Okay, I have no idea what I did differently this time (aside from maybe cooler water and taking care to introduce the water more slowly) but it’s so much better than in my last note. Creamy, beany, and sweet, with no harshness. I’m not paying really close attention to all the flavor nuances, but it’s very pleasant and comforting. Bravo, He family!
ETA: Might have gone a bit too long/hot on the second steep (2 min, 180F or so), because I got a taste of ash again. Currently on the third steep (2 min, 175F, 5-6 oz water) and it tastes predominantly of toasted rice – if I hadn’t made the tea myself, I would have thought I was drinking genmaicha. Very interesting, and tasty!