911 Tasting Notes
I’ve logged this tea before (quite a number of times actually) but that was all from the 2010 crop. This is 2011. I’ll admit, I knew I wanted more of this tea before shincha preordering was even an option. I mean, it was so delicious last year. Sweet, pungent, notes of muscat and nori. It’s the stereotypical sencha profile taken this close to perfection. On top of that, it could take any kind of brewing method – it gave me deliciousness when brewed in not only my kyusu but also a steeping ball and an in-cup steeping basket (and not many sencha seem to be able to take that kind of abuse). So last year this delightful tea had firmly burrowed into my heart.
But this year, I didn’t order any. I was trying to be good and only do one (slightly massive) shincha order and O-cha.com didn’t get that order this year. And I loved my new shinchas. I really did. They were good to me. But by summer time, I was missing this one. Every time I’d try a new green tea, I’d think, “Mmm, this is delicious… but Yutaka Midori is better.” Fortunately, I happened to be complaining about my lack of my one favorite shincha around the time that my SIL was apparently searching for a birthday present for me. So she surprised me a pack of this. Have I mentioned the awesomeness that is my SIL?
I’ll admit, part of me was a little nervous to try this one again. Tea quality can differ from crop to crop and Japan didn’t exactly have an easy time of it the past year. Maybe the new crop wouldn’t be as good as the year before. Maybe it would tarnish my memory of Yutaka Midori forever.
Thankfully it didn’t. It’s just as tasty (and as forgiving) as last year. This tea has officially become one of my top hedonistic pleasure. Rough day? This is what I do: Drop some YM into a preheated pot and sniff the heady, sensual notes of gourd vegetables baked by the sun. As I smell the thick, heavy green-ness of the tea, tension begins to melt away. Add some water, pause for a few moments then pour. Inhale the oceanic notes, warm and heavy and I notice that my eyes have drifted closed as I smell. Sip. Ah, nectar of the gods. It explodes on my tongue – sweet, heavy, pungent, green. A strong but sweet vegetal taste with flashes of citrus, muscat, nori and ocean. The texture is heavy and silky and it coats my mouth and tongue and I can swear that when I swallow, I can feel it flowing down my throat into my stomach and then seeping into my muscles, forcing them to soften and relax. One cup later and I’ve officially become a puddle of mush. Rough day? What day? We had a day? All I can remember is tea.
Are there better senchas out there? Eh, probably. But I have yet to run across one that is as consistently delicious as this one is. Others might have flashes of orgasmic brilliance, but repeating that perfect cup can feel nigh on impossible. (I’m looking at you Maeda-en Tokujo Shin-cha.) This one though? Every cup gives me afterglow. Every. Cup.
Excuse me while I go bask some more.
I went a little nuts this year with shincha pre-ordering. I had never ordered from Yuuki-cha and they have a fair number of interesting teas – black, oolong and pan-fried Japanese teas. I did try to rein myself in a bit but with so many different and unusual teas, I pretty much blew my shincha budget on the one order and not even all of it on shincha. This one, though, was one of the new-crop teas I picked up.
Honestly, it’s a pretty wild tea. It’s just so flavorful! It’s got notes that I recognize from sencha, but also Chinese green notes. It smells like a thick, green, vegetal honey. And the taste is amazing – it’s sweet. Very sweet. It’s almost fruity in a way that makes me think of slightly unripened mango. It’s a very bright and vibrant taste. The first sip of this tea always surprises me because it’s so sparkly and shiny!
After that surprising first taste of sweet fruit, the tea transitions into this thick, heavy pungency that borders on bitterness but isn’t. It’s a little drying and prickly but not unpleasant, almost like the brine note I get from most Chinese greens, but not quite. The longer I hold the tea in my mouth, the more the thick, textured pungency develops and then it glides down smoothly when I swallow, leaving behind a feeling that gives a post-red wine feeling.
Slurping brings out a new flavor, a heavy, dark grassy flavor that is really delicious. It’s almost dessert-like, if there was such a thing as a desert grass. Continued slurping brings out a muscat-y flavor underneath that, tying in with the unripened mango and red wine notes. As it cools the pungency increases, giving it a heavier mouthfeel and the taste that comes out in slurping pokes out a bit in a sweet dried hay note.
Lots of flavors! I keep finding this tea kind of shocking. It’s so interesting and it transitions through so many different flavors, like a multi-flavored gobstopper but of different tea flavors. It doesn’t seem like the flavors and textures – mango, grass, thickness, wine-like ending – should go together but it does. It’s fascinating to me. I want to keep drinking it because it keeps surprising me, making the last sip as interesting as the first sip. And that’s not something I can say about a lot of teas!
O-cha.com is still probably my go-to place for shincha orders because they have my ultimate favorite Kagoshima Sencha Yutaka Midori and, as I discovered this year when I tried to limit myself to just one shincha order, I can’t do without that tea. But an offering like this? Pretty much makes it a given that I’ll be ordering from Yuuki-cha again.
I’ve posted about this tea before, but it was at the beginning of my fascination with loose leaf. Sadly, a lot of teas that I loved at the beginning of my introduction to loose leaf have suffered as I delved more into the fancy-schmancy teas. Just as bagged tea used to be fine in my cup, so did almost any flavored tea. Now? It’s a different story.
Thankfully, this tea is one that holds up well. It’s a different drinking experience now compared to two years ago, though. When I first had this, I pretty much put sugar and milk in with any flavored black tea. Now that I no longer have to fill a travel mug and deal with a morning commute, though, it’s a rare day that I put in any additives. With sugar and milk, this was a creamy, sweet, dessert-like coconut concoction. Let me tell ya, it was pretty good.
But straight? Well, I think I might enjoy it more. The coconut flavor is more honest-to-goodness coconut instead of dessert coconut. There’s even a slightly musky under note that makes me think of fresh coconut. The tea taste isn’t overly strong – the coconut is definitely the star – but it’s not like it is hiding. Just like it acknowledges that the reason it exists is to give the coconut a place to shine. Mild with a little prickle of dryness (but not to the point of calling it astringency) the tea gives a good, faintly woodsy backdrop to the honest coconut flavor.
Coconut always makes me think tropical thoughts. Slightly different coconuts (sweet, musky, dry, toasted) all give me slightly different tropical thoughts. This one has evolved from toasted coconut on the road to Hana in Maui (when it is sweetened and creamed) to sitting on the mostly empty Kailua beach, feeling the silky sand under my hands and quietly watching a little puff of cloud go by in a bright blue sky.
I saw this tea on Yuuki-cha’s website earlier in the year when I was deciding what shincha to preorder. I love trying new and interesting teas and a Japanese black tea? Totally qualifies. I picked up this one and the Yabukita varietal. I’m almost out of both of them but I think the Saemidori is my favorite.
When I first started drinking teas, I ended up with a fair number of Darjeelings. (I think it was because I liked the Twinning’s bagged Darjeeling with sugar and milk so I thought Darjeeling = good.) There were aspects of Darjeeling tea that I really liked (the muscat note and the brightness in particular) but so often it seemed that they had bitter and/or astringent end notes that killed the pleasure for me. And once I discovered Chinese black teas and their can’t-make-it-bitter end note, any Indian tea that had that potential for bitterness? Migrated out of my pantry and never came back. (In fact, even today I have only three Indian teas in my pantry, all Assams, out of over 80 different teas.)
This tea is basically everything I like about Darjeeling and none of the things I don’t. It’s like a sweet, summer-fruit-tart Darjeeling was raised in China where it learned to give a heavy, silky mouthfeel and a floral and non-bitter end note.
The dry leaf smells of sweet hay but the brewed tea smell is just shocking because it has none of that hay note. Instead, it is all plums and cherries (the bright red tart kind, not black). It’s crazy to compare the smell of the leaf to that of the tea. The two smells don’t seem to match at all.
The taste is surprising. It is very much like a Darjeeling (as I mentioned) but without the astringency. The cherries and plums from the smell come through on the taste – tart summer fruits that taste like the first of the season, not the ones that have been ripening on the tree for a while. It also has the smoothest, silkiest mouthfeel and end note ever. It feels so heavy on my tongue!
As it cools, the taste smoothes out even more and becomes softer and more floral. Maybe a faint note of roses though not as perfumed. (My lack of knowledge of flower scents is really showing here… think of a dark smelling, not overly sweet rose.) Every so often I start to get a note of the hay-like sweet smell in the taste but it is rare. It’s a sort of softly woody/dry grass note that lays underneath the summer fruit and floral notes.
The strength of the flavor is really powerful. I tend to go for smooth, mellow black teas that make me think of cuddles. But this? It’s vibrant and powerful and bright. Delicious, but energetic. And as good as it tastes, one cup is usually enough for me for a while. I mean, imagine the pungency of a good sencha and carry it over to a black tea because that’s how the taste is. Pungent but in a tart, fruity, floral way. And with a really long aftertaste. I’m talking easily five minutes after my last sip I can still taste the floral tart-sweet on my tongue. Delightful! It’s also nicely caffeinated. Of course, that could have something to do with the 3g/5oz/2min steeping suggesting but just like sencha can get my hands shaking, so can this. So yeah, one cup can totally take care of me for a while!
Yuuki-cha no longer has this one their website. They went out of stock on it pretty quickly and I guess they don’t have the ability (or intention?) of caring it again until hopefully next year when the new crop rolls around. I can’t say this is my normal style tea – it’s actually pretty opposite – but it is such a different, surprising and tasty tea, I could see myself buying it again.
I’m not normally a huge fan of Adagio’s flavored stuff. I used to be. But I suppose places like Kusmi, Lupicia and Mariage Freres have raised my expectations for flavored teas and Adagio no longer matches up. That being said, the husband loves having his tea with lots of sugar and milk and I refuse to sacrifice some of my super tasty (and sometimes expensive) teas (both flavored and un-) to him because of that. He gets Stash and Adagio and the like.
This is the tea I made for him this morning and the leaves smelled so good, I had to make myself some. The smell made me think of icing on an Earl Grey cupcake (if one were to make and ice an Earl Grey cupcake). Sadly, post-steeping the smell calms down from that super-sweetness a bit. But happily it still smells like an Earl Grey cupcake, just now the baked cake part (I think that’s the vanilla note making me think of cupcake cake).
The taste isn’t as cupcake-y as the smell(s). In fact, I get no cupcake. (Sadness.) But it is still nice. Oh, it’s not the smoothest tea – it’s got a little prickly texture that isn’t astringency but probably would turn into that if steeped longer – but the flavor is nice. There’s a bit of a perfume/fake flavor note on the front end, especially when slurped but the vanilla/cream-ish note to it smooths things out a bit.
Honestly, it’s not the best tea ever or anything, but it is totally drinkable without additives and that counts for something in my book.
This tea bag is a funky little thing. I was expecting the silky bag type that so many upper end vendors seem to be using but it is a rectangular, loosely woven muslin bag, more like Kusmi’s but bleached rather than off-white. (Well, the box says unbleached but it is much whiter than Kusmi’s unbleached…) The bag also really plumps up when steeped and I can’t help but think that is a good thing – it means there might be some real leaves in there! I’m going to have to cut a bag open at some point…
The scent of the tea is rather interesting – it’s Earl Grey but there is also a note in there that reminds me of yuzu. It’s all in the citrus family so I suppose that works. The scent is rather strong but not unpleasant or fake.
The flavor is a bit surprising. The scent is so strong, I was kind of braced for a bit of a perfume shock. But there wasn’t one. Sweet and smooth on the front end, the dominant flavor is definitely the Earl Grey, but as strong as the smell and flavor of the EG is, there is no unpleasantness associated with it. I don’t feel like I’m breathing perfume and there is zero astringency or roughness. The mouthfeel is really quite silky.
I’m finding that I am having difficulty figuring out the proper words to describe the EG taste. It’s like a silky, sophisticated peel of some citrus fruit mix (mandarian with yuzu, perhaps) but without the bitterness or tartness associated with citrus peel or pith.
I can’t honestly say I love Earl Grey as a tea entity unto itself (but the husband does so I’m always on the lookout for a good one) but this one is really lovely. I feel kind of sophisticated drinking it. I’m actually sitting here in my silky monkey pajama, but I feel a bit like I’m having tea with Jane Austen. Or Mr. Darcy. At Pemberley. In full period dress.
The second steep (5:00) isn’t quite as sophisticated feeling as the first. There is a little prickle on my tongue that shows up at the end of the sip. It stays small, though, so that’s good. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the tea is astringent now, but the silky mouthfeel is missing. The flavoring seems sweeter now, but it is still in the citrus family – a navel orange, perhaps. The slight prickle brings to mind orange pith a little, that kind of tongue tingling/numbing sensation pith can give. (Or is that the center of a pineapple?) Anyway, the first steep is definitely my favorite. (That being said, the second steep sure disappeared quickly.)
(ETA: I cut open the bag after the second steep. The leaves are broken but probably some of the largest leaves I’ve seen in a teabag. Here’s a pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aug3zimm/6332730588/ )
Yay for coconut! I luf coconut. And I luf pouchong. So when I saw this tea, I knew I had to try it. I actually got this from the Spice & Tea Exchange in the Stockyards when my SIL and her boy were visiting but, after doing some digging, figured out that they source their teas from Rishi. So I’m putting it here.
The smell of the leaf is delightful – creamy, buttery, coconut. Totally delicious. Though, hmm, the liquor smells less creamy, decadent inner coconut and more dark, fiber-y outer coconut. But it’s still coconut so that’s good, right?
The taste is more in line with the smell of the dry leaf, which is good. It’s a little thin feeling which makes me feel like the flavor is too mild, but it really isn’t. But at the same time, there is something… sad about the flavor. Perhaps it is at the beginning of the swallow (vs. just when I’m holding the tea in my mouth): where I want pouchong thick, rich happiness, I get… water. Almost metallic water? Then there is a nice coconut-ish musky aftertaste that I enjoy but my brain keeps saying, “But the water/metal taste at the end of the sip is sad! Yummy coconut aftertaste can’t make up for metal-sip!”
As the tea cools, I’m getting more pouchong taste (and I wish my Mac would stop autocorrecting pouchong to pouching) with an undercurrent of mild, unsweetened coconut. Honestly, I’m liking that more than when the tea was warmer, but I still am getting a weird little dull metallic note when I swallow. It’s distracting.
I want to like this, I really do. But that taste that pops up when I swallow just makes me sad. This tea makes me sad. Sad Auggy. :(
The second steep (3:30) is better. Or at least not as sad. The metallic sharpness has moved to a flash right at the end of the swallow (instead of the beginning, which was more distracting) and is much quieter. However the coconut flavor is quieter, too, and the pouchong tastes boiled/wilted. So the tea no longer makes me sad but it’s not all that great.
Sigh. At least the leaf smells awesome. (And go me, back into Steepster for the second day and already I’m bucking the trends since it seems everyone else adores this tea… Maybe when straight from Rishi this tea is happier? Let’s blame the Spice and Tea Exchange, okay?)
I have decided to attempt to wade through the superslow loading that is Steepster. Why? Well, I miss having a tea-centric spot with friendly tea-folk. (And it’s really nice to check out what I rated a tea on Steepster from my phone when I’m at the grocery store.)
This one is one of the lovely freebie Lupicia teabags that they send out with their newsletters. The smell is amazing and pretty different. The newsletter description says chestnut, pumpkin and sweet potato. I think the smell is mostly pumpkin/potato with a slight sweetness under chestnut. After a few sniffs I can pick up the underlying rooibos scent. It’s kind of whacky smelling but I am intrigued.
The liquor smells more of chestnuts – warm, roasty, nutty, comforting. There is a small note of gourd-y sweetness that I think I’m picking up, too, particularly in the back end. The rooibos scent is there but it pairs nicely with the chestnut so I’m not icked out by it.
The taste is nicely mild. As with the smell, the rooibos pairs nicely with the chestnut. There is a little dryness to the end that, for some reason, I attribute to the rooibos but works with the chestnut. But it’s all quite pleasant. Slurping brings out the sweet potato/pumpkin notes (which to me have always seemed virtually the same) and it blends seamlessly into the chestnut.
All in all, I actually like this. Very fitting for the season and delicately done, I think. I could more see getting this for my fall-loving SIL thank I could for getting it for myself, though, simply because I’m more of a summer girl.
(Second steep: the dryness at the end of the sip is gone, the flavor is a bit milder and the texture is smoother. The chestnut doesn’t seem quite as distinctive, or perhaps the sweet potato/pumpkin is just a little more obvious as the flavor seems sweeter. Honestly, if I wanted a good fall cup? This would be it.)
I hold out hope that I can make this tea sparkle but so far this one has only been okay for me. I followed Adagio’s directions (thinking that tea-specific directions they seem to give for the Master’s Collection might be there for a reason but apparently not) and it just made it meh. (Next time I’ll do it my way, with more leaf and a more gong fu style brewing, and see what happens.)
Anyway, I will say that it did have a nice buttery aftertaste but that’s all it has going for it. It wasn’t all that nuanced, it tasted a little flat and the initial flavor of the sip was almost sort of metallic. Even the husband, who pretty much gives any green oolong two enthusiastic thumbs up, said that this was nothing special.
Alright, Adagio. I was all for the Master’s Collection because of Yunnan Golden Curls and Anhui Keemun but you gotta do better than this with the oolongs.
Late last month, takgoti did a cross-country trip and I bribed her into stopping by my place by offering a free place to spend the night. It was super-cool to officially meet her and needless to say, she’s even more wonderful in person than on the interwebs. Added to the lovely fact that I got to experience her sparkling and fun personality in person, she also shared tea with me! Yay for hand delivered tea swaps!
This one was one of the lovelies she gave to me. Honestly, I didn’t take too many notes on it because I was really just enjoying it too much to. Basically, this is a lot like Royal Garland but without any residual dryness or astringency (which I didn’t really notice with Royal Garland until I had this tea). It’s like grape juice and sweet fruits and wonderfulness. Juicy and sweet and good. It resteeped rather well, too. Thick and sweet and staying remarkably true to the initial taste while also developing a heavier flavor to balance the sweet juicy grape-ness.
I’m still probably a Royal Garland fangirl at heart – anything that can make me think of grilling fruit on a beach as a storm front comes in is a win in my book – but I would say that I could easily enjoy having some Bai Hao around.