’s worth it. Not that their teas aren’t good, but of the 90g of samples they send you, 5g are genmai (not genmaicha, just popped rice for you to mix with whatever you like… which, to me, isn’t a good deal since if you buy it separate it is very cheap in a store), and 5g are genmaicha (kind of doubling up right?)… anyway, it seems like it would be a little on the expensive side at $25.

Geoffrey Norman

I’m not much of a genmaicha fan anyway, so that wouldn’t really interest me much. The matcha sampler had my attention.

Shinobi_cha

Yeah, exactly. I’d prefer the price of the sampler to be more like $18 or something, and include just their best senchas and maybe the sakura tea since it’s so fun and unique.

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85

Their website says this tea is an aracha (unsorted) tea, but it looks like it’s just the top leaves and bud to me (at least, it is very similar in appearance to Den’s Sencha Zuiko, or their Hashiri Shincha). The wet leaf looked and smelled just like those teas too, though not as sweet as the shincha.

This seems like a typical first flush sencha (in my limited experience)… fresh bitterness, with a vegetal grassiness underneath. There was some sweetness present, but not a lot.

It wasn’t truly exceptional, but it didn’t disappoint, either. If you were to buy a whole bag, at $26 for 100g and shipping (from Japan), it’s not a bad price compared to similar kinds of tea.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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95
drank Gyokuro Suimei by Den's Tea
280 tasting notes

Tried a very successful experiment today with this. I’d say this way of brewing can make any good quality green a ‘100’. :-)

I used 1 TB leaf, 2 TB water, cooled to nearly 32F, and dumped it to the side of the leaves in the pot, so that they weren’t completely covered, and soaked up most of the water. After about 9 minutes, I poured out the, perhaps 2 tsp worth of ice cold, pale green “syrup” into my cup. By the way, the wet leaves smelled peppery, fresh, and strongly marine (like nori or seaweed), and even like salty ocean air.

The tea was like a soup. Like the most warming, comforting soup you’ve ever had. It had the most irresistable savoriness that you can imagine, coupled with a soft sweetness. I took the tiniest sips and the flavor filled my mouth. It was gone very quickly. Excellent.

The subsequent three steepings retained nearly full flavor (as it tastes with normal brewing), and produced a very dark (nearly as dark as matcha) liquor. The 2nd and 3rd were a nice balance of marine/savory and sweet, while the 4th was pure sweetness.
They were done as follows: 2oz water/100F/4 mins, 4oz water/140F/2 mins, 4 oz/140F/ 1min.

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