I couldn’t wait any longer and finally opened this tea today.
When I opened the canister and dumped the bag of tea into it, I smelled the dry leaf. Surprisingly, the leaf didn’t give off a lot of smell. I saw all the small leaf particles and realized that this was also a fukamushi. (Well, I wasn’t sure until I read other notes on this tea).
I ignored their instructions suggesting 195F water…that seemed too high to me, especially for a first steep. I used 1 TBS leaf, 4 oz water, and 155 temp, and steeped for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
The color was a pleasing light green, and I would say the_skua described the tea very well; I’ll do so again but in layman’s terms, haha!
Basically, it had a very pleasing, fresh aroma, and tasted of fresh cooked greens (without that yucky vegetable flavor that you get from greens…though don’t get my wrong I do love steamed mustard greens). Anyway, the flavor seemed to be a standard Japanese green, but I detected no bitterness, astringency, and a very lingering/filling sweetness that was very different than the other 2 shinchas I’ve tried. I really liked this sweetness, as it tasted like the sweetness of a perfectly ripe melon (no, the tea was not melon flavor, but the sweetness was more like that of a fruit), rather than the extremely intense but short-lived sweetness I’ve tasted in the other shinchas.
As the_skua mentioned, other than the very fresh greens flavor (vegetal as many call it) and that accompanied sweetness, the flavor wasn’t complex or deep. That being said it was delicious! I’m not rating this one quite as high as the other shinchas I’ve tried, as they felt like eye-opening “WOW” experiences, and this did not. However, that may only be due to the fact that I tried the other shinchas first, and had more of an idea of what to expect from this. Even though I wouldn’t say the taste surprised me and made me say “WOW”, I would still say this is an excellent tea; if you’re on the fence about trying a shincha, then I can honestly say this is a good decision.
The reason I say that is because of the amount you get and the price…both of which are better (better price, more tea) than the other 2 I bought in the past couple months. If you’re new to shincha, I’d suggest going with this one; just don’t steep at 195F! (Lower temps always bring out more sweetness and are a lot more friendly to novices like me).
This tea also held up well to 3 more infusions, the sweetness being accompanied by a very slight but pleasant bitterness in the 2nd-3rd infusions, and in the 4th the sweetness was the main flavor. I increased the temp each time (170, 180, near-boiling) and decreased the amount of time I steeped the leaves.
Just so everyone is aware, I did win this tea, but the rating I am giving really is my opinion; if I had spent the money on it, I would have thought it money well spent.
I may buy more of this shincha this year (I think when I’ve finished this, I’ll have had enough shincha for the year!), but I already have my eye on a couple of other offerings by Maeda-en that I hope to get in the coming months.